Day 8 - 03/07/2002 - Italy
Some people that know me well would know that if I could pick one place in the world to see, it would be the Sistine Chapel, so today was going to be a bit of a dream come true for me.
Greg and I went into the city (kindly escorted by my cousin Michaela) - the train system was reasonably efficient. People cross the train tracks between platforms. Cost of public transport is good - approx AU$7 for a whole day of any public transport for the suburbs and the city. They do not check tickets when you board trains/buses etc, which is very convenient, but they sometimes have ticket inspectors (did not encounter one during our whole stay in Rome).
First stop was Vatican City - the smallest city in the world, but the capital of the Catholic church. The Pope lives here - poor bloke, he is looking very old and not well. We have a family friend who is one of his personal body guards - he confirmed for us that he really is not well at the moment. Greg thought that we almost might get to witness the election of a new Pope, but John Paul II survived today, so I guess that is not going to happen on this trip. My prayers are with the Pope.
Went to the Sistine Chapel, which is part of the Vatican Museum. You go through the museum to get to the chapel. All the rooms of the museum are amazing - the artwork on the walls (and of course the ceilings are remarkable. When we finally got to the Sistine Chapel, after hours of walking, it was almost an anti-climax. It was not too dissimilar to the majestic rooms we had been seeing leading up to the chapel. Seriously, the chapel was brilliant, however, the whole museum was of a similar quality and I am confused as to why the chapel has had so much attention over the rest of the museum. Anyhow, the chapel itself has an amazing history, and I guess the fact that Michelangelo did so much of the artwork is what has made it so famous. I am impressed that he spent many painstaking years on his back, high up painting the ceiling (poor bloke developed a sickness as a result). Michelangelo originally did not want to do the paintings, because he considered himself a sculptor - I can not imagine how brilliant a sculptor he must have been after seeing the great quality of his painting.
MOVIE: Vatican Museum [MPG 900KB]
Like so many artworks, the more you look at the chapel, the most impressive it becomes. There were many signs requesting people not to make noise in the chapel, but unfortunately the authorities did not police this, and the room lost a lot of atmosphere with all the loud tourist chatter.
MOVIE: Sistine Chapel [MPG 990KB]
Went to Saint Angelo's Castle - it has a museum inside, but we didn't bother going (it cost money and we were short of time, but have heard that it is worth seeing). Then the Italian War Memorial that we walked past two days ago (Greg and I wanted to see it in more detail because it was so massive). Mostly made of marble and it is gigantic - we simply do not have buildings like this in Australia. It had some Marine guards out the front (standing still) with some pretty scary weapons in their hands (automatic riffles or something?) - but they were friendly and let us take a picture with them.
MOVIE: View From War Memorial [MPG 270KB], Colosseum And Italian Forum [MPG 320KB]
For lunch, I went looking for a Tortellini Bosciola (my favourite Italian pasta dish), because I wanted to try some in Italy. Got one from a cafe/restaurant outside the Pantheon for 6 EURO, which is pretty good for a place outside a tourist attraction ... like many things on this trip, it was a disappointment - not even as good as a standard pasta dish in Australia (maybe I picked a bad place).
Greg got McDonalds ... again.
Headed back to St. Peter's Square to climb St. Peter's Cathedral. Got to one side and they said it was the exit and to go around to the other side. Went around the other side and had to get a major security check done. Went to enter and some suave guy in a nice Italian suit calmly told us that we could not enter because we were wearing shorts! We went all that way there, only to find out we could not get in (I wish the attendants at the exit or security check could have told us earlier - especially annoying since it was a very hot day and we had already done a lot of walking).
MOVIE: St Peter's Square [MPG 530KB]
It was the one day that I did not wear my zip-off pants - all other shorts I have with me are zip-offs - we could not believe our bad luck. Anyhow, I did attempt some negotiations with the security staff, but when I saw how serious they were with other people, I backed off. It was funny because lots of our people had the same problem - they got to the entrance and were told they could not enter - some people got very angry. Apparently there was some ordination of some priests or something going on inside the cathedral - that is why there was a more strict dress code than normal. Greg and I complained that there should have been some signage explain the rules - we went back outside and found a little sign - we had to look pretty hard to see it.
MOVIE: Pedestrian Crossing [MPG 420KB], Pedestrian Crossing (Another Example) [MPG 990KB]
Frank picked us up from St. Peter's Square and took me to his favourite shoe store to get some extra cushioning for the innersole of my shoes - in hindsight, something I should I have bought before the trip (a hint for future travellers).
Frank then explained to Greg that he had an appointment with a beer, so he took us to a local bar for some local beer.
For dinner, we went to a nice local Italian restaurant. There was no menu! Pretty silly if you ask me - it involved asking the waiter lots of questions (which was made particularly difficult with the language barrier coupled with being tired). However the food was good. For entrée (in Italy, it is called "Antipasto"), you help yourself to a buffet (very nice). For mains we got pizza and pasta. For desert, some nice chocolate profiteroles. The food was really good (above average), but not the best in the world. All accompanied by some nice wine and sparkling mineral water.
Dinner was not an enjoyable as possible, because I was very tired (exhausted) from days of walking and doing the touristy things. I was grumpy and did not have fun - needless to say that I would not have been fun to be around either (apologies to my relatives). Note to self: "get more sleep" ... everyone else went to bed around 11pm - I didn't get to bed until after 1am! (for various reasons) hmmm, maybe I should put less effort into this diary and spend more time sleeping?