Climbing St. Peter’s Dome and Not so Wonderful News!

Day 98, Monday December 11, 2017

This was our last day in Rome, and I really wanted to climb the dome at St. Peter’s so that is where we went today. It was cloudy and windy but it wasn’t raining so that is good. I think they close the dome when it is raining so I kept my fingers crossed that we get to do this today.
After a twenty-minute wait to get through security there is no wait to climb the dome. I was willing to climb all 551 steps to the top but Bob thought we should take the elevator for the first 231 steps so we did that. When we get off the elevator we go inside the dome and get an up close look at the mosaics and the beautiful interior of the dome.
We will be climbing up to that little circle of light high above us!Everything in the Church far below us looks very small. This is the area where the service for  Peace in the Congo and the Sudan was held the first time we came to St. Peters. This is our third visit to St. Peter’s.From one of the windows, we see the backs of the huge statues on top of St. Peter’s. 
There are another 320 steps that we climb to get to the cupola on top of the dome. We are inside the walls of the dome so they slant quite steeply. It is very strange to walk with such sloping walls.The stairs get progressively smaller and more enclosed. I wouldn’t recommend this climb for anyone with claustrophobia.
Here we are on the cupola high above the ground.  At 450 feet high, this is the tallest dome in the world, and we are standing on it!On the way up I took the first photo from a window. It felt pretty high already. Notice the dome with the scaffolding in the first photo, and then see how much higher we climbed by comparing it to the same dome in the second photo.This is the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel.  You can see how long the hallways were on either side of the interior courtyard. Also there were inscriptions carved onto the roof of the dome with Pope’s names and dates.You can see them in the bottom of the photo.
St. Peter’s Square with the Christmas tree, and the road that leads to the river and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The view from up here is amazing even with it being an overcast day.It is very windy but no rain, so we are happy. We spent at least an hour up here, just enjoying the view. We even had our tea and cookie break on the sheltered side of the dome. Not sure if we will ever get back here so we wanted to soak it all up!This is looking up towards the cupola just above our heads. These are the windows that are visible inside the church at the top of the dome.
The Vatican Gardens look beautiful. We didn’t get a chance to tour them, maybe another visit?This photo clearly shows how apartments are often built around an inner courtyard that is not visible from the street. Also another look at an inscription on the dome.
We climb back down the 320 steps and we are delighted to discover that we get to walk the roof of the basilica. How amazing is that? We get up close and personal with the huge statues, check out a souvenir shop, a cafe and the bathrooms, all on the roof top of St. Peter’s!There is a great view of the dome from the roof top.
We were right up on the top, behind the railing. I was very excited about the whole visit.We walk down the last 231 steps and emerge inside St. Peter’s. Looking up at the dome it is crazy to think that we were up there. We were on the inside just below the windows and then on the outside away up above that tiny opening, which isn’t really all that tiny and walking above these beautiful ceilings!We visit the grotto below the church which contain chapels dedicated to various saints and tombs of kings, queens and popes, dating from the 10th century. The holiest place is St. Peter’s tomb, visible on the right side of this photo. The monument to Pope Paul VI (1978) is here but the tomb of Pope John Paul II (2005) is upstairs in the church. I took a photo before I was told that no photos were allowed and it just happened to be this one of St. Peter’s tomb.Back outside we watched changing of the Swiss guards. I love their uniforms. They are inspired by Renaissance uniforms and they are the colour of the House of the Medici.On our walk back to the metro we pass shops that sell robes for the clergy. This was a surprise for us but I guess they need to buy these vestments somewhere. We wonder if you need to show ID to make a purchase?When we arrive home we check our flight to Amsterdam tomorrow and find out that it has been cancelled due to bad weather in Amsterdam! This is the third flight that has been cancelled on us this trip!!

We spend the next five hours trying to figure out how we are going to get home. No use booking another flight as it may get cancelled too, and there are no busses that would get us there in time. The train can only guarantee to get us to the German-Netherland border and then we “should” be able to stay on the train and just pay the conductor to get to Amsterdam!  That means there is a chance we might get stranded at the border late at night!!

In the end our best option is to rebook our flight and fly from Rome to Munich, then to Reykjavik and finally home. Instead of a short flight to Amsterdam, a relaxing night in a hotel and then a flight home, we now have a 24 hour travel day starting at 4 am and it cost us a lot more money!!  Oh well, we decide to not worry about it and at least we will still get home on December 13th. Luckily we are able to book another night in our bnb so we didn’t have to move somewhere else for one day. We finally get this all sorted out near midnight. Not a nice end to a lovely day in Rome.

 

Packing Day and Wonderful News

Day 97, Sunday December 10, 2017

We decide to start packing and organizing for the start of our trip home on Tuesday. I didn’t want to leave it all until the last day and it is raining so it is a good day to stay home and get that done.

We received wonderful news today. We have a beautiful new grandson! We can’t wait to meet Arland once we are home. 

The Roman Catacombs, Italy

Day 96, Saturday December 9, 2017

We get a wave from a friendly Santa this morning on our way to catch the bus to the catacombs.

We arrive at the San Sebastiano Catacombs only to find this note tacked to the door. Too bad they didn’t bother to update the website. We visited the San Sebastiano Basilica, at least that was open. The remains of Saint Sebastian were at one time buried in the catacombs below the church.

The basilica has a beautiful carved and painted wooden ceiling.We shelter in the entrance of the church and have our lunch then head down the Appian Way to the Villa di Massenzio. We ran out of time to visit here on our last visit to the Appian Way.  This structure was the triumphal entrance gate to the Circus that was on this site. A circus is a Roman chariot racing stadium. In the background is the Tomb of Cecilia Metella that we visited when we walked the Appian Way on Bob’s birthday .
A view of the Circus. There is a tomb here built by Emperor Maxentius. I make like a statue in one of the niches.

Walking back to the San Callisto Catacombs ,which were closed until 2:00, we see this tree being carved outside the San Sebastiano Basilica, which is in the background.Our tour of the San Callisto catacombs is fascinating. Twelve Christians were killed by Roman soldiers in this small chapel known as the Crypt of the Popes as five early popes were buried here.In the 20 km of tunnels spread over 20 acres, archaeologists have found the tombs of 16 early popes, dozens of martyrs and the remains of half a million Christians. No photos were allowed so these are photos of postcards I purchased in the gift shop.

The Crypt of St. Cecilia is the tomb a young woman who was martyred in the 3rd c. because she would not renounce Christianity. When her body was exhumed in 1599, more than a thousand years after her death, it was apparently perfectly preserved, as depicted in this statue.We decide to walk to the Domitilla Catacomb nearby. The catacombs of Domitilla are about 17 kilometers long and extending to a depth of around 30 meters. Our one hour tour only visits the little area highlighted in green at the top of the map.The tombs were carved into the tufa rock which was fairly soft. The oldest tombs are the ones higher up. When there was no more space left, the grave diggers lowered the floor level and put in more tombs.  The different levels are connected with staiways.

No photos are allowed but our guide, who happens to be the Director of the Catacombs, says it is OK if we take a few photos so I take advantage of his offer. Bodies were wrapped in shrouds, placed in the carved niches and then a cover was plastered over the opening of the niche. There are many very small niches as the infant mortality rate was very high. We see some bones in a few of the niches, but most of the bones where tourists visit have been moved because some of the tourists were talking home ‘souvenirs’.Our tour began and ended in this Basilica that was built at the end of the 4th century AD above the tomb of two martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus. Most of this Basilica is underground.  The top of a ventilation shaft is just visible in one of the fields above the catacombs.

We continue along the Appian Way, and end up walking all the way home which took almost an hour. I loved the light on these trees.

Christmas Decorations in Rome, Italy

Day 94, Thursday December 7, 2017

We returned from Pompeii early afternoon and decided we should see if we could find some Christmas lights. These festive bows were on the street on the way to the Vatican.

We stopped at St. Peter’s Square and we were delighted to see that the Christmas tree was lit up. I thought that the lights weren’t turned on until just before Christmas, so this was a pleasant surprise.The lights were just turned on at dusk today and they were still cleaning up so we had to sit about 15 minutes until we were allowed into the square.The manger scene has life size figures and there are several rather peculiar additions to the traditional manger scene we are used to. We don’t know why some of the figures look like pirates, and have no idea what the nude figure on the right is all about. There is no baby Jesus in sight yet.

This is the largest Christmas tree we have ever seen, and it is very beautifully decorated with lots of lights and big ornaments painted by children in hospitals across Italy who are receiving treatment for cancer as well as children affected by earthquakes in Italy the past two years.

We walk all the way to Nuovo Piazza to see the Christmas Market. That turns out be a big disappointment. No market, no Christmas lights, and no promised Carousel. Apparently there was some sort of political scandal a few years ago. The powers to be tried to restrict the vendors at the market to those who sold hand made items so all the vendors withdrew in support of those not allowed to sell their ware. It was supposed to be back this year, but nothing is here. Too bad. We were expecting a market similar to the one we saw in Madrid a couple years ago. Further research has revealed that “Rome’s Befana Christmas market, which was scheduled to return to Piazza Navona after three years on 2 December, has so far failed to open due to an argument between the city and stallholders over who pays for security.”

I had Googled where to see Christmas lights in Rome, so next we walked to Via dei Coronari. We did find a few lights but not enough to entice us to keep walking so we called it night. Italy does not have a tradition of putting up Christmas lights and Christmas trees. Pope John Paul II put up the first Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square in 1982. Now every year the tree comes from a different European country as a gift to the Pope. This year’s tree is from Poland. There are a few more lights and trees around the city, but nothing like the amazing Christmas lights and decorations we saw in Spain.

If you want to find out about the strange figures, including the naked man, in the Vatican Nativity Scene check out this link.

Herculaneum, Italy

Day 93, Wednesday December 6, 2017

We are up early to take the train to Herculaneum, which is another ancient town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

We are a bit early for our train so we visit the church in Pompeii. Yes, another church! I should be tired of them but it seems that each one we visit is so different for the others that there is always something new and amazing to see.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary is an international place of pilgrimage.  It is considered the most important shrine consecrated to Mary in Italy.  4 million pilgrims from all over the world visit here every year.

The church has many hallways and rooms covered in thousands of ex-votos. These devotional images were created in thanks for the fulfillment of vows by those who survived an illness or disaster because they prayed to the Virgin Mary. I keep seeing images in the marble. What do you see here?

Every town we pass on the way to Herculaneum is crowded with apartments. I think just about everyone in Italy who lives in urban areas must live in apartments.
We can see the smog over Naples. There seems to be more smog here than in Rome.Believe it or not, this is the ‘street’ that Google maps tells us to walk down to get to the archeological site.  It was long, narrow, dirty and full of garbage!This is our first view of Herculaneum. Unlike Pompeii, which was covered by about 4 meters of ash, Herculaneum was buried under more than 20 meters of mud, ash, and other pyroclastic material. This thick layer preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even skeletons.

Until these skeletons were discovered inside boat sheds near the shore of ancient Herculaneum it was thought that most of the residents escaped the town. However excavation of the boat sheds in 1981 revealed over 300 skeletons. It is thought that they were waiting for boats to take them to safety but they died before this could happen. Please take a look at this excellent five minute video from the Smithsonian which explains all about these skeletons.

I understand that the skeletons on display are replicas of the originals but they still make a powerful impact.
These walls were painted from dark orange-red changing to light yellow…and the column’s construction was interesting.There were more places for buying prepared food…and this is one of the many water fountains we saw both here and in Pompeii.Many beautiful mosaic floors were well preserved because they were covered with the hot mud that flowed down from Vesuvius.

This is part of a huge sport centre here which had a pool and areas for other types of recreation.Herculaneum is especially known for having well-preserved buildings with upper floors.It is possible to see carbonized charred wooden beams. doors and shutters…as well as railings and shelves inside the buildings.There are several of these ‘balconies’ along the streets.The College of the Augustales was an order of freemen dedicated to the Imperial Rulers of Rome. The big carbonized beams that supported the upper floor are still in place.

It is possible to see how the modern town of Ercolano was built on the buried remains of Herculaneum, and there is Mount Vesuvius in the background.More preserved areas. Unfortunately many of the largest and best preserved villas were closed to visitors today. It was disappointing but not much we can do about it. We read a sign that said that it was not possible to properly look after the site for many years, and that by the year 2000 two-thirds of the site was closed to visitors due to safety concerns. With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, work is now ongoing to restore this site and reopen areas to visitors This building is particularly well-preserved…and has a carbonized bed inside.The doors in the back of this photo are the original wooden doors that were carbonized, which really just means to be changed to carbon by burning.Some of the villas were very grand and must have been incredibly beautiful homes.

We were able to peek into the entrances of the closed sites.

As we leave we look down on this ancient town one last time. The arched rooms in the bottom of the photo are the boathouses where the skeletons were found.I read that the peak of Vesuvius has been reforming and there is danger of another eruption sometime in the future. The volcano is closely monitored and the hope is that there would be enough warning to evacuate nearby residents if this happens. I wonder about that.We did find a longer but more appealing route back to the train station. We see some interesting graffiti along the way…and roads paved with large square stones, laundry hanging right on the sidewalk and streets, some interesting buildings, and finally we are at the train station just as the sun is setting.

So, to answer the question of what I saw in the marble, it was a cartoonish horse figure, standing up on its back legs looking straight out at me.

I forgot to post this video titled A Day In Pompeii yesterday. It is a reconstruction of what likely happened in Pompeii during the eruption. I found it helpful in trying to make sense of what we see now in Pompeii. Take a look if you are interested.

Pompeii, Italy

Day 92, Tuesday December 5, 2017

We start our visit to Pompeii with the colosseum which is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheatre. It had a capacity for 20,000 spectators. The Colosseum in Rome was built over a century later.

A display nearby had these 2,000 year old charred loafs of bread, dates and almonds.

One of the first houses we visit is called the House of Venus in the Shell because of a fresco on the end wall of the garden.

We are amazed at how well preserved and how brightly coloured the frescos on the walls are. I took almost 300 photos. There was so much to see and I want to remember it all. I won’t subject you to all those photos and I am not going to try to identify all the different houses by name with a lot of information. If I do that this post will never end! So just come for a walk through Pompeii with us, and see the sights.This was a fast food restaurant. Only the rich had their own kitchens, the rest of the people ate at these shops.Maintenance is an ongoing project here, along with new excavations. These structures were never intended to survive for 2,000 years and be exposed to not only the weather but also to the damage caused by 2.5 million visitors every year. In many areas we walk on the original mosaic floors!These big stepping stones kept pedestrians’ feet dry, as the streets were often used to dump sewage. Water from fountains overflowed onto the streets and helped to flush them clean.Tucked in to the corner of a house we see skeletons of some of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79 A.D. I felt quite emotional all day, walking through the streets and homes of the people who died here. I imagine the panic they must have felt when the volcano erupted.In the back room there are stairs to a second floor visible.

This is a view down into a room from a second floor. Most of the rooms in the houses were quite small, often between 7’x 7′ to about 10′ x10′, although the villas of the rich people also had some very large rooms.Some more well preserved frescos.  Red was the most expensive pigment so it was used by the wealthy.The decorated walls have some lovely small panels.One of the large rooms in a villa with a pool and an open skylight to collect rainwater.We find a high spot for some great views over Pompeii and have our lunch.

There are temples,

marble floors,and a theatre which we thought was the main theatre in Pompeii. Then we discover this one…
with this practice area for the athletes and gladiators. This is a bit of info on the plaster casts of Pompeii.

These cast are in a house near where they were found. These casts of the victims of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are powerful. Their features are clearly visible and their contorted postures reveal the moment of their deaths. I have been feeling emotional all day and seeing these body casts has a strong impact. 

The next building we enter is the Lupanaro (the brothel), named for the cries of the prostitutes calling to their customers. They were thought to sound like she wolves! There are paintings on the walls above the doorways that were thought to have been sort of menu of the services available.The rooms were small with short stone beds and pillows. They certainly don’t look very comfortable but they would have had with cloth mattress and pillows on top of the stone.
A bakery still has the stone mills that were used to grind wheat and…an oven that looks very much like a modern day pizza oven.The long, straight streets were lined with shops and rooms that we think must have been houses for the common people.One of the large houses has some rather startling imagery, however we discover that they are simply letting the viewer know that along with wealth, fertility was also necessary for true happiness.The Pompeiians were masters at faux painting. The walls of their homes were covered from top to bottom with paintings and faux architectural details and finishes.Looking into a courtyard.At the end of a street I notice a building closed to the public and go take peek into the windows. I am rather startled to find more body casts. A child is frozen in time, as is this dog  who is caught in the moment of his agonized death.We walk through a necropolis with tombs for the dead towards…  the House of Mysteries.The house is named for these frescoes. This is an interesting article about the frescoes.The floor is a different sort of mosaic. The surface is very even and smooth, and yes, we walk on this ancient floor too.

The wooden doors and shutters of the House of mysteries are petrified.As we head back towards the town of Pompeii we see Mount Vesuvius. I read up a bit on this volcano and it is expected to erupt again. I don’t think I would want to be living anywhere nearby, yet 3 million people live within 20 miles of Mount Vesuvius’ crater. There is an evacuation plan in effect in case of another eruption but I wonder how effective that would really be. This is an interesting posting about why people live so close to a volcano.As we leave the archeological area there are several large outdoor rooms filled with amphoras and other pieces of archeological finds.  In the midst of these there are some more body casts. I think it seems disrespectful to see them displayed this way. The sun is setting and the light rakes across the ruins…giving everything a golden glow.There is a bookstore and museum near the far entrance so we have look around before heading back through the park towards the entrance near our apartment. There are more body casts here. It is a strange feeling looking into the faces of people who died almost 2,000 years ago. We walk through another necropolis on the way back to where we started our day.
When we exit we notice that there is a building with even more body casts on display that we missed seeing this morning.Again I have the feeling that there is something not quite right about how these are displayed, but I don’t really know what would be a better way of doing it.

Museo Nationale Romano and the Capuchin Crypts

Day 89, Saturday December 2, 2017

Saturday was a quiet rainy day. I worked on catching up on my blog and Bob went for groceries, several times! It isn’t easy to find what we need in one store so shopping sometimes requires several attempts to find everything on our list. I don’t know how Romans manage. Even something as simple as spinach is often not available.

Day 90, Sunday December 3, 2017

We thought today would be a bit quieter, just a little walk about but we ended up doing quite a bit. Bob found out that the four Museo Nationale Romano museums were free today so we thought we would visit the one near the train station. It was much bigger than we thought and we spent several hours there. This museum had lots of information on the history of writing and…lots of examples of writing on stone. What made it interesting was that all the pieces on exhibit had Italian and English translations. There were lots of informative videos and other kinds of information but it would have taken more than a day to do all that. There was a very interesting exhibit about the Fountain of Anna Perenna. Anna was an ancient nymph and the fountain was a place of magic. It was discovered in 1999 when work began on an underground parking facility. Many ‘magical’ objects were found in the well including several curses. This one is for a man called Cassianus who was cursed because he hired some women to rob the author of the curse. It shows a demon flanked with magical symbols. There were many curses on display as well as directions for casting spells.We tend to forget that ancient statues and reliefs were painted in bright colours. There was lots of pottery from settlements from the 9th to the 7th century B.C. The large pots held cremated remains.

This is a model of the Museum. The large green square…is this courtyard  and the buildings around it house the museum. This was built in the 15th century. Bob found a few interesting statues here. The large animal heads are located around the fountain in the centre of the courtyard. There were also horse heads, a ram, a camel, an elephant and a rhinoceros!
The complex behind the courtyard is the Baths of Diocletian which were built in 300 A.D. They held 3,000 people! It was hard trying to take pictures as the baths are so enormous.
This room was somehow used as a water reservoir. 
Here is an aerial view taken from a film about the baths showing their location in modern day Rome. The big white building in the corner is the Termini train station.Here is a close up of the baths. The building with the cross in the lower left is the best preserved section of the baths. The tepiderium was restored and converted into a basilica using Michelangelo’s architectural designs in the 16th century. It is now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiria. This sculpture is on the door to the Basilica.The basilica interior gives us a good idea what the interior of the baths would have looked like with all their decorated walls and ceilings.

The basilica is a place of worship, art and science. I liked this enormous head on display. It is about three feet long.

We find one more obelisk!Republic Piazza is beside the baths.  Many of Rome’s streets are cobbled and it has made for some very rough bus rides.

Another branch of Rome’s National Museums, the Palazzo Massimo is right beside the Republic Piazza so we decide to visit it as well. There are some wonderful works inside.  The Discus Thrower and…the Boxer at Rest are amazing and..this sculpture of a hermaphrodite is interesting.The massive Portonaccio Sarcophagus from 172 AD is unbelievable. It is five feet tall, and most of the complex intertwined carvings are still intact.
This room with garden frescoes was discovered in 1863. The frescoes were moved to the museum in 1951 as they were in danger of being damaged from water seepage. There are more well preserved frescoes from an Imperial Villa on the banks of the Tiber River.We still want to visit the Capuchin Crypts which are a short walk from the museum. Everywhere we walk in this city there are interesting buildings and piazzas.The sun is setting but there isn’t much traffic even though it is 5:30. I find that rather curious.There is a famous Caravaggio painting, St. Francis in Meditation, in the Capuchin museum. We visit the Capuchin Crypt but there is a strict no photo policy and I restrained myself and didn’t take a single photo. So, do check out this link for a trip through the crypt. It was certainly different. I liked it but Bob didn’t.

The church ‘Our Lady of the Conception’ is above the crypt and after a quick visit we are more than ready to go home. Our short day out turned into a bit of a marathon!

 

 

 

The Vatican, and Life Drawing

Day 88, Friday December 1, 2017

The Vatican Museums were too much for us to see in one day so today we are back to finish our visit. This modern sculpture in one of the courtyards is called Sphere Within A Sphere, but it reminds me of the Death Star in the Star Wars movies. Nice reflections though.

On our way to the galleries we missed yesterday we have to retrace some of our steps. Two rooms of animal sculptures were closed yesterday but today they are open. There are sculptures of lots of different animals, and even some animal inspired furniture.This poor bull is being attacked by everyone, a man, a dog, a snake and even a scorpion.  Can you spot the scorpion?On our way through the Map Gallery we stop to get a photo of this ancient map of Italy…and a bit further on, more ancient mosaics that we are allowed to walk on. At least the beautiful centre panel is roped off. The Sala dell’ Immacolata,

and one more mind boggling room are just before the Raphael Rooms.

The Raphael  Rooms were the apartments of Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and they are stunning! For a virtual tour of the rooms where you can check out all the walls, ceilings and floors I suggest you click here. The rooms are beautifully photographed and give a much better idea of their grandeur than my photos.

The Room of Constantine…with amazing wooden window shutters.The Room of Heliodorus
The decoration on the lower part of the walls looks more like it is sculpted than painted.The Room of the Segnatura contains one of Raphael’s most famous paintings, The School of Athens, with its portrayal of famous philosophers. I remember studying this painting way back in my university days.

This painting along with the three other frescoed walls share this amazing ceiling.Here are the ceilings from some of the other rooms. My neck was getting sore from all the looking up!

We continue and enter a room where the painted walls look like wallpaper and drapery. We are surprised that there is also contemporary art on exhibit. There are many famous names here but much of the work is exhibited in small rooms off a corridor on the way to the Sistine Chapel. Their display seems like an afterthought to me. Most people just walk past these rooms in their hurry to visit the main event, the Sistine Chapel. It is a pity because there is some interesting work here.

We saw this Pieta by Vincent Van Gogh, work by Francis Bacon, Kandinsky,  Diego Rivera, Chagall, Klee, Salvador Dali, Edvard Munch, and others along with papal robes designed by Matisse.

I was surprised to see Will Barnet’s Four Generations here as well. It was quite an eclectic collection.

We go back into the Sistine Chapel for a second visit. It was much busier than yesterday and lots of people were standing shoulder to shoulder on the chapel  floor. We were lucky to find spot to sit along the wall and contemplate this Michelangelo masterpiece one more time. Instead of going to St. Peter’s we take the ‘door on the left’ instead of the ‘secret door on the right’ to return to the museums. There is still a whole wing that we have not seen! We get a different view of St. Peter’s from one of the museum windows. It is possible to climb the dome and stand outside at the base of the cupola on the top of the dome. I am hoping we will be able to do that before we leave Rome.

Room after ornate room stretches out before us.Some lovely mosaics, notice how small the tiles are compared to my finger, and the rather strange looking elephant!We think that this was a printing press but the only label is in Italian so we aren’t sure.

Many of the rooms were lined with painted cupboards but I haven’t been able to figure out what they were for. They have labels that say Armarium followed by sequential Roman numerals.  I Google translated and Armarium is closet in Latin and the one I took a picture of was closet 137.  Now I wonder what was in all those closets? We are finished! We have seen as much as we can and we are ‘finished’ physically as well. We both enjoy visiting museums but we also find it very tiring.  Perhaps just too much stimulation? We leave by the double helix staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. It has two intertwined staircases that allow people to ascend without meeting people descending.After a brief rest back at our apartment I take the bus back to La Porta Blu Art School for another session of life drawing. Rebecca was an excellent model and I managed to find my way there and back by myself without incident, although the bus home was over a half hour late again. Poses ranged from 1 to 15 minutes.

Oh yes, and if you didn’t find the scorpion take a look between the bulls back legs.

The Vatican, Rome

Day 87, Thursday November 30, 2017

We bought tickets online for the Vatican in order to avoid the long line-ups we have read about. Arriving at 10:00 we are able to enter right away, but so is everyone else. There are no lineups anywhere.

The map provided by the museum isn’t the best but between it, a Rick Steve’s travel app, and Bob’s navigational skills we manage to find our way around.  If you walk through all the galleries, it’s 7.5 km, or 4.5 miles long and yes we walked through all the galleries!

Be warned, this is a long post, so you might want to get a cup of something hot before you visit the Vatican Museums with us!

One of the first sculptures we see is this copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta. the original is now behind glass because it was badly damaged by a deranged man 45 years ago. I think this is the closest I will get to taking my photo with this incredibly beautiful statue.
We see many examples of Early Christian and Medieval art. Before this trip I didn’t have a lot of interest in this genre but I discovered that I am rather fascinated by depictions of the Madonna. We even saw a pregnant Madonna, the only one I have ever seen.Next stop was a huge room with several very large tapestries. They were so finely woven that they almost looked like paintings.

This very large angel from1666 was one of four preparatory straw and clay models for bronze castings by Bernini.A enormous collection of ancient sculptures, sarcophaguses, reliefs and  building parts was next. There was also a display of drawings, which I found interesting.  I speculate that there must have been a drawing workshop.
This is a floor mosaic that I remember seeing in books. I always liked the little mouse. The tiles are very small. I can almost feel the wind blowing these garments about.One of the reliefs on display.There is a large collection of vehicles used by Popes over the centuries.
We didn’t know that all papal vehicles come equipped with a throne!The Vatican has an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts many of which are superior to the ones we saw in museums in Egypt! It is easy to forget that all these hieroglyphs were at one time bright painted like the inside of the coffin.The painted bas-relief fragment is from 2400 B.C.The Mummy of Taymen is from 750-525 B.C. We never saw anything like this in Egypt. It was fascinating, but I know this person never intended to be on display in a museum!There are many galleries of Greek, Etruscan and Roman artifacts and these which are from Syria-Palestine during the Neolithic period 8500-3000 B.C.

We descended this staircase to emerge …

in a very long hallway lined with over a thousand sculptures!There were several museum workers busy dusting and cleaning. I imagine that by the time they finish it must be time to start again.The gallery above opened into this one, lined with even more monumental statues. It simply takes my breath away.A Roman copy of a Greek original dating from the 2nd century A.D. The affection for the child is evident in the way he is held and regarded. I can’t imagine that something so life-like can be carved in stone.I am fascinated with the carved flowing robes. I have a hard time even drawing folds never mind chiseling them from stone.This is the Nile River God with another sculpture filled niche behind.

There is an outside courtyard with a covered display area all around the exterior walls. There we see the biggest toe. Can you imagine the size of the statue this once belonged to? That is my foot beside it.

There are many incredible statues on display…  but I am particularly drawn to these three. The Belvedere Apollo, the Belvedere Hermes, and the Laocoön. The Laocoön was unearthed during  Michelangelo’s time and it had a great influence on his work. 

This sculpture of the River God Arno was the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David in the Sistine Chapel.

The Belvedere Torso was also the inspiration for Michelangelo’s God in the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.We need to remember to look up. The ceilings in these galleries are as incredible as the art work below them.The Hall of Muses with its magnificent dome, mosaic floor, statues of the nine muses from the 2nd century A.D. and the largest carved stone basin in the world.These statues are monumental! Oh, and we are walking on the beautiful old mosaic floor here too.
It looked like the statue was trying to give this rather bored looking guard something.These bronze hands decorated with gold buttons are from the 1st half of the 7th century B.C. I thought they looked like a modern work of art.More display rooms with ornate ceilings…and lots more pots and other artifacts. In fact there were many rooms like this. We walked through all of them but I have admit that after a while we didn’t even try to look at all the items.
I did love these two horse heads…and there were some great views of Rome from the Gallery windows.Bob is trying to figure out where we go next.Turns out it is this room, with even more sculptures and carved stone artifacts, and yet another incredible ceiling.We both remember seeing a copy of this little boy with his goose in the Louvre many years ago. Interesting that we see it here in Rome too.The Arazzi Gallery is a long hall with more tapestries on both sides.This tapestry has an optical illusion. As we walk by it appears as if Jesus’s eyes are following us and he even seems to move through the doorway. It is very strange.

The Gallery of Maps is astounding. It seems to go on forever. The walls are lined with huge maps of all of Italy but it is the ceiling that grabs our attention. It is covered with paintings and sculptures and ornate frames.The lighting makes the ceiling look golden in the photo above but this photo shows its true colours. I just don’t know what to say. Words are simple inadequate to describe this very, very long ceiling. It is almost unbelievable.
There are more galleries but we are getting very tired. We decided several hours ago that we need to come finish seeing everything another day. We make our way to the Sistine Chapel. We are so lucky, because it is late in the day there are not many people in the chapel. We find a seat along the wall and look up. There is so much to see. I think it is amazing that we are sitting here, in the Sistine Chapel looking at this masterpiece. We probably spend almost an hour here but it is time to go as we still need to visit St .Peters and see the Pieta.It is night when we leave the Vatican Museums. We go through the ‘secret passage’ that allows us to enter the basilica without having to line up and go through security again.There she is. The Pieta, in all her glory. After spending some time with the Pieta, we walk around the basilica. We wanted to visit the grotto beneath the church but it is already closed. I like the little dragon between the bottom two figures in the sculpture.
St. Peter’s right foot has been rubbed almost away by the touch of thousands of pilgrims over the centuries.
There is a mass taking place so we listen to the organ music and singing for bit before we finally head home. It has been long day. We spent 8 wonderful hours in the Vatican Museums but we are both very tired..

Even The Best Laid Plans….

Day 84, Monday November 27, 2017

Robert Burns poem ‘To A Mouse’ has the line  “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”  That is what has happened to us. You may have noticed that I have been behind on my blog posts. Well, on our first day in Rome Bob’s wallet went ‘walk about’ with the help of one of Rome’s many pick pockets. We were coming home on the metro and within a couple of minutes Bob noticed his wallet was missing. We thought it was secure, in a front zippered pocket but Rome’s pick pockets are very skilled.

The subways can be very crowded during rush hour. These pictures give an idea of how packed it can be.

This resulted in the loss of his driver’s licence so we could no longer rent a car. We thought about taking busses and trains but all the things we had planned on doing and seeing really required a car. After much deliberation we decided that the best course of action was to cut our trip short and go home early. We spent several days making the police report, cancelling our car rental, changing airline tickets, cancelling accommodations and rebooking other accommodations. We still managed to go sight seeing but all this other stuff was kind of stressful and took a lot of time. I just didn’t have the energy or time to blog in the evenings.

On the bright side, we now are spending three weeks in Rome which we have enjoyed. We both really like Rome. It is a beautiful city with so much history and so much to see and do. We are going to take the bus to Pompeii next week and spend three nights there. Then we will have a few more days in Rome before we fly home.

Day 85, Tuesday November 28, 2017

We cleaned the apartment last night and finished up this morning. Today we move to our new Airbnb for the rest of our stay in Rome. We managed to find a place just a short walk from our current apartment so we will walk our suitcases over. So much easier than having to take the metro or bother with a cab. We spent the rest of the day getting groceries and getting settled in our new apartment.

Day 86, Wednesday November 29, 2017

It rained hard all day which was just fine with me as I had a much needed quiet day planned. We have been so lucky with the weather this trip. Almost the only time we have had lots of rain was on days that we had planned on spending at home..