Rome, 2007

The usual long long flight was actually not too
bad.Luftansa is a notch up from United. In the
Frankfurt boarding lounge waiting for the delayed
connecting flight to Rome, I struck up a conversation
with a woman who turned out to be a prof. of Spanish
history at UWis, Madison. Small world. We chatted and
exchanged info, and I will look her up next time I’m there.
Rome is big,of course, but so neighborhoody, more than
I had realzed on my earlier visit. We are staying in
the Prati area, near the Vatican. In fact, the wall of
the Vatican is just across the street from the hotel.
Made it easy to get in line Sat. morning to see the
Vatican Museums. Wow, I know that I was here before,
but this was a really different visit. We started in
the painting gallery, with a breathtaking collection
of medieval altarpieces and related art.The collection
went up to about the 16th century, with the later
stuff more typical of what you see in so many
churches,ie, angels, Christs, Marys, etc. all in
diaphonous clothes, all looking rapturous. The really
really old art has such honesty and directness, and if
the truth be told, from my perspective, a quirkiness
that I just love. Figures with faces that reflect the
poverty of their lives, the odd Christ baby with the
face of a middle aged man. I just love that stuff.
Then we went into the Vatican proper, and started the
long march toward the Sistine Chapel, the Holy Grail
for Vatican visitors. For me, the way was as good as
the end point. The hallways were so amazing, with
painted ceilings and walls and with so many sculptures
that you can’t really look at any one for long. The
crowd is moving along,and you have to sort of drop out
of the flow to stop and look at individual objects.
Most people seem to be single minded in their quest
for the Sistine ceiling. One section of that hall that
both of us esp. liked was the map area. It was lined
with 17th century maps of different parts of Italy,
with towns noted, and some town plans shown. It was
fun to try and figure out the places that we knew, and
challenging because the names are in Latin rather than
in Italian. Also interesing, since we are headed there
tomorrow, Sicily was not included in the maps, except
for the far north east corner. It was controlled then
by either France or Spain, I am not sure which.
We saw the amazing Rafael painting of the School of
Athens. so great! my previous experience of it in
slides and other reproductions was no match at all for
the reality. It is also one of the very few pieces of
art that are not about Christian history. The figures
are really active and thought provoking. Makes me
wonder how it was viewed at the time, in the 1500s? I
could imagine Rafael wandering back and forth to check
on Michangelos progress while Rafael was working on a
different set of rooms.Finally we made it to the end,
to the Sistine Chapel and its ceiling. It is brightly
colored, vivid in both color and figural movement and
shapes. Michaelangelo did amazing men, but, in
fairness, his women are awful. Just men with these
little grapefruit shaped balls stuck on their chests.
Oh well, he did so much and did it all so well, I can
grant him one small fault. What this trip to the
Vatican pointed out to me was what an incredible
genius Michaelangelo was- The ceiling, the Pieta in
St.Peters, the dome of St.Peters, the city plan for
part of Rome, what was there the man could not do? I
want to learn more about him when I get back. The
Agony and the Ecstasy was not enough information I now
We found a terrific restaurant for a long dinner, and
so were late for our reservation at the Alexanderplats
jazz club where we sat right in front of the stage. We
had backless stools about 18 inches from the end of
the guest sax players instrument! The headliner was a
guy named Steve Grossman, from NY. The rest of the
group was a mix of Italians and a drummer who was
African, but spoke with an American accent. It was a
classic European jazz club, or at least my image of
what one is like. It is downstairs, underground, with
a bar and several small rooms. The place was totally
packed, a fire marshall would have had a heart attack!
It got pretty hot too, and the music certainly
contributed to that. Terrific, straight ahead jazz
that really kept swinging for long sets. We arrived at
10:45, and they were already started for a 10:30 start
time. The first break wasn’t until about 12:15. We
stayed until 12:45, when I just had to leave.Even
though the band was still going strong, my eyelids
were trying hard to close. We had been up since 7am,
walking all through the Vatican and were just
exhausted. It was a great day.
Today, Sunday, we took it a bit easier. We started out
with a subway ride to a basilica in the south of Rome,
then spent several hours walking from the Pizz. Espana
to the Pizz. Navona, back to the Pizz. Popolo, to see
some more Caravaggios. I ran out of steam then and
caught a taxi back to the hotel at about 5:30, Steve
walked all the way back. He has more energy than I
do, but I am trying to keep up with him, it might do
me some good. Tomorrow morning we fly to Palermo to
start our investigation of Sicily. More to come.

Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 1:36 am  Leave a Comment  

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