Travels with V


In holy premises

Rome part two

There are far too many sights that must be seen in Rome to cover them all in one single visit. But of course the Vatican has a high priority. When we’re there it’s Easter and the queues to enter St Peter’s basilica are hopelessly long, and many who patiently wait for their turn seem to be nuns. They never look really happy. 

We manage to find tickets for a tour through the Vatican museums, a seres of buildings north of Piazza San Pietro that includes the Sistine chapel. These museums are full of remarkable but mostly religious paintings. We can’t help but notice that people and angels are always portrayed making extremely dramatic and twisted gestures even when they are floating in mid air. Probably ordinary gestures are too simple for this extremely holy place. 

The Sistine chapel is the last room on this tour, but it’s a claustrophobic experience for us. In one end people are constantly pouring in but in the other the exit is very narrow and and the visitors move extremely slowly. Suddenly we can’t move at all and even breathing is difficult, that’s how crammed it is.  And the famous Michelangelo paintings in the ceiling are actually surprisingly small. When we at last are let out we’re so exhausted we just slump down on some chairs by a street tavern. 

The next day the queues are considerably shorter and we manage to enter  St Peter’s basilica. It’s just so incredibly big and after a while our necks hurt from watching all the colourful paintings on the ceilings and cupolas above. 

In the center there’s a kind of pit with lots of flowers and gold. There’s a little room behind a glass where St Peter’s tomb is said to be. Around the pit people are on their knees praying. 

The central cupola is realy what defines St Peter’s basilica, and you can actually climb a terrible lot of stairs to enter it and step out on a balcony high above the city.  We do, and get increasingly dizzy the higher we climb. The reason for this is that we’re at the inside of a cupola, and the walls lean inward more and more over the narrow stairs.

The view of the city from the balcony is absolutely fantastic, but we can also get glimpses of the beautiful green gardens of the Vatican, a place that tourists are not allowed to visit. It’s also where the mini-state’s administration buildings are, and the Pope’s own train station. 

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