Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rome - Day 2

The Spanish Steps, the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and more!

I adore Rome. This city is breathtaking . . . it’s absolutely amazing. Everywhere you turn, there is something beautiful to marvel at.

Today, we started with a short 3-block walk from the apartment straight to the Spanish Steps.

“Ohmigosh!” That is my most commonly used expression here, followed closely by, “Wow!” Those were the words I was whispering as I stared first up at the Trinita Church and obelisk that tower over the steps then down the Spanish Steps to the Barcaccia fountain at the foot of the steps. Lo and behold, the Barcaccia fountain is another work by Bernini! His son, Gian Lorenzo, worked on this fountain with him.

For more cool Spanish Steps facts:

As we all circled the fountain, the kids were thrilled with the horse-drawn carriages in the piazza, and we all admired the another monument a few steps away. Like I said – everywhere you turn, there is something amazing to see.

Our ultimate destination was the Vatican, which was more blocks away than we wanted to walk with an almost-3-year old! We did the smart thing and took taxis to the Vatican. Along the way, we drove through what I guess is some of the most expensive shopping in the world: Gucci, Valentino, Prada, blah, blah, blah. There are square blocks of these types of stores right in front of the Spanish Steps.

What can I say about the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica?! Again – ohmigosh and wow – such an ostentatious display of wealth. Everything was enormous and opulent and breathtaking. However, it also made me sad. Is this the best use of the Catholic church’s wealth and power? To build this display? When there is so much need in the world?

Regardless of my personal feelings on the subject, there was some of the most incredible artwork. Again – on such a grand scale.

This links shows a map of the inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, with each of the famous pieces of art listed with additional links to see photos of each piece of art. It’s worth looking at!

Mark loved the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica! Those turned out to be some of his highlights of Rome.

Of course we had to see the Sistine Chapel, too. And again, I left with mixed feelings.

Here is the part where I have to admit that most painted artwork doesn’t do much for me. Despite all my attempts to learn art appreciation, I’ve never succeeded where a paintbrush is involved. Alas, the Sistine Chapel is no exception. I think I would have appreciated the artwork if it wasn’t so busy – so much visual input! I wish I could show you pictures, but photos were strictly forbidden inside the Chapel.

Let me attempt a description.

You enter the Sistine Chapel after walking through about 30 other “rooms” of paintings. Everywhere you look, the walls and ceilings are covered in color and images and shapes and stories. There is no white space. There is very little visual relief. Some rooms took over 4 years to paint – to give you an idea of the volume.

Just look at the ceiling in this hallway. This is one of the first hallways you enter when you enter the Vatican Museum (home of the Sistine Chapel).

Even the floors are covered in patterns and pictures made of tile mosaics.

In each room, all four walls are covered in individual “paintings”, separated by a painted frame. The painting is all on the walls, not on individual canvases, but the effect is of endless framed paintings hanging end-to-end and top-to-bottom along all four walls.

The hallways that connect the rooms are also covered in art – tapestries, carvings, maps, you name it. And the ceilings . . . the ceilings are a cacophony of imagery.

Therefore, for me, by the time I entered the Sistine Chapel, I could no longer see and appreciate the art. It was all a blur. The very famous Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is centered in the ceiling, but it is much smaller than I ever imagined, and it is engulfed by all the images that surround it.

Here are some beautiful images I was able to capture . . .

When we left the Sistine Chapel after roughly two hours, it was a relief to be outside in the fresh air. Our next destination was the Castle San Angelo. Looking at our map, it looked like it would be about a 4-block walk. Ha ha ha. We finally made it there where we could enjoy the famous San Angelo bridge over the Tiber River.

We walked home from there, stopping at a tiny grocery store for provisions. Check out the private residence we saw on the way!

Love to all!

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