For more Rome recaps:
(Breakfast at the hotel. The cappucinos were delicious!)
Day 3 time!
On Monday we had advance tickets to go see the Vatican Museums. Unfortunately Louie’s mom woke up and wasn’t feeling well at all, so she ended up having to stay behind in the hotel. We hated leaving her but she insisted, and we had some cell phones that worked, so we headed out. We took the metro from the Spanish Steps to the Vatican (unlike the Paris metro, the metro in Rome doesn’t go nearly as many places, but occasionally we found it useful.)
One of the things you really have to be prepared for in Rome is all the vendors and people trying to “help” you. Once we started walking from the metro stop to the Vatican people kept asking us if we needed a guide, or tickets, or selfie sticks, and wanting to give us directions, and who knows what else. I’m really good at simply ignoring people because I assume they are up to no good, but we actually followed the advice of one person on directions and it turned out to be more correct than what we were planning, so who knows. Maybe some of the people are trying to be actually helpful! Perhaps they are the good guides! Since we had advance tickets we got to bypass the longest line outside the museum and get in the door quickly. We thought, well, that was easy, and then we realized we had more lines to wait in and the lobby was jampacked with people. I suppose Monday is probably a bad day to go because many of Rome’s other sights and museums are closed.
Julian (Louie’s brother) and Louie waiting outside the Vatican Museums.
Anyway, once we entered the museum proper, it was a little overwhelming. I did a little consulting of my Rick Steves Guidebook, but I didn’t want to be too bossy or tell people what to do, and I honestly didn’t really care what we saw. What I didn’t realize is that if you go right up the stairs you get to casually look at some exhibits, but if you go left, you are going on basically a slow march to the Sistine Chapel. It takes hours, and goes by thousands of fascinating pieces of artwork, but the closer you get the more crowded it is, and you start to feel like you are the only people there who are interested in seeing anything OTHER than the Sistine Chapel. The crowds were overwhelming at points, annoying at others, personally intrusive sometimes, and ever present. The museum (museums?) were full of so many amazing pieces of art, frescoes, and more, and it was just an overwhelming experience. I’d like to go again having more background of some of it, and perhaps somehow on a day when less people are there, if that exists? I bet during other times of year than summer.
Julian found an error in one of the signs in one of the sections with the mummies, where the sign said BC instead of AD.
And at one point we got stuck in the Etruscan Exhibit—the normal exit had closed so we headed back where we came from, only to find a roped off exit on that end. Panicked, we snuck under the rope to find a guard wildly motioning and lecturing us in Italian while we tried to explain—we ducked BACK under the rope just in time for the guard from the other end to lead some people out. We left the two guards blaming each other for the mixup. It was a little scary at the time (I imagined us being stuck in the exhibit for hours, unable to explain our predicament, or getting arrested) but really hilarious in retrospect.
We stopped for lunch and espresso at the cafe, which was overpriced and terrible, but desperately needed. After that it was time to swim through the final crowds to the Sistine Chapel.
Crowds of people as far as the eye could see. CRAZY.
And the Sistine Chapel…there were so many people. We found a place to stand for a bit and crane our necks. The guards kept announcing that people needed to stop talking and to be silent, that it was a place of prayer and contemplation. But they were basically yelling it at us, and mostly people were just whispering, and it kind of made the mood worse. Then again, if they hadn’t kept saying to be quiet, who knows how loud it would have gotten? We looked at the ceiling for awhile and then moved down to another area. I found a chair along the wall at that point, and we all stared some more. It was pretty phenomenal, and to imagine the work, the creativity, the inspiration, and the true challenge to pain all of that ON THE CEILING…just insane. People are amazing aren’t they?
(To explain the lack of pictures: none allowed in the Chapel itself, and then in museums, I usually don’t bother taking many because I figure the works of art are usually available in picture form elsewhere, plus I like to just appreciate the art, and my pictures inside usually look bad!)
We finally left the chapel and then continued along a long path, far less crowded, to leave the Museum. There was more art to see, and we did glance at things as we went by, but we were pretty beat and wanted to get back to the hotel to check on Louie’s Mom.
She wasn’t feeling great, but marginally better than the morning. After we all rested a bit we walked with her to get some gelato (!!!) and then the three of us went to dinner near the hotel to a place called La Rampa. It was pretty touristy but not bad—it was more in the line with what you think of as Italian food from here, very saucy, very cheesy, and a little overpriced, but we had gorgonzola gnocchi and eggplant parmesan and a decent wine so I was pretty happy with the meal.