Posted by: M.J. Bolstad | October 19, 2012

A Roman Segue in an Ode to a Grecian Turn: Day Sixteen

Note to self: when faced with what feels like overwhelming homesickness, get some sleep, eat some food. It works miracles.  As you may have guessed, I’m feeling much better about Rome today than I was yesterday (though this still has been quite a long time to be away), and much of this has to do with the fact that I got enough sleep and actually ate fairly regularly today.

Drifting down the halls at the Vatican Museums.

I started my morning with an espresso in true Italian style. I wasn’t quite up for breakfast before Evelin left for work, but caffeine is glorious and it perked me up. I ran out of sunscreen in Greece, so I ventured first to a nearby market to get some.  Alas, all I found was yogurt, which has nothing to do with sun and everything to do with introducing the Italian (bacterial) culture into my system.  My BFF heard that this can help prevent stomach troubles related to drinking different water, and it certainly couldn’t hurt.  After that, I found a pharmacy that carried sunscreen, though it was expensive 50 SPF sunscreen.  Better expensive sunscreen than a sunburn, though, so I bought it and went back to the apartment to eat my yogurt and stuff my purse full of things I thought I’d need for the day (like the sunscreen).

I then made my way back out to the Metro station, where I bought myself a ticket.  I then stood on the Metro (all seats taken) for the 25 minutes it took to get me to the station close to the Vatican Museum.  I followed the signs and the somewhat-of-a-crowd all the way there.  There were lots of “skip the line” guided tour people milling about on the way to the museum, but I was not about to whip out my wallet on the street and risk being robbed or cheated.  Between that and the people selling scarves, toys, knock off purses, and what else have you, I perfected a vacant, zombie stare to project that I didn’t speak any of the languages tours were offered in, and it seemed to work.

When I got to the museum, I could see why people might be tempted to buy a ticket on the street. The line was VAST.  It wrapped around the building.  But I honestly wasn’t too fussed about it. I’d made it to the museum, after all.  And good things are worth waiting for.  Plus, the bulk of the wait was on the shaded side of the building. However, if you are visiting Rome and plan to go to the Vatican, please note that you can apparently buy tickets to the museum online, as well as book a guided tour of the garden (which has to be done online, so I didn’t do that bit).  If you are not content to wait in line, it’s probably worth doing.

Inside St. Peter’s Basilica, everything is just gorgeous.

Once I got in and through security – not quite as intense as the airport, but close – I made my way through the many galleries collected by many popes.  The collections are eclectic, and I don’t think I even made it through all twelve galleries.  I kind of drifted along after the crowds, some bits thicker than others, and enjoyed the art at my own pace. I did make it into the Sistine Chapel (and was one of the few to listen to the rules and not take pictures).  I think it was incredible.  It was painted so beautifully, it seemed like the biblical characters were stepping out in 3D. I wanted to lay down and look at it, but of course this isn’t possible.

By the time I made my way through most of the museum, I was pretty hungry, so I had lunch in the cafeteria type restaurant in the Vatican museum.  For cafeteria pasta, it was pretty good, though I’ll have to admit that probably the best thing at that point was the water.  I was so thirsty and hot!  I almost bypassed a little outdoor courtyard on my way out, but changed my mind and was glad to, since it offered a view of the St. Peter’s Basilica (though I didn’t realise that’s what it was quite yet), as well as a neat little spigot of potable water that I replenished my bottle with.  I was kind of tickled to be drinking Vatican water.

After that, I made my way in what I thought was the direction of St. Peter’s Basilica, second guessed myself, and doubled back.  I went all the way to the Metro station, where I could follow to the signs to the Basilica, only to discover that I was on the right track in the first place and, had I gone on a block further, I’d have seen the Basilica’s security entry.  But I made it there and went through without issue, and went in.  Entry to the Basilica is free.  It is also incredible.  Words escape me.  The building is simply stunning, between the marble and the paintings, the exquisite altars, the details and more.  I didn’t think you were supposed to take photos, but no one was stopping anyone or saying “no photo” like in the Sistine Chapel, so I do have several

Outside St. Peter’s Basilica.

After that, I decided to shell out for the Tresoro bit – the treasury, which holds an interesting collection of items.  There were no photos there, but it was still interesting to do.  Some of the religious artifacts I’m going to have to looks up, like the monstraces, since I have no idea how those play into Catholic ritual and am curious.  There were things I did recognize, like various Papal vestments and reliquaries.  I find the latter a little creepy, I’ll admit, because they don’t necessarily hold ashes, they can hold pieces of bone or in some cases the finger of St. Peter (in full view) or the skull of a female saint (partially visible through the opening of the reliquary).  I much prefer the jewelled chalices and other decor, honestly.

After I’d done that, I looked around the Basilica a little more, but was pretty tired of being on foot, as the only respite I’d gotten was the brief lunch in the cafeteria.  I made my way back to the Metro station, thinking it might not yet be crowded.  I did manage to get on the correct Metro back to the station near Evelin’s, but did not guess correctly about the crowds.  I was jostled at a few points, and between a couple of stops, there was no handrail for me, but other than that I arrived unscathed (and feeling pretty triumphant, really).  I then decided that needed rewarding and so bought myself so celebratory gelato from the shop that had been to crowded yesterday. It was not empty at all so I got my three yummy flavours and went to the park where I checked email.  I then went home to lie down and let my poor legs rest.

When Evelin got home, after seeing the mess the mosquitos have made of my legs, she took me to a store and I got bug spray and some ointment.  I read a bit before going to dinner at the Taverna from before.  This time, I had pizza.  I had every intention of getting something with vegetables, but instead veered and got one with prosciutto on it.  The crust was incredibly thin, and the woodfire the pizza.  Seriously, there’s a fire instead of a gas or electric oven. The pizza was delicious, as was the wine I had with it.  It was also a very nicely-sized glass of wine.  Yay Italian. Even though I ate most of the pizza (which was pretty huge even with the thin crust), I couldn’t resist dessert when the waitress mentioned tiramisu.  I love tiramisu.  And this was very, very good tiramisu.  So, well fed and relaxed, I made my way back to write and now can soon put on my pyjamas (that I washed in the sink and hung out to dry; clean pjs, hooray!) and go to bed.  I’m going to check out the Trevi fountain and some other sites tomorrow, and have just as much walking ahead of me.  So for now I’m signing off to get some rest for the next big Roman day.  Until tomorrow!

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