Wednesday, April 9, 2014

last day in Rome

I have to say, I will not be sad to leave Rome tomorrow. I do not remember even India being this insane a place – though I think there my memory may be faulty. But the city is mad, incredibly crowded with tour groups and especially school groups from every country on earth, particularly Germany. I did have a brief flash of what hearing that language would have meant here 70 years ago. And then put that thought away.

Thank God for my Brucie, who had booked Vatican Museum tickets for us months ago, and steered me to the Vatican via the subway and then through the masses at the entrance. He had chosen 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, which is exactly when the pope gives his public address in St. Peter’s Square, in the hopes that the millions would be there and not at the museum. And in fact, though there were countless people, he said there were fewer than the last time he was there.

We parted ostensibly for the day, he to the Pinacotheque, the art gallery, and I to the Sistine Chapel. It’s a long walk to get there though endless galleries of extraordinary stuff, including work by Raphael, but I kept resolutely going. Click to enlarge.
The last time I was in Rome, to visit a friend living here in 2005, the pope died a few weeks before I came; there were millions of pilgrims, the funeral playing on giant screens in every public square, and the Sistine was closed. But this pope looks healthy and very cheerful. I hate to say something nice about the Catholic church, but he has a lovely face.

The Sistine is as extraordinary as you’d expect. The experience is surreal, enclosed in that small dark space with one of the great works of art of the planet and twenty thousand spectators, gawking upward and being shouted at by the guards not to use cameras and not to talk. “Quiet! No phone!” And there, above and at one end, the magnificent artistry of Michaelangelo. And on the side walls, Botticelli and other great painters.

And all along the corridors on the way out, priceless treasures of antiquity and later. The wealth and power of this church are astounding.

I’d persuaded Bruce that we should bring a sandwich, as he complained the last time, he stopped nearby for lunch and paid 18 euros for 2 coffees and a bun. So I’d made us two salami sandwiches. I stepped out into the huge courtyard to eat mine – and who was there but Brucie having his? So we compared notes and had some coffee, and then I went to the Pinacotheque and he went off to see some other stuff.

I saw the stunning alterpiece by Giotto
Fra Lippo Lippi
Frescoes by Melozzo da Forli
Raphael – including the prophet Elijah, to the left, which I will show his namesake, my grandson in Toronto
And the always extraordinary Caravaggio, so modern, violent and immediate.
And Saint Matthew by Guido Reni
And now out into the hot sun to make my slow way back. Huge huge lineup in St. Peter’s Square to get into the church.
Some pilgrims from – Estonia?
Was looking for a paper store near the Pantheon

and found it, bought a little handmade address book to replace my last one, bought last time I was here, that’s now falling apart.

Got lost a few times but not as badly as before. And fought my way through the crowds back to the apartment, to get immediately into the bathtub. Beyond weary, full of magnificence and aches.

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