Musei Vaticani

Only one task today: get through the giant Vatican museums. We have bought our ticket more than a month ago and are allowed ingress at 10.30, so plenty of time. We wake up early, not surprising since mom fell asleep around eight pm yesterday and I about an hour later. We have breakfast at seven thirty at Il Gianfornaio and then slowly make our way to the Vatican City. The crowd density increases as we get closer and we start seeing helpful volunteers (mostly Indian, I have no idea what that’s about) who point us towards the right queue and inform us that we can only start queuing around ten. No worries, we walk towards Saint Peter’s square and spend a pleasant half hour in the sun (in a tshirt, even though we’re the end of October), admiring the colonnade and church facade. Wikipedia teaches us about the history of the square and church, we’re starting to recognize some of the emperor’s and pope’s names from our historical walk yesterday. I have some doubts about the accuracy of the info, but when I look it up later Saint Peter’s church is indeed the largest in the world.

Back towards the right queue, we get to skip the long line and join the throngs in front of the entryway. Inside, bags and body are scanned, but it’s all very efficient. We print our ticket at a ticket machine and climb up towards the start of the visit. I’m responsible again for navigating and looking up fun facts whereas my mom is in charge of picture taking. The first thing we do, while it’s relatively calm in the shop is buy and post post cards to friends and family. They have their own stamps and postal system, kind of cool.

Getting started, there is a wide queue all the way through the museum, I’ve never seen anything like it. The average pace is slow, especially because of the guided tours, but we’re sometimes able to slip through and stretch our legs a bit. There are a lot of really nice pieces exhibited and the rooms are each more grand than the last, but there’s not a lot of didactic material and half of the time I don’t even know which museum I’m in, even though I have a stylized map in my hands.

The throngs lead us through several galleries, we like the Galleria della Carte Geografiche (or map room) the best: a long well lit corridor with medieval maps on the walls and a gorgeous ceiling.

There’s an obvious theme going on: a lot of the pieces are actually from churches, representing saints, bible scenes etc., while the modern art is clearly inspired by Catholicism, by artists like Mondriaan, Paul Klee, Giacometti, Van Gogh, Gauguin and an Ensor showing the annual procession of the penitence in Veurne, where my mom grew up. The modern art is exhibited in a set of rooms right before the Sistine Chapel and the queue goes right past them. It’s obvious that most people come here just for the chapel and don’t throw more than a cursory look in the direction of the art pieces.

The Sistine Chapel is somehow a bit of a disappointment. While the artwork on walls and ceiling is magnificent, the crowd around you creates such a pressure that it’s hard to relax enough to really look around. The attendants are constantly shooing you around and yelling ‘no pictures, no video, silence please’ which is a both a lost cause and a bit contradictory. We take a break in one of the restaurants, have our cookies -acquired this morning in the bakery – and catch up on the Wiki info we didn’t have time to read in the chapel itself. The rest of the tour is a bit more quiet, I think a lot of people skip the second part after the chapel, even though the Pinoteca has some master pieces by Rafael, Titian and Caravaggio. More shooing ensues when we inadvertently get too close to a small group of clerics, I’m supposing there was a famous or endangered specimen in there to warrant his own security. The Pio-Clementino museum is unfortunately closed (perhaps for this dignitary), a shame because I was honestly looking forward to the ancient Greek and Roman statuary.

Once out in the sun we’re tired and a bit achy, we did about 10.000 steps in the museums altogether. It’s about two pm and we’re ready for a late lunch: entrecôte and Tuscan white beans. We pick up some tiramisu for dessert and head back to the hotel to rest our weary feet: sort pictures, read a book, watch the news about the U.S. impeachment on CNN, .. We decide we’re just too tired to do anything outdoors, so we get our dinner (again at La Gianfornaio) and get installed for a quiet evening at the hotel, with appropriate Italian music from Spotify.

  • total step count: 15306
  • total km: 10,2 km
  • flights climbed: 6 floors

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