February 13, 2014

The Eternal City

Two countries. One day.

Well, technically. One country, one "city-state": Vatican City, which is independent from Italy so I say it counts. In any case, as is with everything in Rome, the size of the monuments in Vatican City are large enough for an entire country. 

I'd like to start this part of the post with a little word to the wise, as I know we all have hopes of visiting Rome, and when that occurs Vatican City is obviously a stop on the tourist loop. There are two entrances: one that leads you to the Sistine Chapel & the Vatican Museum and the other, which takes you straight into Saint Peters Basilica. So be sure and know which one you want first. I state this, mostly because I was unaware of this fact, and the girls and I spent the initial part of our morning walking back and forth trying to figure out what to do, whilst, as is the norm, being harassed by various guides and merchants trying to bamboozle us. 

On the upside though, we got some picture ops early in the morning when the crowds weren't too outrageous. 

After finally figuring out how to get into the place, we entered the Vatican Museum. To say that it is overwhelming, is an understatement. All of these gorgeous, amazing, historical pieces of art are being thrown at you, and you can't even begin to grasp the history of what you're seeing. In addition, all the while you're being tempted by signs towards the Sistine Chapel, which is nearly the last stop as you wind your way through the endless museum. 

This is a tapestry. Try to imagine someone, centuries ago, hand weaving this, somehow knowing exactly which shade of thread to use to create a facial expression. *amazement*

One of my favorite pieces of the many elaborate frescoes we saw, was by a painter that until looking him up after our trip, I had honestly never even known. Tommaso Laureti, from Sicily, was commissioned by the papacy and worked with illusionistic perspective. The title of this piece, dated 1585, is "Triumph of the Cross". 

I think the detail of the broken figure strikes me most. You don't expect to see something broken in art, when it is essentially the depiction of perfection. In this case, however, it is the depiction of an ideal; an ideal that is ironic in many ways. Whilst this is obviously a symbolic image of the power of the church over classical thought, the use of classical style is still present in the painting. It is obvious that to be able to depict such proportionate and detailed figures in the fresco, Laureti would have had to have studied classical art.

Luckily, this beautiful image is only symbolic, because as can be seen wandering one's way through the Vatican Museum, classical art and the church have worked alongside one another for centuries to create some of the most exquisite works in history. 

Here we see Raphael literally bringing the classicists into the Vatican in his "School of Athens".

After moving through the genius of the Renaissance (but still before the Sistine Chapel), generations of more contemporary artists, that depict the church in their art, are exhibited. 

Henry Matisse, "La Sainte Vierge", 1951.

Edvard Munch, "Padre in Preghiera", 1902.

Salvatore Dali, "Paesaggio Angelico", 1977.

(Now here is when you finally get to the Sistine Chapel. Now matter how spectacular you believe everything you've just seen is, somehow that room blows it all out of the water. There are no pictures allowed in the chapel, which is lucky for ya'll readers because there would be about a hundred photos and my personal opinion of each. If I can say anything about it though, it is just "wow". No more words than that can describe it's extravagance. And one more note, if you're looking to learn more about the Sistine Chapel and its history, the (somewhat fictionalized) film The Agony and the Ecstasy is really great.) 

After gazing up at the beautiful Cappella Sistina till our necks hurt, we wandered out to the grounds. After that you have the option of going into several other sections of the museum filled with more greats, like Bernini and Da Vinci, which I recommend taking a gander at. 

~Insert a much needed lunch break, wandering, and one of my favorite moments in Roma here~

Killing a little time before the Basilica, we wandered down by the Tiber and happened upon a street musician. He played some old school soft (American) rock. Phoebe, Catherine, and I sat on the ledge of the river, the sun on our faces, each smiling, listening, and lost in our own train of thought. It wasn't an extravagant moment, like the Vatican itself or the Colosseum, but it was a perfect moment. 

After ending our bliss on the note of "I'm a Believer", we wandered back to Vatican City, straight to the front of Saint Peter's Basilica

Finally inside after quite a wait, we realized it was most definitely worth it. 

Seeing Michelangelo's "Pietra" alone may have been worth the wait. 

After a long day of Vatican City, we spent our evening on a more low key note. 

We strolled through Piazza Navona before going on a hunt for food.

We ate dinner in the Campo de' Fiori and it was spectacular.

I'm a bad blogger so I can't even tell you the name of the place we ate, but I do have another piece of advice that will make up for it: go to Rome. Find a restaurant that makes a "Roman Style Artichoke" and order it. Hands down one of the best things I've ever eaten. 

It's not fried, or I don't think it is at least, but the leaves are crunchy like baked potato chips, with a hint of salt. It retains the flavor of an artichoke, but somehow becomes a whole new food. It is amazing.

The spicy pizza was also amazing, but I digress. 

Finally ending the evening, near exhaustion but not ready to end the day, we got ourselves some delectable pasties, and went to gaze a top the Piazza del Popolo over the entire city. A spectacular view, and yet another "perfect" moment of the day. 

Ending on that satisfying note, we made it back to our hotel completely exhausted. One more day left in Rome, and still (always) more to see. 

Yours, Kenna 

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