Temple to the Papacy
Rome Travel Blog› entry 23 of 27 › view all entries
This was a big day. We were not only going to the Vatican, we were going with our own personal tour guide! I was way excited.
But first! Jeff decided to putz around the room so I decided to walk over to the Villa Borghese to get tickets for the next day. Big art gallery / former papal family place.
Rome, like so many truly old cities, has a wacky street plan. No grids here, boys and girls! Most of the time, I had no freakin' clue (even with a map) where I really was. But I knew I was headed in the right general direction and I was up for a bit of adventure.
After about 30 minutes, I ran into a big ol' park. Pulled out the map, figuring something this big had to be on my map.
That didn't help on the way home when I decided to try a different route and that didn't go so well....I was only 20 minutes late to meet Jeff and the tour guide (after giving up and jumping on the metro).
Alberto is a born and raised Roman who was recommended by Jeff's aunt, who used his services several years ago. He picked us up in his car and took us over to the Vatican. We started in the Vatican museum, where he whisked us through lines and on his own tour of the museum.
The museum is pretty amazing, both the art work and the building. It used to be the papal apartments and was only opened to the public in the 2nd half of the 20th century.
And let's not forget the floors. A lot of mosiacs, many of them pinched, er, relocated from Hadrian's villa, outside room. If they were black and white, they came from an outside courtyard. Colored mosaics were from inside the house.
We started with Greek and other ancient statuary. The popes (papacy?) have apparently been some of the greatest art collectors throughout history. What is contained in there is jaw-dropping. Things you've heard of all your life. We didn't even go through some of the paintings halls.
All paths lead you, eventually, to the all-famous Sistine Chapel.
Jeff had brought his binoculars (which we'd originally packed for the America's Cup races) and that helped a lot with the ceilings. The ceiling is pretty amazing. Though the chapel is not as large as I'd expected, it's still a huge ceiling to imagine having to paint. The work around the walls ain't too shabby either.
After a while, it's tough to take anything more in. It's just so much.
So then I start thinking about this being the place where they elect the pope and then I'm pretty awed again.
Yet, at the same time, as a lifelong Lutheran (a word I think you're not allowed to utter at all in Vatican City), it all felt a bit strange to me too. It's all.....so much. I mean, we elect our bishops and we kick their butts out of office if we need to. And they have to run for re-election. None of this "job for life" business.
Finally, on to St. Peter's.
Wow. St. Peters. It's not a church as I know a church. I think it's kinda rare to actually have a worship service in there. No pews. No choir. Didn't see an organ (though Jeff thinks he did). Really, it's a temple to the papacy.
Again, I'm Lutheran. What the heck do I do with that?
The part that really gave me the chills are the bones of Peter. THE Peter. You know, the hard-headed lug of a fisherman? Under the high altar is a box believed to contain Peter's bones (and unlike so many other "famous bones", I suspect these are real).
The bones. Of someone who touched Jesus. Someone in the Bible. Yeah, I may be Protestant but I'm still Christian and that just made me shiver.
Our guide, Alberto, was actually baptized in St. Peter's. He had a different take on some stories from the Bible than I do but I decided that was not the time to debate Biblical literacy. ;)
Our time was up and Alberto gave us a ride back to our B&B. We had a rest and headed out for dinner.
We decided to take Alfredo up on his offer of a free dinner with the B&B reservation and we didn't regret it. Like so many restaurants and trattorias, the sidewalk dining is the hot space. The sidewalks aren't all that wide but they squeeze tables in everywhere they can. It's not uncommon to be walking down the sidewalk and find yourself winding among diners.
In fact, many of the restaurants just set table up in the street, set up a trellis or railing around it and just claim part of the street. Helps explain some (but not all!) of the driving and parking challenges in Rome. You can see why the SmartCar is so crazy popular in Rome (saw them everywhere).
Our food was excellent! It redeemed Italian dining for me. I had gnocchi which was wonderful. Jeff had fettucine. The bolognese sauce was delightful. I like Jeff's bolognese sauce, which he works hard on, but we agreed he needed to work to make his taste more like Alfredo's.
I also finished off half a bottle of wine with Jeff. I'm definitely drinking more on this trip than I usually do! It was all just perfect, even the dessert. I sampled Jeff's tiramisu (which I don't usually care for since I don't like the flavor of coffee) and it was great.
I want to go back just for that.