Thursday, November 6, 2008

Italia Day Two

I don't know why, but I have a bug to write about Italy tonight. I am afraid I am going to forget. When we first got back, I fought through some mixed emotions...I wrote a little about that in the first post. However, as the days grow between the here and now and the sweetness of that trip, the memories become all the more precious to me. T was right. It was a good thing. I am glad we went. I am so thankful we went. Oh...I LOVED it! I love to play back the memories while I'm washing dishes or folding clothes and those very memories make my heart stir. What a precious and special time in our marriage. What an investment. Thank you, T.

And just will be long. To quickly sum up for those of you with better things to do today: We saw Vatican City and took a tour of Rome by moonlight. There, you have the highlights. Now for the details... two. We set our watches to go off around 7am, but being exhausted, we slept right through them and rose shortly before 8am. We dressed and headed downstairs to what was the most fabulous breakfast EVER!

I described it in that first post...ahh....yes, so yummy! Cheese, cappuccino, cheese, cheese, cappuccino, rolls, breads, nutella, aqua frizzante, etc. SOOOoooo yummy! And T was so kind to me. Almost every morning he allowed me to serve my plate and then sit down while he made our's so wonderful to be waited on hand and foot by such a chivalrous man! After we ate I tucked a mini round of cheese and a few pieces of wrapped toast in my purse for later...

We headed out the hotel doors and into Rome for day two of the most wonderful adventure I've ever been on! We spoke with a worker at the bus station and learned we needed to purchase a bus ticket that would be good all week. We wondered over to a magazine/newspaper stand and purchased two tickets. Thanks to Frommers (our guide book), we knew which bus number to take to get us to Vatican City!

The bus rides were always interesting. We saw people from so many different walks of life.

We hopped off at our stop and headed into Vatican City...only St Peters Square was PACKED! We thought, "oh great, we made a HUGE mistake picking today to come..." However, it turns out the Pope had sold people tickets to allow them to have their things blessed by the thousands of people were there to have the Pope bless their stuff. Thankfully, they had no interest in St. Peter's Basilica. T and I rented an audio guide and began...and it was AMAZING! AMAZING! We saw the Pieta by Michelangelo...FANTASTIC! It was behind glass...but still, AWESOME! The entire church was amazing. You simply cannot fathom the amount of detail, the expense, the hours, the lifetimes that have gone into creating this place. Unreal! It was unreal! It was also, yikes, dare I say this, in my opinion, a tad bit overdone...don't stone me, now. And, it made me sad to think how many people gave of their time, resources, and talents to build such a place...all the while thinking what they were doing would secure their eternity, or put them in more favorable standing with God. That, to me, was sobering.

The following "run" of pictures were taken outside of St. Peter's simply have to see it to get a sense of how massive and intricate it is...the sculpture alone was enough to make me swoon...add in the amazing architecture...the outside was unreal...over the top!

Yes, that really is the ceiling...and it really is exposed the the elements...just like that.

Again, outside, and exposed the the elements...

I took a bunch of pics before we even set foot inside, and then shortly after stepping foot inside, the battery ran out. I had NOT remembered to pack the extra batter!! So...just a few more pics for day two. That was enough to put a damper on the day. I literally had to lecture my attitude at that point, that I was NOT going to let that take away from the day. However, I am so sad that I missed photographing all that we saw! We figured we couldn't take pics in the Vatican Museum anyway, so we didn't return to the hotel for the battery. That was an error in judgement. They DO allow photography, just no flash photography...oh well. I guess we'll just have to go back! (and anyway, going back for another battery would've taken too much time!)

So..we spent almost three hours with the audio guide in the basilica. Wow. The art, the sculpture, the floors, the ceilings, the beams, the posts, the EVERYTHING was unreal. The attention to detail, phenomenal!

St. Peter...holding "the key"

A statue of one of the popes

ahhhhh....take a deep breath with me...the Pieta by Michelangelo! Yes! We really saw it and it was breathtaking. It was beautiful. We marveled at how Michelangelo could take solid stone, hard and cold and chip away at it and polish it and form it into was gorgeous! It was also behind glass...but still, we got to see it! Mary and Jesus seemed incredibly lifelike - almost breathing. It evoked some powerful emotions.

Ok, this is a mosaic. All of the "paintings" in the basilica are actually can see the tiny pieces forming together in the above photo...pretty amazing. Below you can see it in its full context. Yea, this kind of stuff was in churches all over Italy...sometimes we'd walk in and no one else would be, the church is just open, so come on in. They have amazing paintings and's crazy!

By the end of the tour, I was getting tired. T was fascinated by all the history, I was growing a bit weary with it.

One interesting point to note here is that the Catholic Church stole ("recycled" as some tour guides called it) all the marble used in constructing Saint Peter's Basilica from palaces in Rome. Interesting...very interesting.

After nearly three hours, we made our way down to the crypt where all the popes are buried. This was was like a room with a low ceiling and tons of stone caskets, each in their own little niche. There were two security dudes guarding Pope John Paul II's tomb. A small crowd had amassed there. T and I were quick to bypass it and move on. We'd hoped to get a tour of the catacombs, but there was a stiff rule that you could NOT go there if you had not reserved a spot at least one month in advance. time.

So we left the Basilica and headed for the Vatican Museum. On our way we passed a "cute couple." Well, that's what ran through my head. T spoke up and said, "hey, that's R and S from high school!" Sure enough! It was two of our friends, a brother and sister, right there in Vatican City! We stood on the street and caught up for a few random! I thought we might see someone we knew while we were over there, but I never dreamed it would be them!

So we headed on to the Vatican Museum. The line wrapped around the front of the museum and down a side street, but moved fairly quickly. We had to go through a metal detector to be admitted...T had a leatherman in his pocket, so we got the royal treatment and were escorted to a room where T had to check it with security...then we were free to head on in...

Ok, any idea how big the Vatican Museum is??? Um, try NINE MILES of hallways lined, make that chock full of art! We began in the Early Christian History section...lots of sculpture - fragments of coffins, etc. Honestly, there wasn't anything particularly striking to me or T in this area. I would not have spent as much time there, had I any idea what awaited us!

Next we went to some exhibits that were from parts of the world where the Catholic Church had missionaries. Again, not something to write home about.

Following that we, in our opinion, got to the "good stuff." The paintings and of course, more sculpture! It was amazing to enter a room and there would be a painting I had studied while in school...I don't think I can explain how awesome and wonderful that was! To step up close and see the brush strokes, to see how, from a distance a piece comes together completely, but up close, there was at times, such looseness to the strokes and marks. There were times when my heart literally got caught up in my throat. Yea, I guess I'm a bit of an art junkie. 

We spent hours...until minutes of the museum closing, staring and taking it all in. By the end of our time there, we were both so overwhelmed and exhausted it was hard to find words...we were on overload. There was no way to take it all in, just no way. 

Some of the highlights of the Vatican Museum were seeing The School of Athens by Raphael...which I'd studied in depth in school. see it in person! To be able to reach out and touch it, don't worry, I'm a rule follower, I didn't! 

The ceilings were amazing!!! You cannot even being to fathom the amount of detail that went into each panel and the layer upon layer of intricately carved crown molding. It was amazing. My neck hurt from looking up the entire time!

We walked down a hallway of HUGE tapestries! We're talking like 20 feet wide by 50 or 60 feet tall...each depicting different biblical scenes. The detail and realism were incredible. We were sobered by one titled, The Slaughter of the Innocent, portraying all the babies being killed under Herod's decree. It was gruesome and at the same time, so beautifully woven. Amazing. Simply amazing. 

Every room had signs that read, "Sistine Chapel" with an arrow, so we were constantly thinking we were almost there...and we'd hit another room.

I regret that I can't remember more of the names of the paintings we saw. I was in hog heaven. It was wonderful! Saturating!

(The Laocoon)

We headed outside to an octagonal room where we saw The Laocoon. (A depiction of a Trojan Priest who was skeptical about the nature of the Trojan horse - "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," he said...the Greek gods did not like this and sentenced him to death by sea serpents)   We didn't just see it, we got to touch it, to run our fingers over the smooth marble of it and seven other remarkable statues.

We did notice that on every piece of art that had been restored, was affixed a small sign that read, "The restoration of this piece of art was made possible by blah blah blah" - ALWAYS a group from America! Interesting...

So towards the tail end of our visit to the Vatican Museum, we finally came to the Sistine Chapel. The edges of the Chapel are lined with benches so you can sit and look up. There was absolutely NO photography (even without a flash) allowed, and NO TALKING! And you could NOT sit on the floor or the there were hundreds of people packed into the Chapel, all staring up at the ceiling. 

Thanks to a restoration done a few years ago of the ceiling, it is supposedly much brighter than was amazing, but, again, please don't stone me, not quite as amazing as some of the other works we'd seen in the museum. The overall color/tint of the ceiling was a purple-ish mauve. Please don't get me wrong, each scene was gorgeous and so well painted...perhaps I'd built it up a bit too much in my mind...but it was amazing. We spent a good bit of time in there, and I love that I've actually seen the Sistine Chapel in person! T, who is sitting beside me, helping me reminisce, thought it was "pretty darn good."

So...on our way out of the Vatican, post Sistine Chapel Ceiling, we walked down what must have been another mile of corridor, with every spare inch of wall space lined with hand painted armoires, each with different family crests or amazing color paintings. I wanted one. we turned off the flash on the camera and attempted to take another shot...and we got a few.

Ok, so we left the museum as they were closing and headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. Oh wait, genius me with such an incredible sense of direction, "felt" my way to a bus stop, thinking we could cut travel time getting back to the hotel...not only did we get completely lost, but we had to wonder and wonder before we could find a bus stop. Once there we waited and waited and waited, hoping to make it back in time for our night tour of Rome! Finally a bus came and it took us quite a while to get back. "Freshening up" kind of went out the window. We did make it back in time for our tour.

A guy showed up in the lobby and between the logo on his shirt and our papers, we figured out we were supposed to get in the car with him. There, we met an Australian couple who were quite fascinating. (Ok, so maybe it was just the accent that made them super fascinating!) They were married and were pretty much say what you think kind of people. Interestingly enough, they'd been keeping up with our election...which sparked some interesting conversation. 

Next stop was to pick up a Jewish couple from upstate New York. They were nice.

Shortly after that pick up we were dropped off at our bus...for a "Night Tour of Rome." Now, I was pretty stoked for this. It sounded extremely romantic! As we boarded, it looked like everyone would be an English speaker...we sat behind a newly married couple who were living in Germany (he had just finished a term in Iraq) and they were preparing to move to Savannah, GA...and of all the things we talked about...she wanted to know a good brand of pest control for their house! I was like, "you are talking to the right girl!" I told her all about Demon WP...which I've mentioned to you that was kind of crazy. As our conversation was just getting going good, the tour guide stood up in the front of the bus and the bus began edging into traffic...

The guide began in English and gave us a short spill about what we'd be doing for the evening...then she switched to German...and gave the same spill...then she switched to French and gave the same spill, and finally in Spanish. That was kind of a bummer...guess I'm kind of a self centered American, huh? The thing was, I don't think she knew what she was saying, she was just reading stuff off a piece of was a bit crazy. The poor people at the end of the translation list...we'd have long passed something before they were told what it was! 

(at the Trevi Fountain)

So we drove all over the city of Rome and passed so many amazing things! We stopped at the Trevi Fountain...where a group of guys were forcing roses into girls' hands and then demanding payment. It made me feel frazzled. I just kept my hands gripped in a keep from having a rose forced into them and in preparation to knock one of 'em out if need be...

The fountain was gorgeous and PACKED full of people! It was HUGE!!! Our favorite thing about it was its sheer scale and massive presence. Really, you need to see it!

Following the stop at the Trevi, we headed to Casanova's for dinner. This was a very interesting experience. The restaurant was lit with fluorescent lights receding into a tray ceiling, with an overall blue tint. The tables filled fairly fast, and we wound up at a table with a couple from Japan. She taught English to chefs for hotel chains and he was a pulmonary doctor who had just opened his own clinic in Tokyo. She did the translating to keep the conversation going. They were really a lot of fun.

We have friends who are missionaries in Japan and they are getting to share the gospel with the Japanese through Black Gospel Choir music. Evidently that's kind of the "in" thing right I mention this to the lady - that our friends are in Japan and lead a Black Gospel Choir...she was quick to inform me that's not really their "taste in music." Oh well...

Part way into the first course someone stepped up to the microphone and tapped a fork on the side of a wine glass and then it began...opera! A couple sang song after song while we ate...SO FUN! They were only feet from our table and had incredible voices. 

Dinner wasn't really anything to write home about, but the company and entertainment were!

Following dinner at Casonova, we were the last couple to be dropped off at our hotel. On the way there we almost (keep in mind we were in a huge tour bus) ran right over a tiny car that stopped in the middle of the street to turn around...we were within a hair of smashing that tiny car. It could've been VERY bad. They drive like maniacs over there!

So it was another amazing and fun day...wonderful! I'd love to go back...if only for a little while!

Ok, so that's the end of day two!


  1. I am so happy for you two. Oh the times that we wives just need to hush up and listen. Way to lead your family T! I really want to hear more about your trip. The next time we talk, please tell me. I'm sorry, I just absolutely forgot to ask you to share it with me. Again, so happy for you.

  2. You are blessed for many reasons my friend! Your children are precious! You have a third on the way! Yea! Your husband wants to take you to Italy - hellooooo! You are smart and talented and most importantly love Jesus. It is indeed a good day!