Returning to this travelscape journal after several months means that this will be more impressionistic than journalistic. At this point, I am not sure you all (whoever you are) care about the epic vacation, but I would like to finish recording my impressions.
I have still not been home, so I don't have any pictures -- beyond those you paint in your mind from my words.
One last caveat -- probably not going to be in chronological order.
The Tree Lined Avenue
Somehow, one evening, we ended up on a large tree lined avenue. There were beautiful doors opening on to hidden gardens, gelatto shops, restaurants, houseware stores... but mostly this truly beautiful canopy of trees over a large avenue. I couldn't get there again, I am not sure how we got there. I think we wandered there from the Vatican, but I am not sure. My mom and sister snapped picture after picture, and I spent some time shopping for demitasse. Then it started to get dark, and I wondered where we were, and how we would get back to our neighborhood.
One day, we spent in line with the million or so other people who wanted to to get into the Vatican. I recall it as even less pleasant than when my mom and I saw the huge line at the Louvre. I must have had more stamina then ... in this line, you could "cut" to the beginning by being in an organized group. I kid you not, we hiked to the end of the line (about four city blocks) and settled in -- hoping it wasn't going to rain.
It is always somewhat disconcerting when you have to walk several blocks to the entrance and then KEEP walking till you get to the real end of the line. It was particularly painful to walk by the group line which was more like a trickle than the torrent of people in our line.
Then, we spent about an hour or so telling the "tour organizers" that we were not interested. I think at one point I said to one, "why would I have walked all the way to the end if I was going to say yes to a tour?"
They were an interesting lot ... you could almost see the wheels turning as they approached a group of people in line trying to determine which language to assail them in. The funniest was a young Irish man whose name I no longer remember, though we did remember it for a long time, who got quite irritated with us. I don't know what we said to set him off, but at one point, he told us not to pray for him because he didn't need to change anything in his life. It was funnier in the moment ... and every time we approached a church for the rest of the trip, we would ask each other if we should pray for him -- hence the remembering of his name.
We also made friends with a Colombian man ... he was traveling alone in Italy, but seemed to want to be part of our group. I can't remember his name either (maybe Miguel?), but my sister told me that recently he got in touch with her via email to send her some of the million pictures he took of her.
There was too much to look at in the Vatican. Like I said, it was overwhelming like the Louvre ... not just the line. My favorite part was the hall of busts and sarcaphogus(es?). I was tickled to see the range of hairstyles ... nothing in the world is new, in case you were wondering.
I also enjoyed the patio with the lions. We took pictures of all the lions we saw for my sister, and noted all the ducks, saying, "Aflac" because a friend of ours was about to get a job with that company.
It was truly exhausting to walk through all the halls with so many people bustling around us ... and it was not peak season ... only to get to another set of halls.
I just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel - and we took all the shortcuts, but it was never ending.
By the time we actually got to the Chapel, I was so done ... I couldn't enjoy it. I just kept noting how no one there had any idea what rules were or how they might be employed. The Italian guards tried over and over to explain that this was a holy place, to not take pictures, to lower our voices, etc. Instead there was incessant, loud chatter in a large room that had not one surface undecorated, but it hardly looked like a chapel...
I guess I can't really blame the visitors for not seeing the sacred there. The truth is the Vatican Museums, as they are called, do not give off any religious feeling. I am sure that if you are an art aficionado or connoisseur you would feel some bit of ecstasy at the collection of artists and work represented -- from earliest Christian (and even pre-Christian) history through modern times.
The Train Station
We spent another half of a day arguing with the woman at the train station ticketing office -- I longed for Germany and the first class line -- we spoke in English until she wouldn't do what I asked. Then I unleashed some Italian on her and she "Madame'd" me. It was a common occurrence in Italy ... when you had pushed someone, anyone, past where his/her sense of respectability could handle, he/she would look at you (me) and say, "Madame" as if to say -- you, crazy bitch. It is said with emotion that displays the ennui that has been engendered in two distinctive syllables: "Ma, DAME." There was no need to roll your eyes or sigh after that delivery. Well, I got Madame'd by her quite a bit.
She objected to us wanting to go to Naples for a day. Truthfully, so did I! But, it was going to be a rainy day, and I had no idea what we would do in Naples beyond eat pizza (that hardly takes all day). So, I wanted to go all the way past the Amalfi coast on the train and then come back to Naples and stop for the damn pizza. [By the way, I underestimated my mother and sister's ability to entertain themselves with shopping, ugh and sigh.] The ticketing agent was beyond indignant. She informed me that just because we had a rail pass didn't mean we could travel as much as we wanted. I had to tell her that, actually, that was exactly what it meant.
Finally, we relented and decided to just go to Naples. That restarted her objection to ONE DAY in Naples. Then she tried to bully us into leaving at 8am ... it was a 30 minute ride to the train station from our apartment... I hardly wanted to be getting up early enough for three of us to be dressed, breakfasted and traveled 30 minutes. She was a tough cookie and NEARLY as stubborn as me.
Her energy must have been waning because she sold us the ticket for 10am ... and a return at 5pm. Boy was she disappointed when I told her we were also going to make the rest of our reservations that day. Keep in mind there was a long line of people behind us, hoping to get a chance to get Madame'd by her. Fun times...MADAME!
There is more, but this is already too long of a post without pictures.
I was right ... by the way... a short time in Rome is not enough.
11 hours ago