Vatican City

Trip Start Feb 27, 2008
Trip End May 28, 2008

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 21
We woke up and ate breakfast and found a café to buy snacks for our tour of the Vatican City. We paid 35 Euro's for the tour guide but let me tell you, it was well worth the money. First off you get to skip the line, and that's worth the money right there. At the time we went it was wrapped from the museum entrance around two corners and almost into St. Peters Square. Once inside the museum we were given little radio headsets and our tour guide was given a microphone. This allowed us to hear the tour guide without her having to shout. We also could meander around at our own pace and still hear what she was saying. The guide was very knowledgeable and it helped that she was from Canada so we could actually understand what she was saying. I heard a few other guides walk past us with very stiff accents and it made me glad we had paid the money for our guide. We saw the priceless collection of art, sculpture, and other collectables in the Vatican collection. Then we walked to the Sistine Chapel and my mind was blown. You've all heard about the ceiling but seeing it and hearing the stories about Michelangelo make it even more impressive. Also along the back wall was Michelangelo's other work "The Final Judgment" and if it's sheer size doesn't blow you away, the content of the work definitely will. I was a little disappointed by the number of people who disregarded the commands of the guards to stay silent in the holy building. There were even people attempting to take pictures after we were explicitly told not to. I can't believe what people do sometimes. But tourists are nothing compared to the Italians, we'll get to them in a second. The story of the Sistine chapel is this: For years and years the only way to light the chapel was with torches, and all the soot blackened the roof over the centuries. Even though the Vatican City is the most wealthy nation in the world, they didn't think that they had enough to restore the ceiling on their own, so they looked for people to help them out. In 1980 a Japanese TV company agreed to pay for the  entire restoration, however, they wanted exclusive rights to the images for a certain number of years. So that means, NO PICTURES. If you want a picture of the ceiling, buy a postcard so the Japanese TV company gets their royalty. Contrary to beliefs, the restoration only used distilled water to clean off the soot. After seeing the elaborate colors being unearthed, the Vatican accused the company of touching up the paint so they brought in a third-party auditor to ensure that only water was used. Michelangelo was an absolute genius aside from being a social hermit and having an ego the size of the ceiling. If you try to snap a secret shot of the ceiling and get caught, the guards will grab your camera and just start deleting, and they don't care where they stop! If you don't speak Italian they might not stop for a while because you can't plead your case with them. After the chapel we entered the Pizza Del San Pietro and saw the amazing dome and the high alter that is covered in scandal. Bernini sculpted the high alter and the items behind it on the back wall out of pure bronze. To get the bronze needed, he melted down priceless ancient Roman Bronze sculptures. But, he did have the decency to have his school make replicas out of marble before melting them down. Even after destroying all these priceless artifacts there was not enough bronze to complete the project so he went to the Barberini's to ask them what to do.  What they said was basically, "There's some bronze in the Pantheon isn't there? Why don't you just take that?". So, the entire inner dome of the Pantheon was stripped of its bronze so the High Alter could be created. This aggravated the Romans at the time and was the cause for the popular phrase "What the Barbarians didn't do to Rome, the Barberini's DID"! After seeing the church we walked into St. Peter's square and concluded the tour. Karla and I bought some postcards and then picked up tickets for the Easter service and then returned to our hostel to rest our feet. After a rest and some Gelato (ice cream) we walked down to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is the best preserved building from the ancient Rome and was until just recently was the largest dome in the world held without central supports or buttresses. The Pantheon was originally built as a Temple for all gods, but obviously this didn't fly when the Christians came into town so they turned it into a Catholic church. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it but I was a bit disappointed that all the bronze had been ripped off the ceiling. After that we walked down to the Trevi Fountain. It was absolutely packed with people and I couldn't really understand why so many people were around. I guess it was in a really famous Italian movie, so that could be part of it. We bought ourselves a bottle of wine and returned to the hostel for the evening. It had been a really long day. The people at the hostel were watching "I am legend" and we watched it with them, Will Smith is pretty much the only character so even though the movie was in Italian, we got the jist of it.  
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