Visiting the Vatican has to rate on the top of anyone’s list for the sheer scale of power and glory on display. So much so, that I feel all 7 billion inhabitants of the planet had the same idea today. It is the height of the travel season for Italy, though I don’t know why people with a choice come here in July. It was so very hot and humid today with a wall of bodies everywhere we went. We started with the Vatican Museum, whose artifacts alone are impressive. Because the crowds were so large, the guards diverted us into many rooms I hadn’t appreciated before–full of antiquities and interesting collections, all leading us to the Sistine Chapel. Once inside, the guards moved us along pretty quickly, so there was no time to ruminate on the sheer impossibility of it all, but luckily I’d studied it in an art history class (thanks to Professor Rand) and had seen it before, so I was oriented and knew where to look. My favorites are still St. Bartholomew carrying his skin around (he was flayed), and of course, God creating the sun, in which Michelangelo had to imagine what God’s bottom looked like:
Michelangelo clearly had a sense of humor (and a lot of clout seeing as how he had the leeway to paint such a subject). I also enjoy the room because there is plenty of Botticelli’s work along the walls for when your neck gets tired of staring upward. Luckily, the planned closure of St. Peter’s for the special mass didn’t happen until later that day, so we got to go inside, which is always a treat. The Pietá is still magnificent. After the Vatican, we headed down to Trastevere, which is an older and less crowded neighborhood, where the restaurants have very few tourist menus and the pace is a lot slower than central Rome. I had my favorite meal of the trip so far, a lovely seafood risotto. Tomorrow the group heads back to Dallas, and we take the train to Bologna. I’m not sad I’m missing the 3:45am bus to the airport. Gus and I have a leisurely train at 10:30. I have heard some rumors about a taxi protest planned, so I hope our transfer to the train station is without incident.