Tuesday, September 20, 2011
You can be the President, I'd rather be the Pope - Prince
Whenever we told people that we'd be driving in Europe, the horrors of driving in Italy, Rome in particular, would always be issued as a warning. While the traffic is impressive and intimidating, Jacob drove in with his best Bring it baby - I'm from Southern California attitude and got us to the hotel with only a single honk directed our way. Now the car is safely parked and we're on foot for the three days we're here which makes me happy since apparently scooters and the like need not stop for red lights and they zip around you on all sides. At one point I actually saw two police officers zipping through traffic on their scooters, standing up and using both their hands to direct traffic while moving down the street at a pretty decent clip.
The first night we pretty much crashed in the hotel but we did manage to make it out for a bit of food. Just when I had resigned myself to eating potato chips and drinking wine for dinner, Jacob found a place where they featured several kinds of vegan pizzas already made.
Yesterday we were up bright and early to head out for our tour of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. We had been told by the hotel to leave at 7:15 am to catch the Metro to get to our tour departure location by 8:30. Unfortunately, we got there at about 7:45 and the tour didn't end up leaving until closer to 9:20 so there was a lot of standing around and I was worried that we'd lost Vaughn (emotionally, not physically) before it even began.
The tours get you straight to the front of the line, which is amazing, but you are still faced with massive crowds and lines at every turn. The entrance to the Vatican is like a huge airport terminal with everyone attempting to flee the country at once. You don't quite see the Sistine Chapel so much as survive it. A huge, packed room with guards all around clapping and pointing at those who attempt to take pictures and occasionally shouting, "Silencio!" I can't even imagine having the job of tour guide in those places. Our poor guide kept his cool even while getting extensively bitched out in Italian by another guide (presumably for not keeping our group of 50 far enough on our side to allow for passing) and by a security guard when a couple in our party fell behind and attempted to catch up by passing under a rope barrier.
Still, St. Peter's Basilica is amazing (and large - a key selling point after so many claustrophobic rooms) and Michelangelo's Pieta is breathtaking even from a distance. Vaughn held up remarkably well for a four hour walking tour (not counting the two hours BEFORE the tour began) of things that he cared very little about to begin with and practically despised toward the end of the tour.
Today was my dad and Martha's last day here and they decided to take Vaughn out and treat him the wax museum he'd been eying (perhaps I'd sufficiently guilted my dad by pointing out that I had always wanted to go to the wax museum at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf and we never did. The cycle of unmet wax museum expectations stops here). I think they had a good time despite the fact that it was primarily Italian notables, including a fistful of popes and Padre Pio da Pietralcina. Faithful readers may recall how tickled I am by translation documents so you'll appreciate this passage from the brochure regarding why the good Padre is notable: Still alive people venerated him; also thanks to the miracle working fame he acquired due to the assumed supernatural capacities he was endowed with, anyway he was also hardly criticized and suspected in ecclesiastic and laic milieus.
Another highlight of today was a visit to the Cappuchin Crypt where the bones of 4,000 Cappuchin monks are artfully arranged to form scenes that fill five rooms and line the ceilings and walls (check out the link to get a sense of just how beautiful and macabre this is). The final room has a plaque inscribed with the following: What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.