Monday, 10 December 2012

Day 106 Vatican City and Villa Borghese

Thank God for low season!

I went down to the Vatican today, and luckily there were no lines, no waiting whatsoever! And this at a place famed for how busy it gets. If you're going to be there in the summer, for sure reserve online! I saved more than half the 15 euro Museum fee with my student discount (win) and St. Peter's Basilica, like every other church in Italy, is free!

Being at the Vatican was quite an experience. St. Peter's Basilica is massive, and so opulent. Really makes you wonder how a religion preaching charity is doing on the whole, "put your money where your mouth is." The church is beautiful though, and full of huge statues of former Popes and saints (sometimes the same thing...). The frescos and gilding are everywhere, but honestly it's sort of just like every other Catholic Church I've visited, but on steroids. I had the hardest time finding the cryot, or grotto, where many of the Popes are buried along with St. Peter's remains. It's a crazy hidden staircase near one of the statues, and after all my poking around I made it down there.

the Vatican's "Death Star"
There are gorgeous frescos everywhere, and honestly, I couldn't quite understand the hype behind the Sistine Chapel. It's obviously stunning, no doubt a masterpiece, but there are some gorgeous ceiling paintings all over, in rooms far less crowded. The Sistine Chapel, is kept really dark to protect the art from the sun, and full of people bumping into each other with their necks getting cricks. I discovered that I'm not really a museum person, and while I'm incredibly impressed with the talents of others, I am completely incapable of 'getting' the nuances. As I was leaving, I ran into two guys and we started talking... turns out their names were Sean and Shawn, and they too were at the Yellow! We stopped at a market on the way home and picked up some (illicit) wine, and parked it at the itty-bitty balcony near the dorm room. I unfortunately was left drinking with two Brazilian newcomers from across the hall... ahhh Rome.

Having seen the sights, and the Vatican, I decided to walk to the Villa Borghese Park, where I spent a few hours meandering around. Ensconsced in the trees is a darling lake, which features an old temple to the healing god Aesculapius, around which couples rowed and basked in the sun. I found an awesome bench to chill on, and as I caught up on my journal (which I miraculously managed to finish despite grossly neglecting this blog), I was awkwardly attacked by crows though, which sort of ruined the vibe... Katie, the girl I'd walked around with a few nights before, had accidentally booked a viewing at the Borghese Museum for the day she was flying out, and had graciously given me the tickets to use. Sean and I met and headed into the fabulously decorated villa. Most of the impressive pieces were those commissioned by the family to decorate the house before it was turned from a private residence into a display for sculpture and art. The most incredible piece was one done by Bernini called Daphne and Apollo, in which she is part tree and part woman as he catches up to her. You are not allowed to take any photos, so I'll just have to remember it... or search it on google!
The Temple of Aesculapius at the Villa Borghese Park.

Can you believe they sell wine like this?
Another slow night, I repeated my balcony secrecy with some new friends. Sean and Shawn had moved hostels owing to the lack of space, but we would be meeting up in Athens at the City Circus, which I was excited for. At the end of a full night of hanging out with cool travellers, I turned in, alarms set so I could catch the airport bus departure, and head off to the second last country on this amazing trip of mine.

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