Saturday-It is Cinco de Mayo back home, but for us it is Vatican Day. (I apologize ahead fo time for all the pictures, but it is the Vatican! The Catholic mothership and the entity that kept ancient art alive and powered the Renaissance)
We took the Metro to the Ottavia stop for the Vatican Museum. We had an early morning appointment to see the works of the Vatican, ending with the Sistine Chapel. We were allowed to take pictures in most of the museum, but not in the Sistine Chapel. It seems the Japanese company that paid for the restoration of the ceiling of the chapel has copyrights to the now visible images and is trying to protect its investment. We had to use Mr. Bill to re-enact one o the most dramatic images of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo definitely did it better.
The images in the Vatican are breathtaking. Over the years the church accumulated much, including a substantial amount of Renaissance art. So all of the teachings we had had in our other tours of other churches were bearing fruit on this visit. We walked through almost all of the rooms except for Egypt and earlier. We spent some time in several chambers that Popes had used and had decorated by famous artists of their time. In one such room the church had a library containing all of the various language versions of the explanation of the Immaculat Conception of the Virgin Mary (a doctrine adopted by the church in the 1900s) and frescoes around it. Another room was done with frescoes by Raphael, including his famous School of Athens in which Raphael included Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo and others as figures in ancient Greece.
We saw many long corridors with art and maps. One ceiling had painted figures that looked like sculptures they were so well done. before the Sistine Chapel there were whole rooms of famous art that had been given to the Popes as gifts by heads of state. I saw a Chagall and Dali as well as other artists I wasn't as familiar with.
The Sistine Chapel lived up to its hype. It as restored a few years ago and the colors are vibrant. Somehow i had thought it was one big dome, but instead it is a long curved ceiling with various panels, with the image of God creating Adam overhead right in the middle of the chapel.
When we finished with the Sistine Chapel, almost as an afterthought, we visited the Pinacoteca, which is a collection of other artists that have been collected by the Vatican. We saw Raphael's Transfiguration, Leonardo's unfinished St. Jerome, and Caravaggio's Deposition as well as works by Rubens and other artists.
When we finished our tour of the Museum, we walked around to Vatican square to look at the Egyptian obelisk that had once graced the Roman circus and witnessed games, persecutions, and the crucifixion of Christians and the first Pope, St. Peter. We saw where the Pope speaks to the masses. We saw the Swiss guards. There we were free for the rest of the day. Susan and I went into St. Peter’s Basilica and walked around this massive church. We have seen some churches, but this is the mothership. It is larger than and church we have been in. It housed a huge arch over the altar and a mosaic version of Bernini’s Transformation. It has Michelangelo’s Pieta, which depicts Mary cradling the dead Jesus just down from the cross. What I was surprised at was how nondescript the area was where, by tradition, St. Peter was crucified. It was in a corner, hard to get to, and unlighted. Perhaps that is the way St. Peter would have wanted it—nothing to take away from the focus on his Lord.
We finished touring, watched the changing of the Swiss Guards, and made our way out of the square. We found a place to eat lunch not far from the Vatican, then made our way back to the Metro.
This evening is our last evening as a group. As is traditional on a Rick Steve’s tour, our last evening we have a group meal. We met Donald at 6:45 pm to walk over to the bus station at the Termini, a train station not far from our hotel. We caught a bus that took us across town to an area near Campo d’Fiori, a large neighborhood near the river. From the bus stop we walked through some neighborhoods to a small square that had at least 3 restaurants in it. Ours is the DePancrazio. We descended into a grotto that had been there since the time of the Caesars. In fact, it was once part of the Temple of Pompeii, where the Senate was meeting on the day that Julius Caesar was assassinated. (The Senate Forum was undergoing repairs). We looked around for blood stains on the marble, but we couldn’t see any.
We had a wonderful common meal with good food and good wine. After a few pitchers of wine, we were joined by a singer with his guitar who entertained us with Italian love songs that we all recognized. A lot of us were singing along. With all these love songs in the air (and a couple of glasses of wine in my belly), I grabbed Susan and dipped her down for a big kiss. The crowd went wild, so on the next song we did it again. It was fun.
After dinner we took a walk into a little square where we saw a large villa with the lights on a room that had many frescoes in it. This was a building designed by Michelangelo, which also happens to house the French Embassy to Italy.
Then Donald walked us through the streets a little more until we came to a large Piazza called the Piazza Navona. This was one of the places that figured in the movie Angels and Demons. It was Saturday night, so this place was hopping. There were musicians playing guitars at various locations in the square with various degrees of skill, but we enjoyed all of them. We spent a few minutes walking around the square and the big fountain in the middle of it, then took the bus back home, said goodbye to everyone, and went to bed.