Bit of a tongue-twister that and no, I don't mean myself as I've never been here before!
So sadly it's my last full day in Italy's capital and I have to say, I've really enjoyed it. Today then will be about the tourist attraction - Vatican city!
As I briefly spoke about in a previous post, I've not needed to use the metro once due to the frequency of the Rome bus service but today I paid my £1 to get to The Vatican via metro because for ease and efficiency, it made sense. Using the bus was a tip I received by the hostel owner as was to visit the Vatican museum and to pay for a ticket online and in advance to 'beat the queue'. I did this and I'm glad I listened unlike these unsuspecting folk:
Now consider I took this photo when I exited the museum mid afternoon as I can assure you the queue was longer when I arrived late morning.
Purchasing an advance ticket meant from the start of the queue marker to me getting past security, ticket validation etc...it took between 10 and 15 minutes. I dread to think how long it took the people without tickets to go through that entire process! Would the holdings of the museum be worth their wait in the sweltering heat?
Now then how to try and describe inside the Vatican museum and the artistic brilliance my eyes would soon see... Well, put it this way, paradoxically I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed. If you've been to The Louvre Paris you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. The sheer enormity and grandeur of the place - let alone its precious contents - will very shortly overwhelm the average person. Sadly you quickly accept that you will never begin to understand the stories that each piece of art could tell so you don't even bother trying to learn or memorise anything unless they are particularly well known piece. Relatedly, I cannot even begin to describe the amount of paintings, marble statues and other things the museum holds and as such, (Sara Appleyard cover your eyes if you happen to be reading), things begin to just look the same but admittedly I'm a simple philistine so I ask for forgiveness. Considering the vicinity, that sentence seems most apt. The moment you feel like that (which doesn't take long) you are subsequently left feeling underwhelmed and in search of other things; things you can understand. However, there is something said to be well worth waiting for...
Strategically positioned is the one thing probably over 90% of the people are here to see. By that I mean, you wander for like an hour or so before coming to the museum for its piece de resistance: The Sistine Chapel. Oh yes folks, my eyes were shortly about to see one of the most well known pieces of art - ever. Would I also find this similar and underwhelming? But first just a few simple snaps within the museum.
Naturally I was planning on taking the better photos of the thing I was mainly hear to see, the thing right at the end of this epic walk.........except.....
"NO FOTO PLEASE, NO FOTO"
You've gotta be kidding. But no, they weren't so sorry folks no pics of The Sistine Chapel but you'll find official images online and yes, it really was that incredible to be seen and I was humbled by its beauty. It is beyond my simple understanding how man can create something so remarkable by his very hand, let alone being really quite high-up in the air. Now, that's a man not deterred by vertigo! I understand it is said to have taken Michelangelo at least four years to accomplish.
The other fact I found of interest was that the Papal Conclave is actually held in The Sistine chapel. The first one in the chapel was in 1492. For those unaware, Conclave is where the cardinal electors would be locked in seclusion and not permitted to leave until a new Bishop of Rome had been elected!
Once witnessed I desperately wanted to 'hang out' in the famous Piazza San Pietro and so to get out I descended down an unusual flight of steps to the garden area of the museum. I sat for a few moments in relative piece and away from the masses of photo 'happy-snapping' tourists.
Eventually I made it 'the square'. Immediately I noticed there were much less people here in this hugely famous 'free' area than there were in the 'not so free' museum. Can you imagine having a constant, almost uninterrupted revenue stream!? The cost of a ticket is anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds per person and they reckon annually they see between 5 and 7 million visitors. Then there is the merchandise inside... No wonder the Vatican is so rich!
I stayed here for nearly an hour taking photos, chilling and swigging back water as it was again in the 30s today! It felt great to be here as instantly you think back to some of the coverage you've watched on the TV over the years and how people fill the square and that long stretch of road leading up to it for those special holy occasions.
As I was ready to leave and began to put my camera gear away in my rusk sack, I saw something in one of the small internal pockets; something I hadn't seen until I packed it away four weeks ago. I felt a little lump in my throat as I couldn't believe the timing of this and I swear this is the truth, the following images were not pre-meditated.
What I found was a very special card (I don't know the blasted name for these things. Anyone?) of my Nonna (grand-mother) who passed away in 2007. I brought it with me on my trip for obvious reasons and its sat peacefully undisturbed for these last four weeks. Normally it sits in my car drawer so it is never far away but of course I no longer have a car! Words a lot of you would have never thought you'd hear.
I then not long after realised that I was wearing the ring she bought me when I was around 14 and I've worn it ever since even in secondary school. She always said it was 'Rome-gold' so perhaps she even bought it here in Rome? Mother?
And that was that folks.
Many hours later my Italian friends invited me out again so I could hardly say no could I! Except they brought along more Italians who thankfully spoke English (we are so lucky you know natively knowing the language!). We met and dined in Trastevere and fast forward a couple of hours and a Carbonara later, the night was at an end but what a finale for my first Roman experience and one I'll never forget. #backtosavingthepennies
Some quick top tips:
1) As mentioned book tickets in advance. If you're under 26, its cheaper for you. Also really decide if you really want to see inside the museum or if hanging in the square will be enough for you.
2) If you're interested in learning about parts of the museum, you don't have to pay for a guide. Just tag on the front of different English speaking tour groups and you will hear stories by the tour guide for free :-)
3) Try to bring some food and drink as places around here were charging 8 euros for a single, fairly unimpressive chicken wrap! Then again, I found another place close by selling water for 1 euro so it can be just a case of looking around.