Monday, October 10, 2005

My Italy Diary: Rome, Part 3

We didn’t get out the door until 11am this morning. We stopped for a cappuccino on our way to Vatican City to jump start our day. As we crossed Vittorio Emanuelle bridge we had a wonderful view of Castel Sant’ Angelo and wished we had enough time to visit it as well. We have both fallen in love with Rome and have vowed to return and spend a week just exploring this ancient city.
When you turn onto Via della Conciliazione, St. Peter’s Basilica looms in front of you. It is huge. There are shops along both sides of the avenue selling souvenirs, coffee, and of course, gelato. The line looks long, but actually moves pretty fast. The Basilica is free of charge and the lines are to get through the two security check points—the first to x-ray your bags and the second to make sure you are dressed appropriately. Women must cover their shoulders and cannot wear shorts or skirts above the knee, and men cannot wear hats.
We hooked up with a free tour of the Basilica which was very interesting. Our guide, Jason Pittelli, made standing in line go even faster as he shares a lot of interesting information about the Piazza and history of the Vatican. The Circus of Nero, where St. Peter was crucified and burned existed here. Constantine erected the Basilica. The Basilica is extraordinary. Tourists are allowed to take photographs with flash) as the original paintings have been removed and are replaced with mosaics.   
Our first stop was Michelangelo’s “Pieta” which is protected by glass after an attack in 1972 when it was hit with a hammer, taking off Mary’s fingers and nose. Her nose was replaced with a piece of marble from her back and so she is only viewed from the front. Her fingers were quickly snatched up by tourists. Michelanglo was only 25 when he completed the Pieta. When the work was credited to another sculptor, he snuck in and signed the statue “Michelangelo did this” or something to that effect.
Next we visited the canopy above St. Peter’s tomb, the “Baldacchino” by Bernini. When Bernini was halfway finished with the canopy he ran out of bronze, and Pope Urban VIII told him to steal it from other monuments. Bernini stole the bronze he needed from the Pantheon. The bees on the columns are from the Barberinin crest.
After lunch, we chose to take the paid tour with Jason of the Vatican Museum. Two myths about Michelanglo are 1) he wanted to paint the Sistine Chapel and 2) he painted it on his back. He didn’t want to paint the Chapel at all. He considered himself a sculptor, not a painter. Raphael tricked Pope Julius II into getting Michelango to do the fresco—something he hadn’t done before—because they were great rivals. But, once Raphael saw the work Michelango was doing he changed his own style (Raphael was a very popular artist and went everywhere with an entourage, while Michelango was a loner).
Michelango painted the Sistine Chapel, depicting the Creation of the World and Fall of Man in backward chronological order. He figured by the time he was finished (at which point he would be at the point where the Pope entered the Chapel) he would be good. At the time of the paintings, only men were models, so most of the women in the paintings look like men with breasts. In the panel “Creation of Adam,” under God’s left arm is Eve and God is sailing in on a brain. In the “Last Judgment” Jesus’ right arm is above and behind his head. When the “Laocoon” was uncovered, the right arm was missing. A replacement arm was added which extended up. Michelango stated that the arm would not have extended up, but would be bent behind the head. He painted Jesus’ arm this way as a statement of his belief. When the arm was found (and is attached today), it was as Michangelo expected.
After viewing the Vatican we took a stroll through the Campo di Fiori and did a little shopping. We finished the evening with dinner at il Coral then went back to the hotel to pack in preparation for leaving for Capri.

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