Monday, May 08, 2006

Rome - Day 2

Originally uploaded by pdbreen.
I get up for an early breakfast (nothing special about this hotel's breakfast - primarily cereals and pastry) and set out for the Vatican - about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. As I get close, the sidewalks start to fill with others so I start following them, assuming we're all headed to the same place. As I get in line, I'm confused by the large number of groups in line and others carrying instruments. Seems a bit odd for a museum visit. I was also confused by the location - I was in St Peters Sq and I thought the museum entrance was somewhere else. A check of the guidebook and asking of others indicates that I'm in line for the weekly Wednesday mass with the Pope. While that would be fun as well, I leave and head around the corner looking for the museum line. A few turns away and I find it - growing very rapidly as people are coming in from all directions and getting in line. And, there's still close to an hour before the museum opens!
A little bit later, David spots me and he and Jennifer join me. Before leaving the hotel, I ran into one of the couples that went on the walking tour of Rome. They shared horror stories of how bad the guide was and how many people were leaving the tour very shortly after it started. As Jennifer had warned about this guide, I passed along the story about how right she truly was.
The museum opens right on schedule and they actually do a tremendous job getting people through the screening and ticket buying process so we are in the museum fairly quickly. And, given the size of the museum which is spread through many rooms in many buildings, its not that crowded.
The place is amazing. Each room or courtyard is filled with fresco's, paintings or statues. The scale is also impressive - the map room/corridor (pictured) seems to go on forever with a tremoundous ceiling and walls filled with paintings of various countries or regions, highlighting the locations of all the churches. It was fun to explore the map of Italy and re-trace where we rode our bikes as many of the towns were old enough to be on these maps.
We toured the first part of the museum at a good pace, wanting to get to the Sistene Chapel before it became too crowded (though not so fast that there wasn't time to stop for an espresso or cappucino at the museum cafe before entering).
Entering the chapel is truly amazing. The scale of the room and the paintings are hard to convey in pictures. We may have spent close to an hour in here looking at the various works that adorn the ceiling and walls. Our necks ached from merely looking at it - its hard to imagine actually creating the painting on a daily basis. Climbing up and down whatever scaffolding was used during its creation to check dimensions and perspective must have been a huge daily workout on its own.
And, in another chance meeting, while in the Sistine Chapel we run into the couple from the VBT tour that I was talking to earlier in the morning about the horrific walking tour. They shared more of how bad it was - though we had to be constantly reminded of keeping quiet in the chapel.
After the chapel, we view some of the other famous statues and paintings in the museum collection and backtrack a bit through some of the earlier rooms.
After about 4 hours, we had about all we could absorb and headed out. We walked around the corner hoping to get into St Peters, but the line was extremely long and didn't appear to be moving much. So, on to lunch.
We headed in the general direction of Campo De Fiori - a piazza that is supposed to have a wonderful open air fruite and produce market along with some interesting shopping streets nearby. On the way, David spots a small restaurant with some outdoor seating on a quiet side street, so we sit down to a nice leisurly lunch (mussels and salad for me).
After lunch and a brief exploration of a nearby supermarket (I still love going into local markets in all the cities I visit), we part ways and I continue exploration of Rome on my own.
On reaching Campo De Fiori, the markets had already been packed up and left the square, so I'll need to return earlier in the day tomorrow.
The remainder of the day is spent pretty much on random walks and exploration of various streets and stores of Rome. Since it was already quite late in the day, I figured getting in line for any other tourist activity would be wasted effort.
On return to the hotel, I tried one more time to get connected to the Internet from my room. I popped open the laptop and sat as close as I could to the window. Success! I found that if I was reasonably still, I could hook up to an unprotected WiFi for no fee. After quickly checking e-mail, I was able to get the majority of the photos posted to Flickr and some of the earlier notes I had typed posted to the Blog.

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