Sunday, June 3, 2007

Reflections on Rome (Part 2 - Vatican City)

St. Peter's Square (photo taken from the top of the Cupola)

On Friday (May 18th) we made our way to Vatican City. After waiting several hours to get in, we started our tour in the Vatican Museum, home of the Sistine Chapel. This, for me, was the primary reason I wanted to come to Rome – to see the ceiling painted by Michaelangelo. After winding our way through many exhibits, we arrived in the Chapel. It was a marvelous sight… we stood for a long time examining and admiring the intricate details and compelling figures. Like the Mona Lisa, it is a work of art you must experience… reproductions do not lend it justice. I would have loved to take a few photos, but it wasn't allowed, and photographs would have been pitiful anyways. Countless times on this trip the scope of my camera lens has proved immensely inadequate.

Winding our way through the Vatican Museum

From there we took the long journey (500+ steps) up to the top of the Cupola within St. Peter’s Basilica to see the view of Rome, and also to gaze down into the Basilica. Afterwards, we walked all around the interior of the Basilica, and saw many amazing things, such as the tomb of St. Peter, and La Pieta, the sculpture Michaelangelo carved of Mary with the crucified Christ on her lap – a sculpture he made when he was 25. This was a thrill for me, since I've admired this piece since high school art class.

The Basilica is cavernous and enormous in it’s scale, with statues everywhere. Everything is ornate and much is gilded with gold.

Tomb of the apostle, St. Peter (the First Pope)

View inside St. Peter's from the top of the Cupola

Cupola from outside

Inside St. Peter's, above the altar

The intrepid couple, in St. Peter's Square

Chrystal, mailing a postcard home to Cambridge! from Vatican's own post office

In general, we expected more from the food in Rome, although the pasta was usually fresh… I believe our expectations might have been too high. None of the criteria by which we select a restaurant back home applied: The busy, classy looking restaurants inevitably were overpriced and the food average. Thankfully, on our second last day we took the recommendation from the hostel owner, and ate a local basement-located restaurant – the food was excellent and authentic, and better yet – the least expensive.

Rome wore us out. We feel fortunate to have seen so many wondrous and historical sites, but are happy to be returning home to Amsterdam. Rome seethed with many persistent and irritating peddlers. Occasionally, it was difficult to enjoy the atmosphere while someone thrust junky trinkets at us. Not to be dissuaded, overall, it is a journey I wholeheartedly recommend.

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