Review of 17 Feb 2009

Day at Rome & the Vatican!


Disclaimer:  I am not Catholic.  This information is given to you, so that should you be Catholic, and read this post, and I spill some bit of bunk, laugh at my naiveté  and then please comment to gently correct me.  I will try my darndest to do no such thing, but I do recall the guide on this trip giving us some information that I was unaware of.

Note:  If you’ve been reading from the get-go then you know we did Barcelona “on-our-own”. . .well, as much as you do when you are on a city hop-on-hop-off bus tour.  That was the only city we did in such a fashion.  For all the other stops we took bus tours.  (I could go into all the reasons for / against this, but I think shall forego that, and if you are interested, I’m sure you’ll see fit to ask.)  Additionally, all but our last tour included lunch.

One BIG problem with, I suppose, any tour is that you are on someone else’s schedule.  Given that we were attempting to see great amounts of *stuff* within very limited time spans we were not able to fully enjoy / appreciate things as we may have wished.  On a positive note, should I ever have the opportunity to go back I have a greater idea of what I’d wish to see in greater depth, and what I could really care less about.

Oh, but just in case you are wondering why a non-Catholic would be going to the Vatican. . .  Obviously, the big reason, for me, would be the artwork.  But, I will tell you that my Mom and I have a penchant for “small” things, and that includes countries.  (And the last time we visited Italy, we made it to San Marino as well.) 

One further note:  I’m going to drive all English teacher absolutely INSANE in this posting as I’m writing from my journal (all in past tense) and at the same time adding current day thoughts.  But, upon giving this some further consideration, I probably would drive an English teacher insane regardless with my writing style.  (I seem to recall that from high school as well. . .)


So we debarked from the ship around 0800, found our bus and left.  It took us about 1.5 hours to get from the port to Rome.  Traffic wasn’t too bad, yet I was reminded of how traveling in Europe (in general) puts new meaning into being able to reach out and touch someone.  Truly, more than once I felt that should I been able to open the bus window I could surely have taken the wheel for the driver next to us.

And speaking of being reminded (I lived in Europe for 5 years) I was rather quickly reminded of some other differences. 

Europeans vs. Americans generally:

  • smoke more (or, at least, there are more public venues available to them)
  • have more tats (tattoos)
  • have more piercings (ALL over their bodies)
  • litter a whole heck of a lot
  • walk more (overall more active)
  • the females generally wear make-up more regularly / in greater numbers
  • both sexes tend to have “dressier” attire. (course, jeans are expensive over there, and T-shirts just don’t look right with slacks. . .)

Mind you, these are just MY general observations — absolutely no scientific data to back this up.

Oh wait, I have managed to not only sidetrack myself, I forgot to mention that Grandma was having tummy issues so we weren’t sure at the day’s beginning whether she was going to make the tour.  However, she felt courageous enough to join us and wound up being fine the entire day.

We essentially had 2 tour guides for the day.  One was more of a group “corral-er”, but she was with us the entire time.  The other was picked up / dropped off in Rome.  Her English was superb AND she is an art / archaeology major.  (From talking to her later, I got the impression that she already had a dual degree in these subjects, but was still in school to further herself.)  I have to say that added a great deal to the tour.

We first went to Vatican City.  (Personal note:  WAHOO!  I’ve been to the SMALLEST country in the entire world!)

We went first into a courtyard.  Now, we had been given radio headsets for our tour so our tour guide could talk regularly into a mike and we could hear her.  Except, I think, she was facing the wind at this point, as we couldn’t really make out what she was saying.  (We also discovered later on, that if she moved too far away from you, then you would lose your ability to hear as well.) 

Therefore, when we were back home downloading all the photos and came across this one:


we were all at a loss as to what it was, other than the obvious, or what it signified, but knew that the tour guide had gone on about it for some time and must therefore be important.  (Mom, here’s why.)

Oh, and there’s a gold ball there too:

Now, I do recall the tour guide saying it was the same size as the ball at the top of St. Peter’s Basilica (great for scale).  The dome behind the flat rooftops is St. Peter’s Basilica.


But Mom, again, here’s what she was saying (scroll down about 2/3 of the page).  And if I had known THAT I would have gone over and looked at the thing more closely!

We then went inside and could finally hear her again.

“Broad strokes” (ooh, I crack myself up, this morning!):  We breezed through a few of the halls seeing tapestries (pics came out too dark), statues

and paintings.

The “finer details”:

Know those lovely white marble statues that we marvel over? 

This is not the best example, that I have, but the others all seem to be naked males. . .My Mom musta took all of those pictures ;).

Well, this I did not know, in the days of the ancient Greeks and Romans, they did not like white marble statues.  Not at all!  So, they painted them in life-like colors.  It is only through the passage of time that a great amount of the paint has worn away and come to be as we know them now.

Notice the man’s arm.  It was found much later than the rest of the statue, and better preserved.  See the tint to it?  (The paint that hasn’t worn away.)  Also, our guide pointed out how you could generally still see the tint generally in the hair and other cracks and crevices. . .

. . .such as the eyes.  (C’mon people!  Truly!)  By the way, this dude has the ever popular and oh-so-convenient fig leaf covering.

The item shown here, is NOT a relief.  It is a painting, designed to look like a relief! 

“Color” me impressed!!! (Oooh, what did Jay put in my coffee this a.m.!!!)

We went into the Sistine Chapel, but you aren’t allowed to take ANY photos at all!!! 

I was a bit peeved at that for the simple reason that they had obviously decided this for the commercialism.  It certainly wasn’t due to light as they had over half of the windows wide open and the chapel was extraordinarily well-lit.  (I gave the Wiki-article as a link, as I felt it more informative, with more pictures, and it gives the story of Biagio da Cesena as we were told it by our guide.  However, here is the official site.)

Anywhoo. . .

From there we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. 

There is actually only one area painted within.  The remainder is all mini-mosaic.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  There were two techniques for the mosaics.  One was to set the pieces so close together that no grout showed and then buff & polish in order to make the mosaic look more like a painting. 

If you look at this picture full-scale and peer closely at the left hand corner you can see, just faintly, the mini-mosaic work. . . .

OR. . .  you’ll go cross-eyed, get a massive headache and curse my name. . . 😉

The other was more traditional, with the grout showing (somehow managed to not get a picture example of one of those).  Also, I have a picture of The Pietà, but it came out poorly due to the bullet-proof “glass” now around it.  (Some wack-o came in and took pot shots at it “recently”.)

A great number of my photos came out dark even though we were allowed to use flash.  I am going to give the wiki-article for the Basilica here.  There is an official site, but it’s much harder to maneuver through.

I did not know this and am still unsure as to *why*, but apparently every 25 years there’s a pilgrimage taken by Catholics.  (Looked it up, upon returning home, it’s called the Jubilee.  There are 4 sites visited, but I’m still unsure as to whether or not there is a particular order of visitation.)  They seal a particular door (the one on the far right) at each of these sites which is only opened for the pilgrimage.  So the door is closed and bolted shut, then there’s a brick wall and finally a concrete wall on the interior. 

Oh, but then a seal is placed in the concrete.  (Pay attention now.)  The story we were told is that the last year of the pilgramage, 2000, Pope John Paul II sealed the door.  Yet, he didn’t want just the cross placed there.  So underneath he placed a plague which *had* on it the ancient Christian sign (known as Labarum).  This we had to take at face value, because so many people touch the seals that anything that may have been placed on there had been rubbed away.

Well, in my research (in an effort not to look like a complete ignoramus) I discovered that this particular door was given a specific name, “Holy Door”, and just LOOK at what I discovered!  That does not look like (and I blew it up) anything that we were told!  That stinks. . .

We then went to eat at a nearby restaurant that served us horrid food (think pasta with ketchup on top), and took about 2 hours to do it in.  Don’t care to relive this anymore, though there is almost 2 full paragraphs about how bad the food was in my journal.  Suffice to say, due to this meal I ensured that my family was stocked with snacks for the remainder of the excursions.

After our lunch it was again on the bus.  We drove around the city whilst the guide talked about different sites, and then ended up at the Colosseum.

Now, to put this in perspective, the Colosseum was on my left, a green square in front of me, and temple ruins to my right.  I was on a higher road.  Off in the distance, a little NW of my location of the Arch of Constantine.

And I just realized, I forgot to go on the other side to take a picture from there!

Let’s focus on the square a sec. 

See the “cute little gladiator” (SE of the square I’m referring to)?  He was gone when I went down there later so I was unable to get a close-up shot (he probably would have tried to charge me for it anyway).

At one point, ages ago this square contained a large statue of Nero — so huge that the people took to calling it the “Colossus”.  And that, my friends, is how the Roman Amphitheater, officially the “Flavian Amphitheater”, came to be known as the Colosseum.  (I find how things become known fascinating.)

Notice on this picture the holes in the walls?

They are there because when the builders constructed the amphitheater they used internal metal supports (a form of “rebar”).  During one, or both, of the past World Wars, the metal was taken out to use for weaponry.

We were then given some time to wonder around so Uncle J, Daddy and I hoofed it to the nearby Church of San Pietro in Vincoli (Church of Saint Peter in Chains) to take a picture of Moses by Michaelangelo.  Which, our guide told us, was the only remaining “un-touched” sculpture (see Pietà note above) remaining of Michaelangelo’s in Rome.

Side note:  Uncle J is known for, or so I’ve been told, his wonderful pictures.  He’s been taking oodles of them.  I keep telling him that I’d like copies but Mom says she’s been asking for pictures from him for years and she’s yet to receive any.  I shall have to persevere.

After the Moses, Daddy stopped with Grandma and Mom at a shop and Uncle J and I went down to the Colosseum area for some closer shots.  We then went through the temple area.  (Researching this, upon our arrival home, I now know it to be the Temple of Venus and Roma.)

Temple view from my orignal position

“Internal” temple view from close-up.  Notice the holes?  I don’t think much was spared when they were looking for metal.

View from “outside” temple walking towards Colosseum.

Grandma said she’s grateful that I keep going off with Uncle J as I always get him back in time so she doesn’t have to fret.  I don’t know if Uncle J appreciates me going off with him all the time though as he’s mentioned he’s more than a little scared of getting back too late and being stuck with me griping at him for getting me left behind.

Two shots of the same sunset (two different cameras).

Dinner onboard ship was  not so great — but a feast compared to the lunch we had today.  Again with the lack of vegetables, I just don’t get it. . .Uncle J has mentioned, again, that he’s enjoying my eating “habits” as it is causing Grandma to divide her fretting over how much he’s eating to her worry about how little I am.


For the record, this post took me almost 5 hours to do!  Again, if you find mistakes, and wish to correct me, I ask you do it *gently*.



3 comments on “Review of 17 Feb 2009

  1. Thanks for the detailed account! I think it’s a shame that Turkey was so late in your trip. The wait is killing me, but I’m enjoying reading about and seeing the pictures of all the other cities and hope you’re willing to devote 5 hours to Izmir/Ephesus, as well. 😉

  2. Laura says:

    This was well worth every minute (easy for me to say). Thank you for all the pictures and details. I’m a tad jealous of course, but very excited that you got to do this.

  3. Mom says:

    Love all the info that we missed during the tour!

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