My Mediterranean Journey, Day 2 (Part 1)

We awake refreshed and ready to begin another exciting day in Rome. We enjoy breakfast at the hotel restaurant buffet. At some point someone requests another chair at our table, and they bring a highchair. Seriously, my daughter’s seven. We all look at each other for a moment, while the guy is attempting to assemble it. I say to him we don’t want that. He nods like he understands, and continues. Finally I raise my voice a bit and say No. Now he gets it. Weird.

Our tour guide meets us at our hotel, and he is a pleasant soul. He introduces himself to each of the nine of us, including the four children, with reverence. His English is very good, and we are delighted to have him guide us through the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. My father-in-law wondered aloud what one vehicle would accommodate now ten of us plus a driver and all of our luggage. It is an elegant Mercedes bus that seats twenty, and we are plenty comfortable stretched out in the wonderful air conditionI got. This is the way to go. We are stylin’. The four kids take the back row and sit together, of course.

Giovanni has a microphone on the bus and he tells us how “exciting” he is to show us the Vatican. We smile as his English is charming. He even has a little flag and headsets for us. Couldn’t be better. Unless, of course, there was less heat and humidity. A girl can’t have everything, I guess.

I am drinking this all in. My hubby and his parents have all been here before. My sister-in-law and the kids and I, it’s our first time. SIL seems tired, her kids (age 15 and 10) seem disinterested. FIL is watching us all. MIL is uncomfortable in the heat. I mean, we all are. I want for my kids to appreciate it just a tad more than them seem to be. They keep drifting towards their beloved cousins. Each corridor is more amazing than the previous. There are so many statues, and we won’t even see all of them. They are gorgeous. The corridors of tapestries amaze me: there is such detail in the weave, even the table corners depicted appear so realistic, they seem to have depth. One corridor appears to have crown molding and sculptured frames, I am amazed to discover that it is all painted. The detail is such that it appears to have the depth and texture and shadow of raised sculpted crown molding and framery.

My daughter is now crying, as she is tired of walking. I suggest that I bring her ahead to the Sistine chapel and wait for the group there. Hubby says no, this is the Vatican, he will take care of her as I enjoy the museum. I appreciate this. It is like all of my years of Catholic schooling come into play. And I am proud to have learned. We enter a corridor of cartography, and Dear Son quietly whips out his own camera-phone. I am delighted. My three-time school geography champion and two-time state finalist has found his mecca. It feels that we are moving too fast, I want time to slow down (and air condition to come on) but we have to make sure that we can get to the Port on time.

Now we come to the Blessed Virgin Mary room. This is the room which houses the infallible papal proclamation of Mary’s sinlessness. There is a structure as long as the room encasing the proclamation in books in many languages, topped with a statue of Mary and framed with paintings all along every wall. The family has found a portable A/C unit and the hover over it in one corner. But I am overwhelmed with a feeling of, presence. I move slowly through this sacred room and marvel at the paintings, but what I feel throughout my body is that Mary is here, in a special way. My words can hardly do justice. I am almost moved to tears and I don’t want to leave this room, but we must proceed as many tour groups are being shuffled in and out.

Now we enter the Sistine Chapel. Giovanni had given us an introduction to the Sistine Chapel earlier, as tour guides are forbidden to speak inside this chapel. There are also no photographs allowed. He tells us of the meeting point, and leaves us on our own for abut fifteen minutes. The guards are constantly shushing everyone over the amplified speakers, and we are crowded like sardines. My husband sees me and encourages me to enjoy the room privately. My tears are now flowing and I cannot stop them. I am so glad we are seeing this today and after the renovation. The colors are so striking and the scenes depicted are so detailed. It is so beauteous, and I am again overwhelmed. I keep thinking that Michelangelo was here and he painted all of this and here we are seeing it today. It is so marvelous and there are so many details to drink in, I wish I could spend hours there. But of course, I cannot. My husband asks our guide for just a little more time, and we are granted ten minutes. It is not enough, but it is something.

We move now toward St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter’s Basilica. This is a beautiful amazing colossal cathedral with many side chapels. Highlights include the great doors, the Bronze structures at the altar and behind, of course the tomb of St. Peter is below (only specially guided tours have access), the dome, and of course Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Pieta is Mary holding Jesus after he has died on the cross. Michaelangelo’s sculpture is significant because he depicted Mary as young and sacred, almost the same age as Jesus. And Jesus is depicted as nearly sleeping, there are no scars nor holes in his body, no blood. This Pieta is special in that its subject is depicted in such an nontraditional manner, so serene, per Michaelangelo’s vision. Giovanni encourages the children to take in one last view of the cathedral interior before we leave, saying they will never see anything more beautiful.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

(I’m not sure they believed him.)

As we exit, I follow my mother’s instructions to find the rosary street vendor. Happily, he is right where she said he’d be, and we buy her a dozen red-wood bead rosaries. They are beautiful.

The family eats at a fast café kind of place, and it’s the worst pizza ever. Seriously, it’s like spaghetti-o’s sauce on cardboard. But no matter, we have seen the Vatican! We head for our private bus and enjoy glorious air conditioning and free wifi for the hour it takes to get to the Port of Civitavecchia.

In my next post, I will detail our embarkation and the Emerald Princess.

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