The plazas are expansive, and need to be. Even with our “early entrance privileges” there are dozens of groups congregating around the diminshing shady locations. Christina delivers the inside scoop on the Sistine Chapel - which will be one of the hallmarks of this visit. We only get bits and pieces of the stories, however, thanks to the efficiency of the Holy radios.
Once the chapel has been explained, we embark on the first of three gallery walk throughs which will lead us to the chapel. The sculpture gallery is almost an afterthought - though indoors, there is no air conditioning, and sparse ventilation. Keep moving.
The best views were straight up.
From sculptures we move to the tapestries room. These are beautifully intricate, but prove difficult to capture in full. We learn that each one of these take years to create, and are centuries old.
Finally, we arrive at the map room. The maps were the will of Pope Gregory VIII, who commissioned development of these to showcase the vastness of his domain. They are remarkably detailed considering the limitations of the cartographers.
We are finally at the threshold of the Sistine chapel. Again, we are cautioned against photography, and of the need for silence.
The chapel does not disappoint. And we abide by the rules. It feels as though we are the only ones, as there is a low murmur inside the hall, one which is stilled only momentarily by the intermittent commands of an unseen speaker demanding “Silencio! Silence.” I see a priest in the corner, and grab Blaise’s rosary and request a blessing for the rosary and a prayer for Blaise’s back pain. The experience is emotionally overwhelming for me. Despite the throngs of people present, the visit is profound.
From the chapel we reassemble in St. Peter’s Square, and get a sense of the. vastress of this afternoon’s altar server event. Sixty thousand folding chairs.
We experienced huge crowds, mostly youth groups who were seeking shade in the columns surrounding St. Peter’s Square when we exited.
Our time on site, which seemed rather limited at the outset, turns out to be more than enough. The unrelenting heat is an adversary worthy of the most formidable of gladiators. We gratefully stagger toward the chilled coach, and head for home base, anticipating good talk, cold beer, and a nap before dinner, the day’s step count well above 10,000.
Dinner is spectacular. The venue is hauntingly close to our travels on Monday, as a sliver of the Colosseum is visible from the alley’s end. Entrance takes us downstairs, into what looks and feels like ruins of the ancient city. The meal itself is tasty, but it is punctuated with a trio of opera singing entertainers, which transform the quiet meal into a truly unique dining experience. These Trafalgar folk know what to track down and add to the itinerary.