(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)
Monday, September 23.
And it’s just the queue for breakfast.
The morning we’re due to visit the Vatican, HUNDREDS of Spanish tourists (or so it seems) are all leaving the hotel at the same time.
After breakfast, Mom decides to grab some foodstuffs from the buffet to make more sandwiches for the day.
I’m waiting relatively close to the dining room entrance, a plate of already-made sandwiches in hand, when suddenly this disagreement breaks out between two of the Spanish tourists – a man and woman – seemingly over a black, vinyl bag (or, perhaps, its contents).
As the argument eases and escalates, I have visions of fisticuffs, me getting caught in the middle, and those delicious, precious bacon sandwiches flying in the air. I silently plead for my mother to hurry the hell up.
Unscathed, we grab our belongings and – after some confusion as to where our group’s bus is parked – are on our way to Vatican City.
The crowds outside the Vatican‘s city walls are already enormous by the time we arrive (see above), just after 8 a.m. Luckily, though, we don’t have to wait long to get inside – we’ve paid in advance, so we get to bypass some of the lines. But, man, do we ever shuffle just to get inside.
After a couple of false starts (one of our fellow tourists loses one of her sons in the shuffle up the escalator in the museum, then my mom’s radio guide – used to hear our guide, Tiziana – refuses to work), we finally get going.
The Vatican Museums include huge halls with ornate columns and ceilings, filled with all manner of sculptures (many of them missing arms), tapestries, painted reliefs on ceilings, and so on.
We’re led outside in a sort of courtyard, where Tiziana gives us an introduction to understanding the different panels of Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – the length of time it took the artist to complete his work, where the man left his signature, and even a fun anecdote about what he did when one local cardinal kicked up a fuss about the content of his masterpiece.
We eventually get in to see the chapel. But it’s a bit of a circus, to be completely honest. People are everywhere, being herded like sheep by the guards keeping watch. (Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to take pictures, so you’ll see none here. Google’s your friend for this one.)
Our group moves to one corner of the chapel, where – amid the insanity – I crane my neck and look straight upwards to gaze at as much as I can, before we’re shooed out.
We move along to St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s just as you’d probably just as ornate as you’d imagine – imaginably high domes, marble floors, sculptures in every corner, mosaic tiles galore. And then, there’s that massive, almost menacing, black canopy at the altar.
Embedded in the floor are tiles that compare the sizes of other big cathedrals around the world to St. Peter’s. (From what I understand, St. Peter’s is the biggest basilica in the world.)
Then, it’s out into the sun, past St. Peter’s Square – filled with row upon row of chairs set up for some sort of event – and the famous obelisk, for a break before we start the next leg of our trip.