Travel as Metaphor

The blog of novelist Sue Swift.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Friday 15 Sept 06: We made a reservation for a Vatican City tour which was supposed to start at 8, requiring a 7 a.m. wake up call. The phone rang at 6:45, with the caller asking up to come down for our tour. Roberta exclaimed, "What, in our knickers?" It turned out that the reservation was wrong and the tour at 7:30. We declined, instead taking a taxi to the Coliseum at a more civilized hour.

It is indeed colossal, and we exhausted ourselves walking around it. We then went to Chiesa Santa Maria della Vittoria and, finding it closed, ate lunch and returned later. The church exemplifies the over-the-top Rococo style. Literally every inch of it, cinluding floors and ceilings, is elaborately adorned, painted, inlaid, carved or sheathed in gorgeously colored and veined marble, except the pews, smooth, hard and uncushioned. Bernini's famous sculpture of the Passion of Santa Teresa is the main attraction, with Teresa in an almost obscene orgasmic transports as she's pierced by an angel's "spiritual" dart. Not only is the sculpture itself fascinating, but the carved friezes on each side depict male spectators entranced by the soomewhat pornographic spectacle.

Sat 16 Sept 06: Though I loathe standing in lines, here in Rome I seem to spend a lot of time doing something I loathe. I have been in line to see the Sistine Chapel for three quarters of an hour and the fellow ahead of us reckons we won't get in for another ninety minutes or so.

And it started to rain. Hard.

Only for Roberta would I suffer through this. Not worth it IMO for a sight that is probably deserted in November.

3:45 wait of 2 hours to hang in the Vatican Museum for 1.5. Everything up to the Sistine a total disappointment except for a long hall with gorgeous, fascinating hand-painted maps of Italy and its various provinces, painted like giant murals on the walls. Despite the crowds, I knew I could spend hours finding familiar places. However, I had imagined the Borgia apartment and the Raphael room to be much nicer, but I have to say that the Sistine itself is quite amazing. I wonàt bother with describing it since there are about a gazillion other sources to draw upon.

Peculiarly enough, once out of the chapel, no crowds. It's as though the Sistine's walls absorb tourists. Everything is striking, beautiful, not only the painting and sculpture but the decorative artifacts as well. Lecterns and altarpieces of lapis and marble trimmed with gold and jewels, elaborate furniture...even beautiful wall screens and cupboards.

Topping it all off is the Vatican Pizzeria, really a bargain when we both got pizza and birra for a mere eight euros...a bargain for expensive Rome.

I'm writing this in our fave winebar getting a snack before checking out the Villa Borghese...a full day of sightseeing.

The Villa Borghese is OK, wonderful Berninis, especially his Apollo and Daphne. She's turning into a laurel tree, and the carving of each leaf is amazing. One slip of his chisel and...whoops, there goes a month of work!

Raining cats and dogs, or maybe wolves and tigers, as we left.


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