120507 Rome 7 May Monday

Today commences with a dull overcast sky with rain.  Not a good look but not as bad as yesterday.

After breakfast, we board our bus, which is to be our mobile home for the next 2 weeks.  It is well done out both inside and out.  The title on the side of the bus is ‘Pleasure on Wheels’.  There is a caricature of a shapely woman on the back door, which even our Tour Director had not noticed.  Inside, the roof is bright pink and the chairs have dashes of the same pink.  Rather classy indeed – especially when it is full of retired, or close to retired, folks from down under.

We make our way to St Peters Square.  While getting off the bus, my video camera drops on the sidewalk – sh……ucks is heard!  Just a broken ring that holds the wide-angle lens on is slightly damaged but can still do its job.  Man, I was so thankful.  And then when fitting the lens at one point, a passer by knocks my arm and the wide-angle lens drops to the ground.  Thankfully, no further damage.

The line of people into St Peters museum is probably over 1km.  We take the fast lane as we have a set booking time.  We go through security and purchase tickets at 15 Euros (a group discount) normal entrance fee is 17 Euros.  There are an average of 22,000 visitors per day.  That’s over $120 mil per year.  A tidy sum indeed – and no taxes either.  We head towards a scale model of the entire Vatican representing 44ha or 108 acres.  The area we are visiting is only a small portion of this immense display of wealth and hypocrisy when you think that the money collected could be spent on so many poorer groups of people in the world.  Magnificent sculptors, intricate tapestries and the many works of Michelangelo line the, what feels like, 1 km of display in the one hallway.

We enter the Sistine Chapel, said to be a Holy Place.  It is a private chapel of popes and the site of the secret conclaves at which cardinals elect new popes.  From 1508 to 1512, Michelangelo painted the ceiling with the saga of humanity from the Creation to the Flood, the largest work ever accomplished by a single artist.  Twenty-three years later, he painted the Last Judgment on the Sistine’s alter wall.

From here we enter the magnificent St Peter’s Basilica, consecrated in 1626.  It is the largest church of any kind or religion, in the world.  The church spreads over more than 1.5 ha.  Amid the basilica’s breath-taking array of gold, mosaic, marble and guilded stucco, the supreme masterpiece is Michelangelo’s Pieta, a superb marble statue of the Virgin cradling the body of Christ.

After a counter-lunch, we bus to the Colloseo.  This is the fourth time I have visited the site and it is true that the best time to be here is 5:30am, when no one else is around.  However, large crowds visit this site each day, although not as many as St Peters.  We enter the stadium where history tells that the gladiators had a wonderful time filling in the day by killing people and exotic beasts from around the world.  70,000 people would attend these ceremonies.  It took 8 years of manual labor to build this intricate arena, 3 giant walls thick and many entrances.  The people would be there all day to witness this gladiator sport.

We bus back to our Hotel, and after a short rest, we are taken to Piazza Navona where we have our welcome dinner in a sidewalk restaurant.  The sidewalks are lined with artists selling or painting their works.

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