Friday, April 07, 2006

Roma pics: The Vatican

Vatican City is such a big and photo-worthy place that we spent a total of two days there. It was beautiful, majestic, and of course crowded with tourists, clergymen and nuns. Quite understandably, there were queues as far as the eyes can see to enter anything and everything, even the toilets. In fact, on the first day we were there, the line to enter the Vatican Museum was so long, we had walk around the entire perimeter of the city walls (at least two to three miles long) in order to join the tail end of the queue. Apparently, it was free entry that day (every last Sunday of the month), so every tourist and local who thought it was a great way to save money, were there. So we ended up just going to St. Peter's Square and postponed the Museum till the next day.

Terry posing in St. Peter's Square. See the line of people waiting to enter the basillica? The entrance is actually to the far left of the picture. Yes, the queue was that long!

The main attraction here is of course St. Peter's basillica. It's a very large church said to house the remains of St. Peter and also the late Pope John Paul the II. It was built by the Roman Emperor Constantine when he converted to Christinaity in the 4th century. The jewel in this crown is of course the dome or 'cupola' designed by Michaelangelo. There is a viewing platform near the top of the dome, and to get up there, we had to trek up about 2000 really cramped steps (or thereabouts). But the view from the top was magnificent well worth the effort.

From the viewing deck, you could see the whole of Vatican City as well as most of Rome. The Vatican looks so orderly and clean in comparison to chaotic and ridiculously graffiti-laden Rome. Unfortunately, there were so many people up there that I got slightly claustrophobic. So, after just half an hour of gazing into the smog-filled Roman skyline, we made our way back down for a cappucino and ham focaccio.

This is the walled city of Vatican. Compare and contrast with the previous pic of the Roman skyline. But of course Rome wouldn't be Rome without its chaotic and narrow maze-like streets.

Afterwards, we walked around the city and found ourselves crossing the famous San Angelo bridge (re: Dan Brown's Angels and Demons) which led us to the San Angelo castle. The castle was used as the imperial mauseluem to Emperor Hadrian and the royal family. Later, during the Roman Catholic era , it was used as a refuge by the Pope who fled from the Vatican through the underground passage or 'Passetto" when the Vatican was under enemy attack.

It's a grand monument that's been built and rebuilt up to seven times that you can actually see the layers of previous construction underneath the current building. Actually, I think the Italians did a wonderful job ofconserving their national monuments and treasures. It gives the Eternal City a uniquely poignant character and atmosphere.

There are many bridges than span the River Tiber , both for pedestrians as well as for cars. On almost all them, there are statues flanking both sides of the bridges, some of them really ugly looking gargoyles, but most of them, awe-inspiring statues of angels and saints, like this one.

As the evening drew to a close, we ended our day with a cup of capuccino at an al fresco cafe by the riverside. Lovely. Just lovely.

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