Tales from Italy - Day 3; April 25th, 2005

Vatican & Sistine Chapel
We picked the second day in over 2 weeks that the Sistine Chapel was open for our tour. In fact, it was also the 1st day after inauguration of the new Pope. So just imagine the number of people that came out today to visit. the crowd and line was UNBELIEVEABLE. The line went around 3 walls of Vatican City and was as thick as the sidewalk was wide. We thought we had a prepaid, private tour - NOT. I wish I could have captured the look of shock and awe on peoples faces as they walked down Via Vaticano, turned the corner and realized they have almost 1/4 mile more
till they get to the end of the line.

We were entertained by street vendors working the line selling "blessed" rosaries 5 for 10 Euros (approx $13). Little wooden rosary beads on a string in a plastic case with the picture of Pope John Paul II on it. After about an hour and a half we finally made it to the entrance.

Vatican City is the smallest state in the world with the Largest church in the World - St. Peters Basilica. The Vatican Museum is the 2nd largest in the world behind the Louvre and has 4 miles of corridors to explore. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is the 1st painting Michelangelo ever painted. He was 38 years old and it took 4 years to finish. The restoration (which was actually
only a cleaning - nothing was changed, altered or repainted) too 20 years and was finished Christmas of 1999. At 60 years old, Michelangelo was called back to paint The Last Judgment on the walls of the Sistine Chapel. It took 6 years for him to finish The Judgment.

We jostled, pushed, and strained our way through the museum, which is absolutely amazing. You are allowed to take pictures without flash in the museum, so mom and I fired off a few rolls. It was so hard to decide what to take pictures of. We finally decided that if it moved us, film it. Took almost 5 rolls between the two of us. When we got to the Sistine Chapel - you are not
supposed to take any pictures whatsoever. Now, with thousands of people shoving their way through the museum and chapel and about 10 guards the entire 4 miles, who do you think won that battle.

It wasn't the guards.
I managed to get a few good pictures in the chapel before I got busted. "No compredo Italiano" seemed to get him to just shake his head at the "ignorant American" and tell me to move on. Never mind that the instructions were given by an English speaking guide. Yeah - Whatever. Ma says I'm going straight to hell with gasoline draws on and will hang out in that middle layer of hell - Purgatory. Well, make sure none of you ask to see my illicit pictures - wouldn't want you to turn to a pillar of salt.

After the tour ended, we nearly collapsed outside the gate.

Mom followed the red rag on a stick (the tour guide), while I got us some water. We regrouped on the tour bus and decided to have the bus drop us off near the Spanish Steps again. This is the shopping district - Ferragamo, Burberry, Fendi, etc. etc. We were saved that the stores were closed today due to some type of holiday. After a perusal and orientation of the map (I am the keeper of the map), we decided to mosey over to the Piazza Augusto Imperatore where "The Best Food Piazza in Rome" is located as described by Food & Wine Magazine, May 2005.
'Gusto', Rome's only food emporium, houses a restaurant, wine bar, pizzeria, osteria ( a neighborhood trattoria), and a cheese shop. We ate at the Wine bar and had the most wonderful ham and cheese sandwich. You don't know hamand cheese till the Italians do cheese. They sure do get it right. After the wine and snack. I marched mom through the shopping district and up the Spanish Steps. At the top we ran into the street artists again and we had our portraits done. They look great and will be a nice addition to the ones we had done in Paris. After the portraits were done, we went back to the hotel for a little rest before our Dinner Cruise down the Tiber River.

Okay, this sucked.

We had to had to walk down a staircase to the river to catch the boat and almost chocked on the stench. The staircase smelled like a urinal in Port Authority Bus Station. I thought I was going to gag. We get to the boat and it is delayed a half and hour due to some "accident". While waiting we were attacked by killer knats and had to keep swatting and running away from them. The staff finally allowed us to wait on the broke boat for the dinner boat. There were a whole whopping total of 4 couples including us on the trip. Little did I know that there was no real scenery and the food would be so.

The best thing was the wine - when you think your asking for a glass you get the whole bottle. Best Part.

Worst Part - walking back up those stairs.

After a super quick ride in a Roman taxi, we made it back to the hotel and our heavenly bed.