Well, it’s been a busy week for us here in Rome (We’ve spent nine days here! How did that happen?), so I guess it’s time to get back to filling you folks in on it…up to day four. Yeah, I’m sorry, I know I’m not a very diligent updater.
Anyways, even after the Colloseum, Forum, Palatine, and Appian Way, we still weren’t tired of ruins, so we took an early train to Pompeii by way of Napoli. On the way to the old city we were accompanied by a very friendly dog hoping for handouts (we were carrying cheese, of course, so we must have smelled quite promising). It seems there are a bunch of basically stray dogs, very well behaved, that live in the ruins and are fed and taken care of by the tour guides, which I thought was quite cool. Having had my morning canine fix, it was on to the ruins.
– The whole city. Seriously, it was awesome. Because the disaster was so complete everything got preserved, and you can just walk around through it. The only problem is that it’s a little too much. At first we were easily impressed and looking at everything (“It’s a pot! Quick, take a picture!”), but by the end we had to rush to get to most of the major site (“Huh, another beautiful mosaic. Well, let’s move on.”) You really are walking through an entire city.
– The bars. These things were everywhere. They were low counters with jars set in them for serving hot food and beverages. Basically the fast food joints of their day.
– The houses. Some of them had been partially restored (roof added, garden in the courtyard, etc), so you could get some sense of what they would have been like when they were in use.
– The art. Many places still had the original paintings on the walls (and on the ceilings, where they still existed) and the mosaics on the floor. There were also some remaining statues and sculpture.
– The plaster casts. These weren’t really what you’d call a highlight, but they were interesting in a tragic sort of way. The archaeologists would pour plaster into the hollows in the ash left by bodies, so you see these people’s last moments. There’s one of a man sitting and trying to cover his face with his hands…it’s a sad reminder that, even though it’s great to be able to see this city today, it’s only possible because of this devastating volcanic eruption.
Wow, so on that cheerful note, I’m going to turn this post over to Janak to talk about the Vatican Museum. To be added soon…
Pompeii was a long day, so we thought we would attempt a slower paced day: the Vatican Museum / Sistine Chapel. That was closed (again), so we ended up with an even slower paced day of wandering downtown – this resulted in delicious gelato, the discovery of awesome sculptures in back of the Vatican near piazzale Garibaldi, 4 churches, and a perfectly preserved temple of Vesta that just happened to be looming at the end of a crosswalk. All in all quite a satisfying day considering how aimless it was. The hostel had filled up that night – more people in the kitchen cooking with us = more friends to be made. Needless to say, our sleeping hours have diminished 🙂
The third shot at the Vatican museum was the charm – when we finally arrived, I was a bit confused because I was stumbling through what appeared to be a condensed Louvre. Apparently the Vatican collects all sorts of artifacts of historic significance with or without any relation to catholicism, because they can (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, etc?). A particular highlight for me was a series of 4 rooms that Raphael completely pwned right before you enter the Sistine Chapel. Sadly because its not the Sistine Chapel nobody seems to even notice or mention it? But naturally, the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking – hardly an actual chapel but certainly a testament to the divinity of Michaelangelo’s painting ability. Sidenote: The colors used are a lot more… neon than people expect. God sports a neon pink toga.
At the end of our massive Vatican museum tour, we stopped by St Paul’s basilica, because I wanted to see ‘that other apostle.’ As it turns out, even though its the second largest basilica, and contains the original tomb of St Paul, it was completely empty in a city like Rome. My guess is because everyone goes to St Peter’s. I definitely took advantage of the solitude and had a wonderful meditation in the silent church while David explored its architectural and artistic magnificance.
Until the next post (very soon)