The final day has arrived. Chrl has until 2355 PST to hand in her final paper. It’s crunch time in Rome and we are both experiencing the anxiety that is normally associated with such a deadline. The Saturday, yesterday, was spent finishing off one project today it’s time for the 5k word essay to be finalized and finished. Chrl has made progress thoughout our journey towards its completion. We are in Rome however and we discussed a strategy that we will take in order to fulfill both of our needs.
Having this schooling over her head caused Chrl some stress. It hasn’t been that much but the final paper has been a long one and it is worth a significant proportion of her final mark. She will be graduating from this particular program and will be moving once she is back to start her graduate school in law. It will be a significant step in her life and mine once I join her in December. For now we have to focus on the task at hand.
In the morning after breakfast we were going to go to the Vatican to check out the Sunday occurrences happening there. Sunday is the Christian holy day that has a mass performed there. We were also curious to see if we could see the Pope. We needed to have a bit of activity. Chrl spent the whole day on Saturday cooped up in the hotel finishing and working away. A bit of activity especially since it is so close will be good for her so that when she gets back to the hotel she will be energized for the final stretch.
We took a leisurely pace to the Vatican. It is about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel. We stopped for coffee at a cafe that had mist blowing under the awnings. We talked about how Chrl feels regarding her final. It’s good to get those feelings out and it’s good to get out and see a bit of Rome!
The Vatican has security measures in place and we had to go through the screening procedures before actually getting into the square. There were crowds gathering and there were a lot of different groups milling around some were parts of tour groups huddled around a little flag. The most interesting thing to see are people all dressed in the same outfit. We have noticed families and little groups all dressed in a distinct matching outfit to separate themselves from others and to combine themselves as a group.
Outside the temperature close to high noon was about 30C. The square wasn’t packed and there was no altar set up in preparation for mass. It wasn’t clear if the pope was going to actually going to appear. I noticed that the line up to get into the basilica wasn’t long. The sun was quite hot and I suggested that we go inside and check it out. Along this journey we have visited many churches. This is one of the most important ones in Catholicism. It is the seat of the bishop of Rome and it is quite a magnificent structure. We both would like to see what it looks like inside.
The first thing that strikes you is the massive size. Inside the building there is a massive area under the roof. The statues are huge as are all the letters and frescos all over the walls. We kept walking around with our heads upwards looking at all of the wonderful decorations everywhere. The difficulty in such a massive building is scaling everything to be in proportion to the rest. Michelangelo took over the building and design of the project after the original architect passed away. His design included sizing the statues to make them be in proportion to everything else. This gives the whole place a kind of cartoonish surrealism. Everything is so big. The columns are big and thick, the ceiling is high and the space is ginormous.
The building floor plan is designed in the shape of a cross. This allows little, medium and large vestibules to be placed in the recesses of the different columns. It’s kind of like a fractal pattern growing outwards in size. The main altar is in the centre of the cross allowing for 15000 people to attend a service. That’s a lot of people inside not to mention all those that would be outside at the same time.
There was a lot to look at. And as we got halfway through we stopped befor the main altar in the middle and decided to sit at a mass that was going to be performed behind it in one of the medium sized recesses. This recess is the size of a regular church found all over the place in the world. The priest was an old man who efficiently moved through the rituals of mass. None of what was being said was understandable but my upbringing allowd me to recognize what was happening during the mass. There were some hymns played sung by a group of ushers that performed a variety of tasks including reading, singing, and collecting donations. The whole thing ran quite smoothly.
Sitting there at the mass we couldn’t help but look around and inspect the altar. The centerpiece is a representation of the Holy Spirit arriving. The statues of people in various states of awe and anxiety were wonderfully represented in the piece. The whole thing was colored gold. The piece along with all the other ones around made for interesting viewing as a meditative state slowly sunk in.
We continued our way through the other side making note of all the interesting things that piqued our interest. It’s hard to describe the vibe inside. There is the obvious physical beauty and immediate mesmerization by all there is to see. This is coupled with the history that has inspired this building into existence as well as all the things that have happened since then. At least in my mind. What is the meaning behind all of these statues?Who are all of these people that are now more than life size permanently on display? We should have gotten one of those guides that tries to sell their services outside or maybe a book that explains everything. That’s maybe for next time… A list that has grown out of necessity due to all there is to see in all the places that we have been to. I have an idea about some of the meanings behind certain images but not all.
We left the basilica and headed out into the square. We realized that we probably missed seeing the pope say some things if he had at all. No matter we had a great experience inside. In a lot of ways it was a contemplative experience for the both of us. Sitting there in silence as the sounds of the crowds were somewhere in the distance. I dedicated this attendance to mass to my parents. They need some strength from somewhere as they continue to transition into full retirement. I hope that they finally let go of all the responsibilities that they have held for so long successfully. Let’s hope that it all goes well.
We stopped off at some pizzeria along the route back to our hotel. The pizzas here have been really tasty. The crust is thin and the traditional way of topping them differs from the North American style that has developed there and that I’ve grown up with. We couldn’t of have had a proper experience here if we didn’t have any of the traditional foods that have originated here. After the meal at the hotel it was time for Chrl to focus and finish her paper. As she worked I worked on my project. With so much that has happened these posts have grown in length. At some point they will have to be edited as they are just a flow of consciousness typed into the screen. As the hours dragged on Chrl employed me in proof reading her paper. I must say that her paper read very nicely and my reading helped to catch those annoying errors that crop up and to help shape some sentances that didn’t. Before we knew it it was already getting dark.
“It’s done! I’ve sent it off babe!”
We both looked at each other is a bit of disbelief. What do we do with each other? We held each other and I congratulated Chrl with a big kiss. We have been looking forward to this moment for a while. Now that it’s here we were both a bit dumbfounded. Throughout the day the hope was to go and visit the Coloseum. Looking at the clock we decided that we should go for it even though it’s a bit late. We quickly changed and left out the door. We have been cooped up for a bunch of hours and getting out will do us good besides school is over we need to celebrate!
Since the tickets for the bus were so difficult to obtain I bought extra so we didn’t have to stress about finding any. We got on the bus and didn’t validate them hoping to use them later. The bus took us to the Altar of the Fatherland where we hoped to find a general store to buy a snack and some wine. We found something and picked out a bottle appropriate for the occasion. The Coloseum isn’t that far from here. I know Chrl didn’t want to walk too much but from the steps at the bottom of the monument to Italy’s reunification the Coloseum is not too far according to the oracle.
As we walked the route we walked through the remnants of Rome. The area behind the monument has columns that jut up into the sky signifying the importance of the structures that once stood here. Much of it is no longer standing. From the rubble archeologists have been able to restore what stands now. Some of it never needed any restoration but probably received some TLC from the experts. At this time of the day the whole area is lit up with artificial lighting giving these ruins a somber yet magnificent feel. A perfect setting for our celebration. These ruins were at one point the ancient Roman equivalent of government and presidential palaces. From the little descriptive signage one could get the sense of how they looked and functioned. Some had quite elaborate facades and additions. Some were temples and there were also places where Rome’s glory was celebrated through columns and arches of triumph. We still build monuments that commemorate such events to this day.
We stopped off at some restaurant to have some pizza. We both realized that we haven’t had food for a while. The need to finish off the paper took prescience over these bodily needs. I was especially hungry. The food will serve as a nice base on which to imbibe the bottle that we were carrying. The Coloseum was just around the corner. It’s amazing that it is still standing after all these years. This structure has been here for almost two thousand years. It use to be host to many different events. It even had a retractable roof to shade the grounds from the sun. This imposing structure is kind of emblematic of the contest that Chrl just completed. Her scholastic contest was overcome and conquered. The arch nearby signified the victory that she gained over her foe. We drank straight out of the bottle as we talked and laughed in the presence of all this history around us and in front of us. We were just like some of the couples that were walking hand in hand or kissing on some steps. At this late hour the area around the Coloseum was mostly devoid of people. They were somewhere else giving us freedom to enjoy this place at our own pace. We walked around the whole Coloseum and then back out through the ancient ruins. We found an appropriate bus stop to wait for a bus to take us back to our hotel. It was way past midnight at this point. It was a long day, a long good day for us.
The next day we had tickets to see the Vatican Museums and to visit the Sistene Chapel. Pre booked tickets were advised based on my intuition and what we heard and read online. We had our time for entry at twelve-thirty giving us plenty of time to sleep in and have breakfast in the morning. We were out late and sleep was very good. We walked to the Vatican again. It is a fifteen minute journey from our hotel and stopped off at one of the café’s along the way. The coffee during breakfast just didn’t cut it. This particular one served a proper coffee. Coffee in Italy is quite affordable as so many people drink it. They like to get these little shots of espresso and down it like a shot usually getting two, one after the other. They have a mannerism indicating that one is not enough. A good coffee is needed before what we are about to go through.
The entrance to the museum and the Sistene Chapel is on the other side of the Vatican. We had to cut through St Peters Square and go around the back following the sidewalk that ran along the tall imposing walls that surround the Vatican. The crowds kept getting thicker the closer we got to the entrance. The end of the line for people without a ticket was far away from the entrance. This was by far the longest line up we have seen on our journey. Since we had a ticket already bought and printed we walked past this line and entered the museum unencumbered. Inside we found a general map and made our way to the starting point. This was a heavy tourist day. It must be like this always here. September is supposedly the busiest time in Rome. So it must get worse.
The splendor of the interior of the museum rivals that of the Louvre. It probably contains more statues but it has a bit less space than the Louvre has in terms of width. All the surfaces are decorated with something whether a carving or some sort of fresco. The whole place was teeming with crowds and we lost track of each other a few times as we navigated towards the Sistene Chapel. The Vatican Museum makes the crowds move in a certain direction in order to have a flow. With this many people there would be a clustering of crowds around the area where one enters the Chapel. As we got closer to it our progress slowed due to all the people waiting to get in. The entrance is through a little door down these steps or up depending on which area you approach from. Once inside you are directed to the middle so as to allow the movement of people around the periphery. There are no photos allowed inside. I took this as a challenge.
The Chapel itself is a smallish room. This is the place where all the cardinals get locked away in when choosing a new pope. All the walls and the ceiling are painted. The realism of the work and the depictions of all the different scenes is what gives this work such fame. The 3D appearance of the work especially when looking up was revolutionary for the time. The chapel dates from the late 1400’s and was expertly painted by Michelangelo. Seeing it and experiencing it from inside was great. It would be nice to be able to enjoy it in a more secluded way but nonetheless it was a wonderful experience to be there. The pictures didn’t turn out that great but that’s ok. This is one of those places that have to be appreciated from the inside. Our necks have been getting a great stretch as we continually have been forced to look up to the sky at the things above us.
We made our way out and continued to walk through the museum as we sought to find the exit. We have discovered that we can really spend about three hours max looking at things. We were getting to that point and there are other things that we wanted to see in Rome before our departure tomorrow. The road to exit the museum was long as there are some twenty kilometers of halls to walk through. We decided to go to the hotel so that Chrl could change into something more comfortable. There is a dress code for women within the Vatican. No bare shoulders and no short skirts/shorts. It is a place of worship after all all the bare breasts on the statues notwithstanding.
Our next point of interest was to go and see the Tevi Fountains. This is a popular place to visit while in Rome. It is close to the Altar of the Fatherland. I get a kick out of the name and the grandiosity of it. We finally saw some ticket guards so we validated the tickets that we had. Don’t want to chance getting harassed. The walk to the Fountains took us close to the Panthenon so we stopped to check it out. It was close to closing time and even though we were both hungry we stepped inside. The light was a much darker this time around. The sun was much lower in the sky as it was descending towards the horizon. This space is incredible and Chrl walked around looking at all the various parts within. We stopped at some restaurant and had a quick meal before setting out to the fountains. There was singing reverberating through the square outside first from an operatic singer and then from a rock cover band.
As we made our way to the Fountains we passed by many churches and government buildings. All the various architecture infused us with an appreciation of this city. The fountains were packed with people and rightly so. The bright white facade with Romanesque flair and drama are a sight not seen anywhere else. We managed to get a selfie in front of it by inserting ourselves within the crowd.
We decided to keep going towards a Medici villa that was on the corner of some vast grounds that used to be occupied by the elite that once ruled this city. It was a fortuitous route to take as it took us by the Soanish steps that were lit beautifully by the setting sun. As we continued on we climbed the steps to get us closer to the villa that was the impetus for our direction. What we got in return was a breathtaking view of Rome. The villa itself is now owned by the French government serving as some sort of official something. There were guards outside as is the case with many places in Rome.
As we continued north the perspective of what we saw changed depending on the amount of foliage growing from the earth below this rampart. The sun finally set and we continued toward the People’s Square that houses one of the oldest obelisks in Rome. This is a big area that served the people of this city since it was created. The steps down to the square were quite slippery and we had to take them cautiously. We saw one woman slip and on the bottom a young girl sat crying holding the back of her head being comforted by her family. How many billions of people must have walked up and down these stairs over the years. It’s quite something to think about.
The square is not square but oval. It is quite large though and wee joyed the ambiance of being there. We took it in a bit quickly as we were now on our way back to the hotel in order to pack for our journey to Warsaw the next day. It was a long day and our meandering has tired us physically but strengthened us emotionally as we both experienced the wonderful sights that this city has to offer. It was a great bonding day and it has added to the bonding that we have done throughout this journey together.