Since I had gotten so much sleep the day before, today I wanted to get my tourism and exploration started. For breakfast I had a small toast, Nutella & jam, and tea offered by the guesthouse, got ready and then I was out of the door by around 10am.
I walked around a few blocks of the nearby neighborhood, just getting a sense of what’s nearby to get my bearings. I stopped at a Farmacia (pharmacy) to buy some toiletries that I had forgotten at home, then at a little cafe and got a pastry and then walked some more. I had plans to meet another artist at the Vatican at around 11am, so I found my metro stop around Ponte Lungo and took the train to the Ottaviano metro stop. On the train, a woman came aboard with a rolling speaker and microphone like a karaoke machine, and sang her heart out as though it was an audition for American Idol (Italian Idol, rather). Her voice actually sounded pretty good for the crowded subway train and brought an amused smile to several people in the car. There were also two adorable dogs on the train who were very friendly.
On the top of my list of things to see at the Vatican was to see the Sistine Chapel (Capella Sistina) painted by one of the great masters, Michelangelo. Before I could do that, I had to find the office where I could obtain my Omnia/Roma Pass — a prepaid pass that granted special access to attractions and transportation. To make a long story short, I asked for directions to find it, and someone pointed me in one direction. When I got to that place, someone pointed me in the opposite direction. Once I got there, someone gave me vague directions across the way again that I had just come from. I essentially bounced around Piazza Pietro up to 10 times, walking on uneven cobblestone, exhausted, for about 3 hours. I finally found the Omni Pass office in a shop that I had passed at least 6 times, got my pass, and then joined the 2:00pm tour of Sistine Chapel with only 10 minutes to spare. Then we walked to the the Vatican Museum (the one entrance you have to enter Capella Sistina through there, the only entrance). I wondered through and made a beeline to the chapel, running up many stairs and down many stairs to get to the correct level to enter the Sistine Chapel.
I was so awestruck upon entering the Sistine Chapel. My visual senses were overwhelmed with color and I was visually overstimulated with trying to make sense of every square inch of walls full of frescoes of sacred symbols and figures. I found a spot on a bench and sat to take it all in. The level of detail was amazing, and the sense of light, shadow and depth really fooled the eye to think that the “marble” ornamentation was real, when it was all just part of the fresco. I was able to find the Adam and “God” figures reaching out hands across the space from the clouds where they reclined, though it took me awhile to realize that it was on the ceiling and not on the main wall.
After the chapel I planned to go up St. Peter’s Basilica, but I couldn’t find my way out of the Vatican Museum. I could see through the museum windows the dome of the basilica, but each common-sense way of going in in that direction was blocked off. I asked several security guards directions, and each one said that I had to go back up the stairs, back through the Sistine Chapel, and then out to the basilica.
I finally found the way out it, and went through the main level, full of statuary and sculptures marking the burial place of several popes. The decoration and gold-leaf and marble sculptures were all very intriguing to see. The monument to the burial spot of Saint Peter was marked by a very tall marble or black bronze with columns spanning up almost to the ceiling. At the bottom of the monument were candles and flowers that people had left in respect for sacred spot.
I had plans to meet two other artists by the Spanish Steps for dinner after that, and went on the train to the Spagna stop. I was ready at the door to that stop, but the train just kept going through that station without stopping. I got off at the next stop and took the train back in that direction, and again the train didn’t stop. I got off and on multiple trains to try to get to the Spagna stop, but nothing came through. I thought maybe there was a button or some way to let the conductor know that I wanted to stop there. Finally, while I was waiting for my 7th train, an announcement in Italian, then English, came through saying the the Spagna stop was temporarily closed. So I had to get back on the train to the next closest stop (Flaminio), and then walk about 2 miles to the place where we met for lunch.
Exhausted and soaking wet from the rain, it was really great to get indoors and get something to eat. Our waiter was wonderful, and the food was authentic and fresh. I got gnocchi al formaggio for a meal and we shared a caprese for antipasti. It was all very good. We talked and laughed and exchanged experiences in the city so far. We all shared dessert and I got a tea, which I then spilled all over because it came out fast from the pot. I walked back to the train, got off at Ponte Lungo and went back to my B&B and went to sleep after I got back.