Oct 25, 2007

Roma - Part 3 Continued

After leaving the museum, Kat and I made our way around to Piazza di San Pietro, or St. Peter's Square. Funny how they name things that aren't square in shape... squares. Of course when something is this beautiful, you can call it whatever you want as far as I'm concerned.
This is the Piazza taken from the cupola or top of the dome... at least what is accesible to the public. But how did we get there?

Here it goes....

Kat and I wander the Piazza. It's ridiculously hot and humid, so we change out of our warm clothing that covers us from below our knees to our shoulders. She gets asked by other tourists to take their picture in front of one of the fountains. The two fountains sit on either side of the obelisk in the center. You can just barely see them in the shot above.

The Piazza is, to return to a word I used earlier, ginormous. Of course, that means I couldn't fit it all in a single shot.

And clearly neither could Kat. So instead of attempting something futile, I just took a video. And don't worry, I don't think this one will make you nauseous.

Now that the layout makes much more sense, I'll continue. The fountains, although simple, are beautiful and very fitting. And the obelisk... eh. It's all right. People in Europe seem to be big fans of these things. It has a few details. An eagle carrying an olive branch? Sounds familiar. I'm not actually sure if that is an eagle or a hawk. Maybe you can tell.So we had some fun in the square and waited for the rest of the crew to show up. And then we really had some fun. Antony took his usual "running man" pose with Jen as his official photographer. I managed to catch a different view of the scene.

Of course, we had some posing. And this is where the blog becomes interactive. That's right, it's time for some reader interaction. You get to pose with me. Ready? Go

Quick, make like an obelisk!

Make like a basilica!And reader interaction over. Yes, that was me being a total goof ball I was having fun, what can I say. Thank you to Jen for the photography.

But Antony was confused by our little game. Come on Antony, make like a basilica!There you go... kind of.

And then to accompany the posing we had some splashing. Those fountains are certainly versatile. Sarika and Venice pose some more, Antony sets up...Antony strikes! And you can see the reaction all over Sarika's face.

Eventually after more hijinks and posing, we begin to consider actually going inside St. Peter's Basilica. As we get closer we realize that going inside means puting back on all that warm, oppressive clothing. Did I mention it's close to 100 degrees outside? But according to the sign, one legged individuals and people without pants and sleeves are not allowed. See, look! So we debate. Well, some of us do, but Trevor is not missing this opportunity. The rated PG quote would be "I'm going whether you idiots are coming or not." And Trevor begins to dress in the middle of the square. His dressing is somehow enough to convince the rest of us that we should go inside. Only Cristina decides not to enter the basilica and she moves to the rim of the square to relax with our bags.

We go inside and I what I see literally takes my breath away. I mean I'd already seen a few churches, and there were plenty more to follow in later trips, but this was really something.

Immediately off to the right between the Holy door and the altar of Saint Sebastian is the Michelangelo's Pieta. Because of a guy who decided to attack the sculpture with a chisel in 1972, it's protected by a sheet of bullet proof acrylic glass. A hand rail also prevents how close you can get to the piece. Sadness. For a complete layout... at least of the main hall of the interior, see the video below. I just hope you're good at looking at things upside down.

And now that Kat wants to wring my neck....

Here we have Bernini's canopy. As you can see, the low light conditions made things a little difficult for my baby Canon. I used a makeshift tripod, hence the blurred movement. We also have Bernini's Cathedra Petri and Gloria. I'm not really sure which is which.Honestly, there are so many things that we didn't see. For instance, we didn't go into the Tomb of the Popes. I know there was probably a lot of history down there, and I'm pretty sure Trevor ventured there, but dead people just aren't my thing. And I say that as respectfully as possible.

Eventually we all meet up and we decide to climb the stairs up to the cupola, the dome of the Basilica. We had the option of taking the lift part way and climbing the rest, or just taking the stairs. The lift cost money, money we decided we didn't want to spend. Had we taken the lift we would have only had to climb 320 stairs. Since we didn't take the lift, it was more like 580. Talk about the cost you pay to be cheap. The good news is, I could eat all the yummy carb filled Italian food I wanted to, and after the climb we had it wouldn't have mattered.

Antony maintains we'll be fine, so long as we stretch first... and he decides to present us with an example.After a good laugh we start to climb. And we continue climbing. We eventually pass the lift, and we keep going. Shortly after the lift we reach what I would consider to be the roof, at least the flat part of the roof upon which the dome appears to sit. It also has several mini domes and a shop filled with trinkets. I bought my St. Peter's Basilica shot glass from a nun. I love it...That's the shop off to the left.

Also great about this little stop is the fact that you can walk inside the dome and look down into the Basilica. The view is amazing.

Look at the way light streams in...Looking straight ahead, here are some of the details of the dome. It's not centered, and the contrast is a little harsh, but you get the idea.After our little picture section, we return to climbing. As you get higher into the dome, the walls begin to curve. Of course as you continue to climb, the walls curve more, and I seem to recall the roof becoming lower as well. Here is a mild example of the curving walls.We finally reach the top. I mean why start, get half way, and quit. I don't think we could have if we wanted to. Going back down meant a different set of stairs. But we'll get there. The view was worth the climb, I think it's the most impressive view of Rome. For example, the picture that opened this entry wouldn't have been possible if not for the climb. And now for some more of the view.

Here is the view into the Vatican Museum that was covered in the last entry. If you're able to open the full sized image, you can actually see the golden orb I was so obsessed with.

You could also see parts of Vatican City that are not open to the public. And this is why I want to be pen pals with the Pope.Look at those manicured gardens! The greenery, the hedges. I haven't even gotten to the flowers or the fountains. And if you look closely at the top right corner you can see the walls that separate Vatican City from surrounding Rome. I acutally wanted to be the Pope, but Kat reminded me that not only am I a woman, I'm also not Catholic. Still... I wouldn't mind having that space to myself.

While capturing the some of the shots above, Jen thought it'd be a good idea to take a shot of me hard at work!For more of the view, check this out. It even comes with it's own authentic Italian ambulence sound. It might be the police, I don't remember.

Eventually we made our descent back down the 500 some odd stairs. I think we avoided it as long as possible, but we didn't want to miss our train to Venice, and we were all pretty tired. The stairwell we had to take back down was very steep, with large, smooth steps. Jen and I were sliding all over the place in our flip flops and were holding onto the hand rails for dear life.

We make it back to terra firma and find Christina, sitting comfortably at the edge of the square before heading off to the train station to travel to Venice over night. I mean why pay for both a hotel and a train when you can save time and travel at night, right?

The train station is pretty cool. It still has one of the old fashioned types of arrival and depature boards, where the numbers and letters actually flip. Who needs electronics and flat screen panels when you can have that? I'm going to be honest, we were a little mesmerized. And then it was no longer entertaining.

We picked up some food at a local mini mart and ate our customary McDonalds. It's the only restaurant that is everywhere in Europe.

And we sat, all looking forward to boarding the train and having a comfortable, restful evening. All I can say is this is our messy trip to Italy... we should have known better.

Mar 1, 2007

Roma - Part 3

Here it is, the Vatican...

Day 3 is our last day in Rome. We have to make it to the Vatican, and make it there early, or we're not going to get in, and we're not going to get to see it. I mean sure we would be able to see St. Peter's Basilica, but we wouln't get into the Vatican Museum, and that would mean no Sistine Chapel.

Had that happened, Trevor might have killed us all. Or he would have left without us, I'm not sure which. Perhaps the latter followed by the former?

But here's the catch... it's our last day in Rome. We're leaving for Venice that night, and we don't exactly have a rental car or place to keep our luggage. So, like the day I spent wandering through Madrid, we're packing all our stuff with us. Can you sense the enthusiasm?

Thankfully, must of us got up early and made our way to the Vatican. We met up at our hotel and hopped on the metro, and I'm pretty sure we had to transfer before getting off at the Cipro Musei Vaticani stop.

We practically ran to get in line, behind Jen our fearless leader who knew where she was going. We got there quick... but someone had started a second line going the wrong direction and unfortunately, we ended up in it. We'd been in line for almost 30 minutes before someone was kind enough to move us.

And this would be the line going the wrong direction. The correct line wrapped all the way around the other side of the museum.

While in line, we were cooking in the sun. A few nearby vendors were selling frozen water bottles, and I'm pretty sure they made a killing. The last few members of our group who didn't make it to our hotel before we left met us in line. Within a few hours, we were finally inside.
I have to admit, outside the wall it doesn't look like much, but the second you step inside the museum you are quite literally overwhelmed. It is beautiful. And the best part... they have a FREE baggage check. I officially love the Vatican. In fact, as we'll see later, I want to be pen pals with the Pope.
We check our bags, go through security, and buy our tickets for entry at the our "reduced" student rate. I wanted to see the orb representing the world in the center of the courtyard so as soon as we could figure out the maps we grabbed, we made our way there.

Then there was some shopping, and by that I mean Christina spent quite a few Euros on various things in the courtyard gift shop. And then we wandered the halls. I have never seen so many sculptures in one place, and I reached the point where I needed an art historian to explain to me just what I was looking at. For example we have...
Conjoined armless twins standing next to the bust of a man who looks quite bewildered. Due to the low light conditions, the shot was a little blurry, so I took some artistic liberties. Amazing how sharpening an image and applying a canvas texture makes it look like it might actually be in focus. Ha!
Me actually wandering the halls. Can't blame me for the blur in this one. But it does a wonderful job of showing how many sculptures lined the walls. And that's just one hallway. The longer skirt and cardigan draped over my shoulders in spite of the heat is an attempt to follow the Vatican dress code. I should have snapped the picture of the girl in the crop top and short shorts, but oh well. Back to the hallways...

See, here's another one... complete with Christina.And what was in that hallway do you ask? How about...
Agustus of Prima Porta... or

Zeus! I think. Wait... Zeus was Greek. Ummm... would it be improper to say a mythical god with his kids? However, my personal favorite has got to be...

The peacock!
A little while later Kat and I were hungry... and I seem to recall being extremely hungy. We made our way to the cafe and I had my first slice of real Italian pizza at the Vatican.
We also made a quick trip to the post office to mail a few postcards from the soverign state of Vatican City. Next time I need to mail one to myself. I want to see the stamp.

Yes, I'm a bit of a nerd sometimes.

We eventually met back up with the rest of our group and took off towards the Sistine Chapel. Honestly, it's amazing to me that anyone can find it. We had to walk through hall after hall, herded like sheep before we finally got to enter. I would show pictures of the various halls and rooms, but let's just say a lot of them look like this...

They're covered in paintings and Frescos or tapestries so old there is very little indirect lighting in the hall. The picture above is the ceiling of the map room. Each space between the windows is painted with a different map, all of them incredibly old and geographically incorrect. If I recall, a few of them even place the Vatican as the "center" if you know what I mean. And now on to the Sistine Chapel, or Capella Sistina for you Italian speaking folks.

Once inside the Chapel, I was rather disappointed in the way tourists are regulated and in the way people behaved. There are several signs stating that there is no photography, no flash photography and no video inside the Chapel at all. The halls leading up to the Chapel were incredibly regulated, you'd have a guard on you the second you snapped a shot. But once you're crammed inside the Chapel, there's just someone shouting at you occasionally from the door. Did I mention it's incredibly crowded? Movement is difficult to say the least, and it's noisy. Vaulted ceilings are perfect for resonating the voices of hundreds of tourists crammed between their four walls. I could see how the view would be a "religious experience" absent the crowd... but the ambiance was litterally destroyed by the number of people there and their lack of respect. I just about bought a poster with a picture of the entire ceiling so that I could properly appreciate it later.

Did I mention that Trevor took a picture?

By the way, still jealous. Just a little. I have no actual proof that I was even there.

Honestly, I didn't want to damage the fresco, I took a movie of the ceiling instead.

Pretty cool, eh? I'm sorry if I made anyone sick. I tried to get as much of the ceiling and walls as possible. I also took two pictures without flash of the most famous scene which sits in the center of the ceiling... the Creation of Adam.

Not bad for a pocket camera, but believe me when I say that I would love to go back with my Canon 30D and a faster, larger lens. One of these days. If you want some better images of the ceiling, you can check out the Vatican website. I've tried linking it, but it's not working. Honestly, I even checked the help page. I can upload a video but not get a link to work? Just Google Vatican Museum or Musei Vaticani and it'll come up. Geez.

Ok, back to the story.

After seeing the Chapel, we basically headed for the exit. To do so we had to walk through a few more halls before making our way to the circular staircase to exit. Of course I find out later that this staircase is world famous. A staircase? Really.

So we left the Vatican Museum and made our way over to Saint Peter's Basilica. To be honest, this post is long enough and it would be wrong of me to write about St. Peter's and not post more pictures. Look for those in Roma - Part 3 Continued...