Roman Holiday

May 2, 2010

I was unable to update during the rest of my stay in Italy, but I just got home this afternoon and over the next few days will be posting about the remainder of the trip!

Mom and I had a great time in Rome, and we kept really busy for the first couple of days! We managed to see a lot of individual sights, but one of the highlights was the Vatican, where we even got to see the Pope give a speech and a blessing to all of us as we stood in the square. But that wasn’t the only amazing thing, St. Peter’s Basilica, Michelangelo’s Pietà, the dome…

A member of the Swiss Guard

Walking up to St. Peter’s is very imposing, but actually being inside is almost too much. Stepping into the church and immediately seeing Michelangelo’s famous Pietà was a surprise-in museum’s the most famous pieces are usually something you work up to. It was very beautiful, but all of us visitors were kept at a distance by a railing and a large wall of glass, since at one time the pietà was apparently attacked and damaged by a man claiming to be Jesus Christ. It is sad that now all of us have to be treated as potential threats, but even through the glass the sculpture was moving and astonishingly lovely.

Mary and deceased Jesus

The building not only holds incredible art objects, it is itself a masterpiece. The structure is monumental, and the gorgeous dome is one of the key elements. I must say that nobody builds a dome like the Italians!

An angle on the dome

After seeing the entire ground floor Mom and I bought tickets to climb up to the top of the dome. Little did we know that halfway up was a stop to get out and see the dome from the inside with an up-close look at the mosaic murals and a bird’s-eye view of the church’s interior! It was even better than the view from the actual top of the dome looking over Rome!

Mosaic on the walls of the dome

Looking down on a mass

Climbing up to the top of the dome was a challenge for anyone afraid of heights, and it was also a claustrophobic nightmare, so I was doubly unhappy! However, I made it anyways, and I have to admit that it was pretty awesome to look out over the giant square of the Vatican! I wonder if the Pope ever managed to go up there and look out over the two cities?

People were already gathering to see the Pope, unbeknownst to us at the time

And then our visit culminated in seeing the Pope give a speech from his bedroom window…

The Pope gesture!

…before rapidly deteriorating, as during the speech it became apparent that I was getting very sick and needed to return immediately to the hotel. The rest of Sunday and all of Monday I stayed in bed with the flu while poor Mom had to take care of me and stay close in case I needed her. It was not what either of us was expecting, and we were both sad to lose a day and a half of sightseeing, but Tuesday we rallied and had a great last adventure.

I had been dying to see the Galleria Borghese, which is home to an absolutely phenomenal collection of Renaissance art. Just some of my main highlights include Bernini’s David, Raphaël’s Deposition, Cranach’s Venus and Cupid, and my personal favorite; Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. Photographs weren’t allowed, so I caved and bought a guide to the gallery at the end of my visit.

My favorite place in Rome

The last thing we did was visit the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican is a treasure trove holding seemingly limitless works of art that are increasingly breathtaking as the tour progresses. For me, seeing the Raphaël painting’s in the old Papal apartments was magnificent, and I especially enjoyed it because we studied them in class and one could be on my final for the Sorbonne!

The Sistine Chapel is better than I imagined, but the situation is less than ideal since it was very crowded, and very noisy despite the guard’s attempts to quiet everyone down. There are also no real seats (strange for a chapel) and the two long benches (one on either wall) were full of people who didn’t want to move, and the guards were sticklers about us sitting on the steps. What you really want is something like a stretcher so that you can be wheeled around and only look up, since hours could easily be spent admiring Michelangelo’s achievement.

Raphaël's 'The School of Athens'

Mom and I had dinner on the last night where we had eaten on the first night, to complete our trip full-circle. It was a great meal and a great night, even if our adorable old waiter was a bit of a con-artist, but that’s a story to stay in Rome. But the stories about Florence do need to be told, and soon!

The last night in Rome



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