Wednesday: The Vatican

Another overwhelming day. We had tickets for the Vatican and met Jose in a cafe just outside the entrance. He was worth his weight in gold today. The line to enter snaked down the hillside, and if we had not had a guide, we would have queued up in it with all the other poor people. Instead, we had a cup of coffee, Jose laid out the plan of attack, and we headed for the entrance. We went in with practically no wait, and Jose strollled with a purpose from place to place.

I would just be pretending if I tried to explain all that we saw. Jose made it all real to us. We are not Catholics, but we got a crash course in the Catholic Church and its rituals. We also learned a lot about art and the vast collection of it that is stored and displayed at the Vatican. Genene got lessons in everything from original sin, free will, perspective, mosaics, frescoes, geometric shapes, astronomy, cartography, and Egyptian hieroglyphics. We only scratched the surface. A person could spend years in the museums of the Vatican.

If we had gone to the museums on our own, we would have wandered aimlessly, without seeing. Jose led us from great work to great work and explained the significance of each.

Below is the first radio tower that transmitted a signal. The first voice heard was that of the Pope.


Jose explains Raphael's “The Transfiguration” to Genene.

Exploring the Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The view of Rome from Vatican City.


The beautiful marble sculpture of “Laocoön and His Sons” tells the story of Laocoon, who tried to warn his people of the Trojan horse. Poseidon sent the sea serpents to kill him and his sons before the ruse was discovered. Sometimes telling the truth will get you in a lot of trouble.


A ceiling in the Vatican museums.

Genene and Jose (at right) ponder the mosaics in the floor.


Just another hallway.

St. Peter's Square.


A view of the ceiling within St. Peter's Basilica.

Another view of St. Peter's.


We got to see Michelangelo's Pieta. Sadly, it is behind glass, so my photo is not great. I cannot think of this work without thinking of my high school English teacher, Neva Byrd. She was mortified that a crazy person attacked it with a hammer. She used to tell the story about it and shake her head woefully, so that even kids in Nashville, Arkansas felt the loss keenly.


The light fell across the altar at St. Peter's perfectly.


Two more views from inside the basilica.

No photographs were allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but everyone knows the story of Michelangelo's four year labor. We must have spent thirty minutes inside, gawking up at the ceiling. I cannot fathom the work that went into those frescoes. I asked Jose if he thought that men were as great today as they were in the time of Michelangelo, and he said without hesitation, “No.” I cannot argue with that. The chapel is supposedly a holy place, and I was moved by the magnitude of the human achievement on that ceiling. However, the hordes of people seem profane. The guards constantly scream, “Silence! This is a place of worship.” All the while, the throng mills. I saw plenty of people trying to take illicit photographs. I thought that it must be sad to have the job of those guards, all the day screaming at the tourists. We thought it was quite crowded, but Jose said he had seen it much worse. Ah, to be a Cardinal and get to see this room without the crowds…..

An angel guards a tomb inside St. Peter's Basilica.


Two views of the Swiss Guard, sworn to protect the Pope.


Genene in St. Peter's Square, looking for the white and black smoke.


On either side of the basilica, there are columns. If you stand in a certain spot, all of the columns line up behind each other as one.


One final view of the square.


We met Jose at 8:30 in the morning. We sat down for one small snack but spent the rest of our time looking at art and talking. When we looked down at our watches, it was 3:00 PM! I was shocked at the passage of time. We had spent hours longer than planned and still did not scratch the surface. Genene was worn OUT, but she had remained interested for virtually the whole tour. We said our goodbyes to Jose and caught a cab back to the apartment. We got our first woman cabbie, and she was also the first one that wanted to engage us in conversation. She wanted to know about our plans. Turns out she wanted to undercut the other drivers we already had lined up for our Pompeii trip and the return ride to the airport. Everyone has an angle.

We had a sandwich at our new favorite shop downstairs and immediately went to bed. We woke up in time for dinner. One of my client friends had recommended a restaurant that was a 10 minute walk from the apartment, and we felt sufficiently energetic to try it. We did some window shopping at a toy store first and headed up the Spanish Steps.

We had a wonderful meal, and I loved our waiter. He must have been a father himself (or perhaps a doting uncle). He warned Genene that she could not have dessert unless she cleaned her plate. When she couldn't finish, he negotiated with her for bites, and finally he stood behind her and fed her the last bite. We sat at a table outside, and I was amazed at how often the gypsies would wander through trying to give us a flower or a trinket. One of them put something in Genene's hands with the words “a gift for you” and then said to us, “Two euros.” We made her hand it back, and she gladly did. It was a keychain, and she said, “I have one like it at home, and it is not worth $2.42.” We were amazed at her math! She had converted the currency! Pawpaw Aylett will be so proud when he hears that story. I've always said that my dad could remember anything if you put a dollar sign in front of it.

One of the gypsies was particularly annoying. Our waiter saw him and came rushing up and said something and the man scurried away. It was the only sour note in an otherwise wonderful evening filled with Chianti, delicate ravioli, pasta with clams, cheesecake, ice cream, and even limoncello.

Genene is starting to gesture like an Italian.


She enjoyed the pasta.


We seem to be ending a lot of our evenings on the Spanish Steps.


I am saddened by all the street vendors that are so aggressive. They try to hand you things. You cannot even stroll in peace. At the foot of the Spanish Steps, a young woman handed Genene something, and I barked, “Give it back! We don't want it!” The woman said sheepishly in English that she had found it on the steps and did not want it herself and Genene was welcome to it. It was my turn to be sheepish. I thanked her, and Genene headed home with her little trinket. It is a shame that I have come to regard everyone on the Steps with suspicion.

I need to go to bed now, but my head is swimming with all that I saw. More art tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “Wednesday: The Vatican

  1. So interesting to read of your day. Jeff and I rode our bikes along the Bray Bayou and went to the Zoo and after visiting reptiles, fish et. al. we had chili cheese fries, margarita and beer before heading back.
    Nala was most interested in a pedicure I got yesterday so I have been painting a few of her nails daily. Prepare yourself as the polish is red.
    Your house is once again spiffy clean thanks to Maria Magic. You are missed, but all are adjusting well.

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