Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rome Treasures - Vatican Museum

We were travelling in the busiest tourist season so advanced reservations for some key sites were necessary.  While that locks you into a schedule, it saves you from LONG lines in the hot sun.  We'd gotten tickets for the Vatican Museums for Wednesday afternoon and again Friday evening and for the Borghese Museum on Thursday.

I had no idea what to expect at the Vatican, other than the Sistine Chapel.  The museums are huge, opulent, with hall after hall of magnificent paintings and frescoes, sculptures, tapestries, manuscripts, vestments, architecture. It's really a series of museums, collections of various popes.  It's crowded but there is so much to see on every surface, that it would be hard to go away feeling cheated!  Even the floors are filled with art!

We'd met my friend Christina Carlson, who suggested that the map gallery was of special interest to her - and I was glad she'd pointed that out.  It is easy to be glazed over by the time you get there, but it was fascinating - a long hall filled on both sides with maps of Italy as they were known in the late 1500's. Look it up online for more photos and the ceiling - extraordinary! The details in these panels were so interesting - you could spend much time deciphering them.
detail from map in gallery of maps

Laocoon and Sons
There are rooms and courtyards filled with ancient sculptures, including the Laocoon and Sons which had such an impact on later artists. 

I really loved the animal room in the Pio Clementino Museum; the sculptures were so lifelike, so lively.  And this was an area where the floors were particularly beautiful.

Floor Mosaic in Pio Clementine Museum
The Borgia apartments  were filled with frescoes, including gorgeous ceilings by Raphael. I couldn't get photos that would do them justice so I encourage you to look them up.  There are a number of sites, including Wikipedia.  Here's one:

Just before we got to the Sistine Chapel, which they put at the end of the tour, we noticed the contemporary galleries - and decided that we'd focus on that when we returned on Friday evening. 

The Sistine Chapel was impressive, of course.  But it is hard to appreciate it when you are packed in like sardines looking up.  Guards were frequently asking people to be quiet, and there were strict admonitions to not take photos.  I was glad to see it, and enjoyed it more on Friday evening when there were fewer people.  You could find a seat along the wall and look up more easily. If you have a chance to go there, I would recommend going off season or toward the end of the day so that you can really look more closely.

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