Jeff's Blog - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - Vatican Museum

This morning I went to the Vatican Museum and spent about 6 hours there. The museum is absolutely huge, and filled with many incredible works of art and history, and also tons of things related to the history of the church which I'm not all that interested in. The other day at lunch I overheard someone saying they read that if you spent 10 seconds looking at every piece on display in that museum, you'd need to spend 88 days there. The museum is very overcrowded, and the vast majority of works in the museum are unlabeled, or only labelled with a number which is not decoded anywhere. I guess you need to buy a book in addition to the $25 I spent to get in if you want to know what you're looking at, beyond the masterpieces which are labelled. It's very different in that respect to the superb Capitoline Museum, which labels every piece in both Italian and English. The first part of the museum has 3 pathways running from a junction we'll call A to a junction we'll call B. After I made it through one of the pathways, I needed to find my way back to A to take one of the others. Anyhow, after about 3 hours I had been through all three paths, and went through the painting gallery and a side gallery of sculptures and inscriptions. Another galley of sculptures that I really wanted to see was closed, oh well. After those 4-1/2 hours of seeing works amid the crowd of people here, I was ready to move along toward the Sistine Chapel. And that's where these Vatican-types have you by the balls, funneling you through what I will henceforth call the Corridor of Torture, shown in the picture below. This is a 1/4 mile long, stifling hot, 18-foot-wide test of endurance, where everyone shuffles along through this corridor that has tapestries on both sides and paintings on the ceiling. About 4 or 5 times during this march in which you feel like a blood cell traveling through the Aorta, then Arteries, then Capillaries, they squeeze everybody through a normal-sized doorway. There's one in the distance of my photo. Those Catholics really know how to treat their guests to a good time! After one of those doorways, they even keep it fresh by changing from tapestries to maps! Wow! And the whole time through the Corridor of Torture everyone's holding their cell phones and DSLRs above their heads and snapping photo after photo that they'll never look at again since they're of incredibly boring subjects, taken without any attempt at meaningful composition as they shuffle forward, onward with the masses, pushed from behind and sucked into the void left by the person in front. Then at the end of the corridor, you reach the Rafael rooms, a set of about 10 rooms painted with very famous and beautiful frescoes by several masters. Then you reach the Sistine... no wait, you have to pass through 50 small rooms of modern art as you head delirious, nearly unconscious, but driven by the desire to get to the alleged Sistine Chapel. When you finally reach it, the sky opens, the angels sing, the eyes are overwhelmed, and all is forgiven for the tortuous uphill battle to reach this point. The Sistine Chapel is overwhelming, beautiful, extremely crowded, and accompanied by guards who shout out a rousing chorus of "no photo, no photo" as you look up to appreciate Michelangelo's ceiling, and the even better, IMO, Last Judgement. I spent about a half hour there doing my impression of a sardine before I'd had enough and left. I did a little souvenir shopping for my special you-know-who in the area before heading to the Tiber River for a relaxing boat ride, watching the bridges float past, some modern, many a few hundred years old, and a couple ancient. A half hour walk from a Tiber Island, past the Roman Forum and a Capitoline Hill cut-through took me back to my hotel for a shower, then out for dinner where I am now, and on tonight to a peek through the Aventine Keyhole after dark. The Aventine Hill is where Remus camped out, and when you consider that I'm in Rome and not Remo, you'll know that Romulus, camped out on the Palatine Hill, won the war. Anyhow, the Aventine Keyhole is a hole in a very large door at the entrance to the Knights of Malta (there, I have my gorgeous girl's attention now) where you peek through Maltese-owned, over Italian land, into Vatican land, with the dome of St Peter's centered in this peephole. Tomorrow is my continuation of the in-depth exploration of the Roman Forum, and probably the second branch of the Capitoline Museum when it gets really hot in the afternoon, and from here on out, it's supposed to get to the 80s each day.

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