Time To Catch You Up
31.08.2013 - 06.09.2013
Ok so my apologies for falling asleep every night instead of writing to you all. But by the end of the day all I want is to eat and crawl into bed.
Now that apologies are over let's get back to the interesting stuff...
So I left you on our journey to Pompeii.
We decided to get a private tour guide for just the two of us. Yes indulgent but somewhere we have both wanted to see so much.
This lovely lady Daniele had degrees in Archaeology and Art History and was a delight. She is passionately fascinated by the antiquities of Naples and lived at the bottom of Vesuvius.
Our 3 hours wandering Pompeii and asking questions and getting so many stories (as well as bypassing every tour group) was a great investment. She was able to put so much context to the life and really made this place come alive. And I must confess it felt soooo good to cut off some woman at the pass as she whinged about how she was 'in a queue here' to get in (to the brothel if I recall) by saying 'that's our tour guide'and having her just step back to let us through! I know I'm a bitch but sometimes I like it!
So having tackled roman and Neapolitan antiquity it was time to tackle the church. You know the one that is the smallest country in the world - the Vatican.
Again a guide but this time part of a much larger group. Having left the booking till the last minute I couldn't get us into any of the early morning, before the museums open to the public, tours that the Vatican has so kindly arranged with some tour groups at great cost to customers and presumably great profit to the Vatican as well. So while we were in theory early starting, by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel it was wall to wall people.
However our guide was excellent and had spent some time explaining the Chapel's art works to us on a big touch screen which he could zoom in etc. So by the time we got in there it made some sense even if it was overwhelming. BTW did you know the reason why you can't take pictures in there is not to preserve those beautiful frescoes but because some Japanese company paid a fortune to the Vatican to help with art restoration and for the privilege now have copyright on all the pictures!
But I must say it was pretty amazing to be in the space where the cardinals only recently chose the latest Pope, Francis.
The frescoes which we've all seen photos of (or at least portions of them) were beautiful but not as beautiful to me as the frescoes in the Raphael room. Just breathtaking. And probably closer as the ceiling wasn't as high. Not to say that I DIDN'T like the Chapel though! I've just become a fan of Raphael is all. And the sheer work involved for Michelangelo in achieving that exquisite masterpiece on that ceiling is of course mind-blowing. Apparently he got given the job as a kind shut-him-up penalty. Sure showed 'em!
Sadly while the museums and St Peter's Basilica are things of exquisite beauty, I somehow found them just a little too dedicated to reminding everyone over the centuries of the power of the papacy and less about offering this beauty as a path to God. For example I have found Saint Paul's Cathedral in London and Notre Dame in Paris so beautiful that they have moved me to near tears in their glorification of God and using the beauty to achieve that. Maybe I'm just a cynic!
Phil had an extra share of the Vatican when he went on a special tour down under the square and Basilica and saw the streets of family crypts and heard the stories. This was a tour I had to write away to the Vatican ask permission for him to attend. Tens of thousands move through the museums and Basilica each day but only 500 a day are led through these excavated ruins. He loved it and was fascinated by things like holes into these crypts which were there for when the mourning families would visit on their Loved One's birthday and on the anniversary of their death. The holes were so that they could pass food through to the body. Come on it might sound macabre but we are talking about the Dark Ages in the 4th and 5th Century.
This area is very near to the tomb of St Peter though there is still a question of significant proof that he is buried there. But it was a special tour which P found fascinating.
Overall Rome was fascinating but I just found it too busy and somewhat overwhelming. So again no falling in love, and We were both ready to move on.
But we will tell you more in the next instalment so you can go back to what you were doing before this update rudely interrupted you.
Ciao, arrivederci and all those other Italian words that now trip off our tongues