Friday, June 8:
Today was the day for us to visit the Vatican Museums.
We had heard many conflicting stories about the Sistene Chapel and the rules for entry: no pictures, no bare knees (no shorts), no bare arms (no bare shoulders) and no backpacks. This was problematic for us because we tend to tour “Heavy”, meaning we generally stuff everything we might possibly need into my day pack. But we heard that not only were you not allowed to carry a pack into the museum, but that there was no place to store it on site. Both of those rumors turned out to be false, but with them as our base of knowledge, we stuffed our pockets with as much as they could hold, leaving the day pack in the hotel, eschewing such necessities as raincoats, sweatshirts, sunscreen, water bottles, and well, SPACE for anything we might buy along the way.
Nevertheless, we again hopped on the Hop On Hop Off bus to the Vatican, where the “no wait” tickets proved to be useful indeed, saving us about an hour of waiting to get into the museum.
In the meantime, we were, as usual, accosted by dozens of people insisting that only THEY had the tickets that would REALLY let you skip all the lines, or the ones selling bottles of water, even as you were taking a slug from the bottle you already had, or the ones telling you that a river cruise was just the thing that would make your day complete.
The museum itself had many beautiful works of art, as might be expected.
I must confess I was a bit underwhelmed by the Sistene Chapel itself. First, (and I don’t claim to know anything about art) it didn’t seem to me that the artwork in that room was any more special than the art in any of the dozens of rooms that we walked through.
Second, the “rules” are outdated and unenforceable. The rationalization for them is that the chapel is a holy place that should be respected with somber quiet. OK, fine, but with 300 people in one room standing shoulder to shoulder, shuffling about, how solemn can it really get? And does it really make a difference if someone is wearing shorts? It’s not as though you could see any legs in the stampede anyway.
As it happened, there were plenty of people wearing shorts, carrying a backpack, and taking pictures in there, leaving those of us who were brought up to just obey the rules to suffer. Really, in this day of smartphones in every pocket, it’s just unreasonable to expect people to not take pictures in ANY venue.
So back outside, we decided to check out that river cruise, since we were both tired of walking by then, and thought a restful cruise might be just the thing after all. However, after a few wrong turns (like any medieval or older city, Rome is difficult to navigate for newcomers) we found we had walked the riverbank for half the length of the cruise anyway, so decided to skip that particular pleasure.
We headed back to the center of the old town to visit the Pantheon, which I mistakenly assumed to have something to do with the pantheon of Roman gods. It didn’t.
By then we were both hungry, and grabbed some lunch in a restaurant on a huge plaza with 3 fountains. It had the perfect “roman holiday” feel to it.
A bit more wandering found us back at the hotel, via the faithful Hop On Hop Off bus. After a delicious dinner at the pricey restaurant next to the hotel, we went in search of dessert.
At one of the thousands of sidewalk cafes in the city we ordered some pastries and coffee. I ordered “American” coffee, but it’s obvious that the guy making it had never been to America. The cup was half the size of an American coffee cup, and they only filled it halfway full. Then again, I doubt most of the people that serve you French Fries at McDonalds have been to France, so who am I to complain?
We’re getting on the ship tomorrow, where there is no internet available, so there may be a break in the entries until we hit land again. Until then, Addio!