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Morning Tour of the Vatican –
MORNING is emphasized because the lines to enter start forming at least an hour before it opens. If weather demands, bring water and proper sun/rain gear as you are in the AM sun while you wait. Women should not wear sleeveless tops and men should not wear shorts. You will find this to be true on most days you will visit a church. The City is surrounded by 40 foot rock walls as it was originally built as a fortress. It remains until today a separate entity from both Rome and Italy. Truly, it is a country within a country You will enter on the side that leads you directly into the Vatican Museum. There is a thorough security check. Be prepared for metal detection of both you and your bags. Many tour group has head sets and the guide speaks to you as you go through. This seems very common and there is a “hushed” atmosphere within. It would be quite overwhelming if everyone spoke in a normal tone. Try to keep your group close. There seems to be an almost set pace of movement which can be annoying if you constantly have to look for people. There is so much beauty to absorb – you don’t want to waste a moment! Some major sights along the way include:
The Cartography Gallery: Maps – you'd think this could be boring. Not so! It is an ancient series of Geographical and Topographical paintings of the whole of Italy that are still amazingly accurate. If you Italian ancestors you may be able to find their exact village portrayed on these very walls. You will see many artifacts along the way and wonderful views of the Vatican gardens and its own radio tower on the right – You can use your flash only in certain areas of the Museum – Look for guidance on this and do not attempt what is not allowed. The Swiss guards do not have much of sense of humor. Next is:
The Tapestry Room: With the original purpose of providing insulation in the drafty castles of the day, these intricate designs were created at the speed of one-inch per day. Up to 20 artisans would work at a time and complete the piece in a “mere” 20 years. All have depictions of Biblical scenes and are preserved wonderfully which is miraculous in itself as the gallery is not temperature controlled. If the shutters and windows are wide open during your visit you'll notice the design of the building does protect them from direct sunlight.
Sculptures along the way: One sculpture was used as a wine basin in Ancient Rome. It is as big as a bathtub and yes, it was used at orgies was one of the few events to which women were invited. But the food and wine it seems were as important as the
more commonly known activity. Plebes (servants) cut everything in little pieces like baby food and the patricians (men of power) feasted lying down. At the time it was believed this was a better to taste the food in their mouths (like slurping noodles or wine). They reason they could continue this feasting for days is explained to us in one word “vomitoriums”. It seems these Romans were the original bingers/purgers.
Many of these ancient works of art came to be in the possession of the Vatican because early Popes came from the families of the rich and famous who were collectors and owners of many art-filled villas/castles. Being the Pope gave you a certain power of entitlement to “request” donations. Whether to adorn a new church of their private residence, subtle and not so subtle intimidation was common.
To be continued..