Timeline: October 16th – 18th
The next two days in Rome would be busy ones, with many sites of interest to be explored. We had purchased our tickets in advance for the Vatican Museum, scheduled to enter it at 2:00pm on Friday the 17th. We left for town on the bus and the metro planning to arrive early enough to take in St. Peter’s Basilica before touring the museum.
We stopped for a quick bite to eat prior to getting to St. Peter’s Square and upon arrival, quickly determined that the line to get into the Cathedral was longer than we cared to wait. We resolved to come to visit again early the next day and so with a stretch of time ahead of us until our scheduled entry into the Vatican Museum, we spent an hour or more window-shopping in the adjacent neighborhoods.
We lined up at our appointed time; glad to be bypassing the much, much longer line of non-ticket holders. This museum is huge, indeed as Steve’s describes it:
The four miles of displays in this immense museum— from ancient statues to Christian frescoes to modern paintings— culminate in the Raphael Rooms and Michelangelo’s glorious Sistine Chapel. This is one of Europe’s top three or four houses of art. It can be exhausting, so plan your visit carefully, focusing on a few themes. Allow two hours for a quick visit, three or four hours for enough time to enjoy it. (Steves, Rick (2013-10-29). Rick Steves’ Italy 2014 (Kindle Locations 19020-19024). Avalon Travel. Kindle Edition).
I’d last visited in 1979 and only remembered a few elements of the place. Even this late in the season it was crowded and some of the exhibits took awhile to get through as one waited for a path to clear. I recalled time spent with the Laocoon, and Joanna particularly liked the long hallways with tapestries. But the place is exhausting to traverse and by the time you get to the Sistine Chapel, you just want to sit down for a few moments and take it all in.
This is somewhat difficult to do as you share the space with an almost wall-to-wall crush of humanity, but I was fortunate enough to grab a seat on a ledge in the wall where I could spend some time tuning out the crowd noise as I tried to focus on this magnificent work of art. Pictures are not allowed in the chapel, which is just as good as trying to slice up bits of it in picture format just wouldn’t do justice to it.
It took another 30 minutes or more to walk through a seemingly endless hallway full of antique cabinets, holding how many numbers of Vatican treasures the mind reels at contemplating. We re-grouped at the the gift shop and it being late in the day, walked back out to Piazza Risorgimento for dinner at a Steve’s recommendation, L’Insalata Ricca. We split a few courses, all pleasant and filling yet not so out of the ordinary that a detailed recounting is necessary.
We rode the metro back out to the Corniglia stop and then after a short wait, prepared to board the bus. As a precaution based on many warnings about pickpockets, I’d transferred my wallet (with cash and credit cards) from my left front slash pocket to the left front leg pocket with a Velcro flap.
As I started to climb the stairs into the front of the bus, which only had one if its doors open, I felt an insistent pushing from behind me as if they were trying to get around me to board before I could. It aroused my sense of awareness without my thinking about it, and as the pushing intensified I felt a tug on the flap of my pocket. In one move I grabbed the hand and pushed it away, swinging around and shoving the fellow off of the bus as I yelled, “Get your hand out of my f-fing pocket.”
I can still see his face as he fell backwards and then disappeared into the crowd. It was a strange and intense encounter, one that I reacted instinctively to and one that would impact my thoughts for the next day or so.
We returned to camp, after a brief stop at the Panorama market across the street, to find that the air conditioning unit wasn’t functioning at all, rendering the room heavy with warmth. After complaining about it once again we moved units the next morning, finally occupying one that would consistently work. We’d arise early that next morning and make our way to St. Peter’s. The wallet would now be tucked into a zippered pocket. Just playing it safe.
Vatican Museum: http://www.museivaticani.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html
Sistine Chapel: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/CSN/CSN_Main.html
L’Insalata Ricca: http://www.yelp.com/biz/insalata-ricca-roma
St. Peter’s Basilica: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter’s_Basilica