Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rome-ing Around: The Vatican, etc

Yesterday was the longest day of my life. I woke up at 4:30 AM to get ready for a day trip to Roma! I met the others in the group—Robin, Catherine, Emily, and Colette—in front of our designated meeting place (Bar Leonardi…we always meet there, no matter what, for every occasion) and we grabbed a café latte and hopped on the 6:25 bus to Orte where we caught a train direct to Rome. It was exactly like on Eurotrip when they are on the train and the crazy Italian guy gets into their compartment and says “mi scusi” all the time and gets creepy through the tunnels…complete with random creepy Italian men and dark tunnels…

Ready to start the adventure! Emily, Robin, Colette, and me!

One of those men turned out to be quite useful though because we weren’t aware we had to switch trains so he helped take us to where we needed to be. I wish we had him on the way back. It was a COMPLETE disaster. More about that later.

First stop in Roma was the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria where Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa resides. I just saw Angels and Demons before I left for Italy, and let me tell you, this church is nothing like they depicted in the movie! It’s MUCH more wonderful! Absolutely gorgeous, and the statue is magic in real life. We ended up being a bit early and caught the last part of mass, which was pretty fun.

Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa up close!! I lit an eletric candle for her :-)

The yummiest caramel gelato in a chocolate and coconut cone outside of the 9:30 AM! Hey, a girl's gotta eat!

Next we were off to the Vatican where we paid too much for a guided tour, but it was awesome. I saw some amazing things including Raphael’s School of Athens, which is one of my favorite pieces of all time and I was maybe 6 inches from it!!!!!!!! I almost cried it was so wonderful. I also saw Raphael’s Transfiguration, which was amazing as well, famous statues I have studied in classes, an unfinished Leonardo, and an amazing Bellini that was actually my favorite piece I saw in the paintings galleries.

Raphael's School of Athens. LOVE THIS ONE!

This was the Bellini I absolutely loved. Random, I know. But Jesus looks so realistic here! The emotion this painting depicts and the emotion it can ellicit are remarkable! To think all of this was accomplished with a flat surface and a bunch of colors put together...very moving!

View of the dome out of the window of the museum

And of COURSE I went and saw the Sistine Chapel….3 times! Though they say no pictures and no talking, they absolutely did not regulate that whatsoever the first time, so I got plenty of awesome pictures. It’s fairly amazing in real life. They even left a little square of it unrestored so we could see how dark it had gotten over the centuries. Very cool!

A bad picutre, but proof I was in the Capella Sistina! And testament to the thick crowd of people. I have a billion plus pictures in here, including close ups of EVERYTHING! I figured as long as I wasn't using a flash and no one was yelling at me, I should sneak in as many details as I could! I have some great ones of the Last Judgement too. Ask if you'd like to see!

Here's the sample that wasn't restored. See the blackish square? That shows how much muck accumulated over the years on this masterpiece! After taking my Conservation class, I look at every work of art with new eyes now. I spotted this immediately. How cool is that? The whole restoration was very controversial because it revealed that the ceiling is painted in more of a Mannerist palette when Michelangelo was supposed to be the epitome of High Renaissance.

Anyways, this is our cool story of why we had to walk the 4 mile-ish route through the museum 3 times. First was the guided tour group, where our guide was adorable and very informative. Since the Vatican is sort of a walk through only one way kind of place, you can either exit to the beginning of the museum and go back through to see things you missed, or you can exit through the Sistine Chapel to the right and go directly into St. Peters. After the first time, we wanted to go back and see paintings like the Transfiguration, so we decided to eat at the overpriced café, buy some postcards, and take a break. So we walked back through the whole museum again. The plan was to leave the Sistine to St. Peters, but half the group was lagging so Emily and I trailblazed ahead to have more time in the basilica. Well, we got distracted as I explained the process of tapestry making to her (thank you Maureen O’Brien) and began having a fabulous in depth art historical conversation and ended up leaving the Sistine Chapel the wrong way…the way we had gone before…that took us to the entrance again!! So we had to take the whole walk AGAIN. And my goodness, that day was absolutely PACKED with people. You could hardly breathe. Let’s just say I’m done with the Vatican Museum for a while!

St. Peters was AWESOME! It was so HUGE!!! And Michelangelo’s Pieta was so moving. I just wish it wasn’t behind all that glass. There was so much to look at, and while we were there they had mass with the music and everything, which was quite the experience. I got told to put my sweater on to cover my shoulders, and one lady didn’t have anything so she was wearing a shopping bag! It was pretty great. We paid the 7 euros to go to the very top of the dome, which was SO COOL! You take an elevator up and can see down into the church, and then you can climb extra stairs to the very top outside where you can see all of Rome! On the roof there is a restaurant/snack bar, a souvenir shop run by adorable nuns, and a place to mail postcards! So I definitely sent out a couple for the addresses I remembered off the top of my head from the dome at the top of St. Peters! Because Vatican City is its own country, you will be getting a special stamp.

Jesus was here.

Dipping into the holy water at St. Peters. I betcha it came straight out of the sink!

I just thought these light rays were awesome

Up inside the dome looking down on mass. Is this how God feels?

On the roof in front of the dome! I'm so small, but there I am!


Mailing some post cards from the dome at the top of St. Peters!!

At the very top of the dome with Emily

Best picture ever! Check out the dome roof, the shadow, and the square!!

Afterwards we found some gelato that was supposed to be amazing (it was the second time I'd had gelato that day, and it wasn't as good as the first place right across from the Vatican!) and tried to get a taxi back to the train station. Let’s just say we spent 20 euros driving in circles. There was a gay pride parade that had us blocked in!!! We ended up getting out and walking, when we got sidetracked by the Spanish Steps, and some excellent shopping. By the way, if you go to the good shopping district near the park with the Borghese Gallery to the right of the Spanish Steps…Via Veneto I believe…they have a row of 5 star hotels across from the US Embassy. Use the restrooms there!!! They are SUPER nice! You just walk in like you own the place, go down the stairs past the spa (I don’t remember the name of this one in particular) and do your thing. Then leave your bags at the front desk and say you are checking in later, have the concierge give you a map and directions to where you need to go, and they’ll call you a taxi outside. It was amazing! You don’t even have to say anything. Just walk in like you own the place.

Spanish Steps

Well, due to many ridiculous circumstances I won’t go into, we ended up missing the train and getting SUPER confused, had to take a metro, find a late train, and didn’t get back to Orte until nearly midnight…we had been trying to get back since about 6:30! When we get to Orte, they are having a huge rock concert with some Italian rock idol that apparently could be compared to Bob Dylan. We enjoyed some music before calling our official ARCA chauffeur to take us on the 20 min ride back to Amelia. I was EXHAUSTED and passed out immediately. I’ve never walked so much in my life!!!

How we felt after our day...and this is being generous to our true feelings at this point.

The pictures are only a sampling. I have a bunch more up on facebook (or I will soon) and I have even more that won’t make it to the internet. Feel free to scope them out sometime!


  1. I like the censored versions of certain events. :-) The good parts of the day seem amazing! I wish I had the pictures we took from Italy. Damn that creepy kid in our hostel for stealing our memories!

  2. Should've warned you about the dresscode... When my mom was there in the 70's they wouldn't let her in because she was wearing pants.

  3. Oh wow! Well I knew about it, which is why I had the sweater to begin with. I had just forgotten cuz we went straight from the museum to the church!

  4. Can't wait to hear the juicy details!!! Glad you brought the dresses & sweaters...always best to be ready even if you don't need them. This trip will change your whole perspective. Now you have to go and watch DaVinci & Angels & Demons again!!!