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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Of Sculpture and Shoulder, or Vatican Adventures

Thursday 02 July
We had a little over half the time we had in Paris to explore Rome so we got to it. After breakfast, which was included at this hotel and consisted of mainly cheese and bread and the worst coffee in all of Europe, we headed out to the Vatican.
Well that's not true, we walked the pedestrian tunnel to the Spagna stop and decided to peep out at the Spanish Steps first, but we will address that later, if you're good.
We picked up day passes for 4 € each, which seem like a really great deal compared to our 5 day 48 € passes in Paris until we realize that the Paris pass was for all lines of the metro, RER and bus system, which goes all over the city. The Rome pass is for the metro only, which has two lines that cross the city and meet at the termini. Not that I'm complaining, it's still an improvement over what we have in the DFW area.
The Vatican was just a few stops away so we hopped the train and got there within a few minutes. We had a few block to walk to Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter's Square) and this is where I noticed the biggest difference between Paris and Rome: tourist traps. Tents with all types of souvenirs, freelance tour guides, trinket shops very like those you would find in Time Square or the French Quarter, and take away cafes where a water bottle would run you 3 €.
St Peter's Square is a huge open area with a fountain and one of the ever present Egyptian Obelisks that are found all over Rome, surrounded by columned buildings and St Peter's Basilica. My panoramic shots didn't work so well here so this is 4 separate shots of the different sides. Check out the Pope's jumbo tron in the first pic:
We would have gone in, but the line was likely about a mile long and I think I'm underestimating because I could not see the end. I have this video to prove it, though in the video I am calling the Basilica the Sistine Chapel because:
a) The Sistine Chapel had been on my mind as what I really wanted to see.
b) The Roman sun was frying my brain.
c) I'm flaky like that.
Also, disregard the graphic in the middle of the screen. I downloaded a "free" video editor because my camera takes quick time files only, and this "free" program does not reveal that it is a demo only until you try to export your first vid:

Since there is really nothing of note in the square other than the Basilica, we headed a few blocks away to the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel and that's where we find out that despite what Bill Maher would like you to believe, it's not that hard to get thrown out of church. First of all, I would like to draw your attention to this picture.
That's me, in St Peter Square. Is this dress revealing? Do I look like a disrespectful Jezebel? Heck I'm not even wearing makeup and I purposefully chose a dress with a modest cut because I knew we'd be visiting the Vatican.
Geez, I only wanted you to look at the dress, the camera adds 10 lbs ok?

Not modest enough.

When we entered I was flagged by a security guard and told that I would need to cover my shoulders in order to get into the Sistine Chapel.
Okay, fair enough, but I did not have a jacket. I did have a light sweater back at the hotel, but dumb me, I thought that bringing a sweater along on a trek through the city in 90 plus degree heat would be a bad idea. I would have gone back for it if it had been important, but the guard informed me that I can buy a t-shirt at the gift shop and wear that. Now, how a t-shirt is more respectful than a dress, I do not understand, but I went along with it. We made our way through the museum, past several shops, none of which sold t-shirts. I was beginning to get nervous. Tickets were 14 € each and we were blazing past artwork that we should have been stopping to look at because I was in fear of every security guard we passed. Oh yes, and along the way we ran into these guys:And here I thought that Abercrombie and Fitch was a relatively new company!
After a very long walk we made it to the Sistine chapel and yes, I was confronted by a security guard. I was allowed in but only after a stern talking to about how I need to show respect next time. Show respect, let us talk about that for a moment shall we? My shoulders are disrespectful, however scores of tourists in sweaty t-shirts, socks with crocs, daisy duke shorts, sneakers and other items that wouldn't fly on casual Friday were perfectly fine?Let us also mention the very large and hard to miss signs at the entrance that clearly state that this is a sacred place where visitors are expected to be quiet, are not allowed to take photographs of any kind, and are not to sit on anything.
Now let us mention how the room was filled with a cacophonous din that was frequently punctuated by the occasional camera flash, the guards telling people to stop sitting on stuff, the guards telling people to stop taking pictures and the guards yelling at everyone to be quiet.
Oh yes, sacred indeed. This link should give you an idea of how well that worked.
Nothing like a little mob mentality to ruin it for everyone.
Of course it is very difficult to appreciate the artistry of the famous ceiling whilst being bumped and jostled nonstop by modest-shouldered buffoons. I would have had an easier time viewing the ceiling if the visitors had been replaced by the bulls of Pamplona.
Upon exiting the chapel we took our time, as the threat of ejection had passed. Here we did see some really nice pieces of art including, of all things, some works by Salvatore Dali. Leaving the Vatican required walking through a mile or so of gift shops. I considered purchasing a souvenir but I figured that my immodest shouldered Jezebel money was no good here so we went to one of the tents outside and picked up some one Euro postcards and a calendar featuring the cats of Rome. Our next stop will be the ancient city center and I'll tell you about those cats.

*Footnote: I tried to link to a page that would show what the actual modesty requirements are by the church and guess what??? There doesn't appear to be any actual written laws about this, it is all suggestion.

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