Friday, September 08, 2006

Travel Journal, Part VI


07/19 - Tuesday

I'm finally in Rome. It's very small in comparison to São Paulo, but its history is bigger than books can describe. While seaching for my hotel in the citymap I realized how easy it was to cross the whole Rome on foot! But I don't want to get tired just now (I'm still recovering from Florence) and I want to walk to the Vatican City today!

Vatican is just fifteen minutes by bus from my hotel, so I didn't waste any time getting there. When I saw a huge brown wall I knew I had arrived but I wondered where the entrance was so I asked a woman that was sitting by my side "Per favore, signora, dové la fermata per il Vaticano?" "Per i musei?" I hadn't thought about going to the museums at that time, it was past 11am and I was afraid I wouldn't have the time to see everything, but I answered that I wanted the museum first and she told me that I should get out in the next stop.

It may be silly of me, but I'm extremelly happy to have so many polite people here in Europe, back in Brazil you just can't ask information to everyone, some won't even stop to help you! But here, they tell you what you want to know and even give an advice or two to make the trip easier. I love the Italians!

Anyway, I went down in the stop the woman told me and there I was, at the entrace of the Vatican Museums.

I heard once that if you stand for ten seconds in front of every artwork in Vatican you're going to take twelve years to get out of there. Vatican is huge and shines with gold! The ceiling is golden and the corridors seems to go on forever.

But let's start from the beggining, it's about twelve euros to get in there and they check you up to make sure you don't have bombs in your purse. When you get inside, the first thing you see is a staircase leading to an inside garden which you have to cross to get inside the museums.

Just a little history information here: The museums started because the pope Giulio II was passionate about art and started putting statues in the huge Vatican Garden back in 1503. But it was only about 1700 that the museums really started to be constructed with the help of Michelangelo and Raphael.

The first museum is the Egiptian one, but before getting there I crossed thousands famous statues, with the most famous statues ever. I never thought I'd see half of those (first because most of them were in France inside Louvre). First was Laocoonte:

And then Venus:

They looked like they were merely decoration for a small garden. There were hundreds little statues that unfortunatelly I didn't have the time to see everything. That small place is the Pio -Clementino museum, which is open air, something that really worried me because all those statues would face rain and wind... but I'm not the one to worry about it, I bet they have something to protect those statues.

Then I walked inside a huge room with a big circular table with twelve statues around it.

I turned around the table and across the room and arrived in a corridor that had two options: right for Egiptian Museum or Left to the Etruscan Museum.

Choosing right, I found myself walking across ten rooms of Egiptian artfacts, between coffins, mummies, statues and pieces of priceless collections that the time didn?t take away. There also are documents and many vases surprinsly intact.

The Etruscan Museum have twenty one rooms, the firsts had tombs, bronzes, stones, funerary urns of the hellenistic period, sarcophaguses, then more rooms of vases, bronze, terracotta, ivory and glass. The vases really are the most important part of the Etruscan museum, just a small piece of ceramic holding thousands of years of history.

Then I went back to the other museums like The Animals Museum, The Busts, Statues Gallery, The Cabinet of Masks, The Room of the Muses and in the end, the Room of the Greek Cross where are some more sarcophaguses.

Little did I know that after hours seeing those Museums I still had more Galleries and Rooms inside the Palace to see and as much as I could read in the signs The Sistine Chapel wasn't far away either.

I found myself in the Gallery of the Chandeliers dumbstruck by the beauty I was seeing. Galleria delli Arazzi is where the golden corridors started and then I had my breath taken away by the Carte Geografiche (Maps) gallery. I didn't see one map, I just stared at the ceiling the whole time.

After that I started going through the S.Pio V rooms, the Room Sobieski, then Borgia Tower, Sala dell'Immacolata Concezione, Sala dei Chiaroscuri, Cappella di papa Nicola V and finally the Raffaello's Rooms where I found the painting I studied since I was a little girl: The Athens' School. With Plato and Aristotle talking in the middle of the painting and the others students around them. The place where philosophy started. It was amazing to stand there and see it.

Around that room are four medalions with pictures that simbolizes The Poetry, Teology, Justice and Philosophy. Then I walked to the Contantino Room, with The Baptism of Contantino right in the right wall. Those paintings are huge, I didn't even have a decent camera to get all the details in one picture.

After the huge rooms of the Vatican Palace I went down a small staircase and entered in the first door on my left... I was quite surprised to find myself inside the Sistine Chapel. I thought it was somewhere far frm the Museums and not inside it!

I felt like fainting right there.

I wasn't ready to see it just yet.

At first when it was built it was supposed the be simple and humble chapel, without the arrogance all the other places inside the Vatican have. It was supposed to be a place to honor the popes, but then... with the renaissence and the explosion of creativity it became what it is today.

I'll talk about the ceiling later, first I must say that it's not only Michelangelo that painted inside the Chapel, but also other famous artists like Botticelli, with the breathtaken work of The Scenes of Moses' Life, measuring 348,5 cm x 570 cm. I believe it's the most complex work of Botticelli's life.

Other than Botticelli, there also are works of Perugino, Rosselli and Signorelli. When people talk about The Sistine Chapel, people think that Michelangelo painted it all, but in reality there are many artists involved in the project, aside from the architect Baccio Pontelli.

I was lucky that I visited the Chapel after the colors were restored and I must say that I never thought the colors were that bright. The characters, with the shadows and the colors, almost jump out of the painting, they almost look like statues and not paintings, it gaves the illusion that they are hoavering over us and not just painted in the cold afresco.

It's amazing that people say Michelangelo painted it against his will, believing that he was just more of a sculptor than a painter. Still he painted the richest treausure the mankind has ever seen. The paintings incluse the Nine Scenes of the Genesis Book:

1. The Separation of Light and Dark
2. The Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Planets
3. The Separation of Land and Water
4. The Creation of Adam
5. The Creation of Eve
6. The Temptation and Expulsion
7. The Sacrifice of Noah
8. The Flood
9. Drunkenness of Noah

Then, followed by The Ignudi, The Seven Prophets:

Daniel (DANIEL)
Ezekiel (EZECHIEL)
Isaiah (ESAIAS)
Jeremiah (HIEREMIAS)
Joel (IOEL)
Jonah (IONAS) - on the opposite end to Zechariah
Zechariah (ZACHERIAS) - the first painting Michelangelo did, on the entrance end of the chapel

And then the Five Sibyls (Woman prophet):

Delphic Sibyl. (DELPHICA)
Libyan Sibyl (LIBICA)
Persian Sibyl (PERSICHA)
Cumaean Sibyl. (CVMAEA)
Erythraean Sibyl. (ERITHRAEA)

Then the Pendentives and The ancestors of Christ to finish the astoushining painting. It's quite unbelievable that it was one man's work.

Last Judgment is the last fresco to see in the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. He told the architect to close down two windows so he could paint it. Christ is in the center of the painting, taking the souls to heaven while the damned are sent down left to Caronte and Minos, to complete the painting the angels play their music and the dead come back to life.

I stood there for more than forty minutes, I wanted so much to live in that extraordinary artistic experience the rest of my life, but unfortunately I had to go. Before I did, though, I took out my camera and, being really sneaky, I filmed everything I could before getting caught.

I heard that the museums were about to close so I had to go away... I climbed down the circular staircase that I found really unique and exited the museums, taking my time to eat something and use the restroom. I didn't notice that I had spent more than seven hours inside the Museums and I still wanted to see the Saint Peter Basilic.

I was very grateful that it gets dark really late here. Exactly at 6pm I was able to get inside St. Peter's Basilica. I can't say how overwhelmed I was... Today must be the happiest day of my life and I'm not exagerating.

I wish I had words to describe the size of that basilica. As soon as I stepped inside I felt pathetic. My ability to think and analize the artworks there completely vanished. My brain shut down and my chin hit the floor.

Seriously, I don't think I'll ever see something like that again. I was told the Liberty Statue, in NY would fit three times inside the basilica to the dome. To get the idea of the proportion of the dome take a look at the hundreds people standing there, following the red line.

Anyway, the greatness of St. Peter's is attributted to Michelangelo who was the finest artist since he was 20 years old (when he painted David). Well, the basilica has about four hundred statues, seven hundred collumns and they say the library (forbidden to everybody except the book-keeper) has more than 150 thousand old documents about all history of the church, including the Inquisition. It took more than 120 years to be completed and a great part of the money to build it was from the indulgencies.

One of the reasons why I went there was to see Michelangelo's Pietá. Around thirty years ago a vandal attracted the statue with an axe so now it's protected inside a glass box. The harmony and beauty are the perfect example for the renaissance. Michelangelo sculpted using this technic of reaching hamorny in pyramid design, which is the as hamonic as anything can get. The Virgin's young face is one of the ingenious mysteries the artwork holds.

I spent more than an hour walking around the basilica until I decided to go visit the crypt. I've got a somber fascination with thombs and death so I couldn't pass without going down the crypt.

First you must exit the basilica and turn around to the right side and walk 'til you reach this small down that has a small marble staircase which leads to the underground where are the remains of St. Peter (which I don't believe to be real, but my opinions aren't important at the moment) and where all previous popes are buried... well, not buried, their thombs are in ground level with beautiful statues of the dead pope on top of it so you can see how he was when he died.

Inside the basilica were some more thombs with the most important popes. There are one that the body won't decompose so they put him inside a glass so people can see his intact body.

I went up the dome and had the beautiful view of the St. Peter Square where I spent the rest of my day, because my feet were killing me so I just sat down right in the middle of it, grabbed a bottle of water and watched the sunset until I decided to get the bus back to the hotel.

Unfortunately I don't have anymore words in my vocabulary to explain how I'm felling right now, the size of that place, the importance of all that to the history!

Today was probably the most important day of my life.

07/20 - Wednesday


Today I couldn't stand waking up before nine am, I didn't get much sleep since I arrived in Italy and today I decided to be lazy. I had a delicious breakfast and went off through the subway to the Colosseum. The symbol of Rome.

The Colosseum was built as many other amphitheaters two thousand years ago as a place to entertain the population of Rome and the Ceaser, following the tradition of the Greek Theaters with one stage down and the public sitting around it to look down in the arena, with seats for 50,000 people and it was said that at least 5 thousand lived there.

Of course it didn't become famous because of the tradition of the plays, but because of the bloody gladiators combats where massacre was fun. But the construction has a sad history, it was built in 72 and only served it's purpose until 217 when it was hit by a lightning that damaged the structure, only to be restored and used again to the gladiator?s game 'til the rise of the christianity put an end on it, stopping the human deaths, but replacing it with the hunting and killing of wild animals brought straight from Egypt, Africa.

After that, two earthquakes completely destroyed the colosseum, reducing it to ruins... ruins with very good pieces of marble and good rocks and structure which were stolen through the years to build churches around Rome. What was left is what we can see today... and still be impressed.

When I entered there with a groups of american tourists I heard a History teacher saying something that's completely true: people go there to visit because of the gladiatiors not because of History. He made a bet with me, in his tourism group were several teens and he asked them if they knew who was the first emperor of Rome and hell, one of them answered Marc Anthony (the answer is Otavianus Augustus)! Really, people are misinformed and they didn't care about the importance of the Roman times at all, they all thought about the Gladiators. Well, it still is some kind of inheritance we ocidental people got from the Romans, the 'kill first, think later' tradition.

The arena was built on top of a maze that had thousands of animals in there, such as girafes, lions and even rinos. I took a walk around the galleries and the staircases that were rebuilt. I don't have much to add about it, really, it's huge and I walked inside the place for more than three hours, exploring every little cave and wall.

My trip didn't end at the Colosseum, which is just a small part of what we have to see about Rome. I bought a hotdog and sat down on the ground to eat while seeing the outside of the amphitheatre. When I was done I entered the Roman Forum, which size is also impressive.

The Roman Forum were the smelly center of the Roman Empire, where the senate was and where the trade usually was done. They commercialized animals, food, slaves and of course, prostitutes. There were several temples such as Castor and Pollux's, Romolu's, Saturn's, Concord's and Ceasar's followed by several archs and basilicas. The Via Sacra is the main street that conducts to the Colosseum to the end of the Forum.

When I left the Forum I continued to the main street which leads directly to Michelangelo's architect work: The Campidoglio Square, on top of the Capitoline Hill with museums around it and several bronze statues.

I went down the Cordonata staircase (from which I slipped and almost hit the ground with the camera) that lead behind the huge Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II, built by Giuseppe Sacconi and finished in 1911. It's pure white marble and there are so many security guards around it that they won't let you sit down in the staircases, they won't let you stand too long in the same place and they won't let you take off your shoe to scratch your toes (yeah, I learned that the hard way).

The Monument holds the Thomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame of Italy. I was told most countries has an Eternal Flame burning, but I've never seen one in Brazil.

The view from the top of the Monument is breathtaking. In one side you see the old Rome, the Forum and the Colosseum, and the other you see the modern Rome, with its buildings and technology and both sides amazingly fit together in a rare combination.

When I made it back to the subway the sun was aready setting so I decided to go back to the hotel and rest. I took a long bath because, seriously, walking through ruins is a very dirty thing. I didn?t know where I had more dust in, my hair or my shoes.

07/21 - Thrusday

I had today to visit Piazza di Spagna, I thought it was going to be huge and take the whole day to walk around it, but nope, I was mistaken, the Square is very small, but very beautiful nonetheless, except for the tourists that made the place somewhat unbearable.

On the left side there is a museum for the english poets where Keats Shelley died and right in front of the famous staircase Scalinata di Spagna there is the Antico Café Grecco where the poets and the genious would get together to discuss phylosophy and poetry. That's where Wagner, Goethe and Lord Byron had their coffees.

The Fontana Della Barcaccia is a place where you can sit and wet your feet if you want, nobody jumps on you and say it's forbidden to be there (I?m still a little shocked by the behavior of the security in the Monument, yesterday).

Then I climbed up the staircase to meet the Trinità dei Monti where I couldn't get inside, even if it was possible, I didn't see a single open door.

I decided to get out of there because as beautiful as that sight was the tourists were getting on my nerves, so I walked down the Via Propaganda and ended up arriving at Fontana di Trevi... the place where my favorite scene of all times was filmed.

I'll review the movie in another post, but my point here is that Fontana di Trevi, to me isn't a wishing fountain as everybody believes, to me it?s where cinematrograpphy and poetry found each other in a memorable scene.

The water in the fountain is christal blue. It is the biggest in Rome and the name is attributed to the young woman Trivia who showed the soldiers the fountain around 18 miles away from it. It was built in 19 b.C by Agripa, but then rebuilt and finished in 1762 by Nicola Salvi.

Right in the middle there is a statue of Netune holding sea-horses and I could've spent the whole day sitting there, but an hour was enough. I stood up again and walked to the famous Pantheon, the most preserved temple in the whole Rome which is the center of the old Rome two thousand years ago.

Inside the Pantheon are thombs, like everywhere else in Italy. It was the place where monarchs were buried and so was the great artist Rafaello. There is a circular hole in the ceiling that let the sunlight shine inside the temple above one thomb at each time of the day. It's a very beautiful thing to see.

From there I went straight to Piazza Navona and saw all the beautiful coffee shops that surrounds the whole square, a great example to the shop - window- city theory I studied once. This Square was once used to atlethic competitions.

There are three baroque fountains in the square, the one in the middle is the biggest, called Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fontain of the Four Rivers) and each statue standing there symbolizes a river: Nile, Prata, Danubio and Ganges.

It's basically the social center of Rome, where people sit, drink a glass of wine, hear some good music and watch people walking around.

Unfortunately the day was almost over so I walked to the Campo de Fiori, a square in which is a famous and old street market. The history of this market is basically about famous murders; this is where Caravaggio and Cellini killed their enemies and where Giordano Bruno was burned to death by the Inquisition.

Well, I didn't have much left to do, the stores and museums were closing so, I got in the subway and returned to the hotel.

07/22 - Friday

I decided to visit CineCittà today, but unfortunately I found it closed. I thought it was possible to visit the place with a guide or something, but I just couldn't. I must say that that place is astounishing. I wonder if every big movie studio have that size? Damn, Cinecittà was the only think Mussolini did right!

But since I was pissed off I decided to shop. I didn't buy a single souvenir (well, except a small gondola in Venice) since I got here so I decided to be a girl and not a art-chaser and went shopping! I bought perfumes, scarfs, makeup, lipstick, skirts, hats, books, movie posters and so on.

The day ended quickly, even if today was the only one I picked to shop, I still felt frustrated because I could be admiring one more of the wonderful works of Caravaggio, instead of shopping; but when I decided to get inside a museum I was carrying so many bags that it was impossible.

Today was my last day of Rome and I didn't even see half the museums of the city, I just passed by the most famous places, but still I got to return here someday and visit Santa Maria Maggiore and Museo Nazionalle Romano.

I can't believe I couldn't see cinecittà!

Well, "Arrivederci Roma".

Goodbye, goodbye to Rome
City of a million moon lit faces
City of a million warm embraces
Where I found the one of all the faces
Far from home

Arriverderci, Roma
It's time for us to part
Save the wedding bells for my returning
Keep my lover's arms outstretched and yearning
Please be sure the flame of love keeps burning
In her heart.

Oh my gosh, I don't want to go!