Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chapter 10 - Losing Myself in Religion - Vatican City

We went to Vatican City on the Holy day (Sunday). There were people everywhere at Piazza San Pietro (St Peters square). It swarms with tourists & Polizi. It is awe inspiring....again with the sculptures! Italy just gets it so right. The beauty of this incredibly impressive square and building is mind blowing. I love the beautiful fountains, it was a very hot day when we visited and the fountains caught the sunlight majestically. It was a strange sight, however, to see about 4 massive plasma screens set up in the square (there is one just behind the fountain).
A huge area was cordoned off and had seating set up, we were sure Papa was coming to us. Around midday the screens flickered and we heard the Pope talking. It went silent and everyone stopped. Someone next to me asked very quietly 'what's going on? Is the Pope coming.' I was so excited, can you imagine visiting Vatican City and seeing the Pope deliver mass? Alas it was too good to be true, it was a televised link of the Pope delivering mass somewhere else.

I am anxious to go inside St Peter's Basilica, Ad sits this one out. The line is long, but moves through quite quickly before you know it you are passing the Swiss guards and entering the very grand St Peters Basilica.
The light that filters into the church brings a truly spiritual feel to it. It was the first thing that struck me as I entered. I later read that Michelangelo had altered the original design of the church because it did not allow enough natural light in. Michelangelo knows light!
This is the second largest Basilica in the world and took more than 150 years to build. Can you imagine designing on such a grand scale? Being humble enough to know that you will never see the end result of your work? That the structure itself is a labour of love, a gift to future generations and must take time, commitment, faith, love and dedication? You want to ensure it is so perfect, you accept that it will not be completed in your lifetime. The artists/designers/builders/visionaries were Bramante, Raphael, Antonio da Sangallo, Giacomo della Porta, Carlo Maderno and Michelangelo. It is a very different world we live in.......
The detail in this Basilica is amazing. You quite literally do not know where to look. The sculptures, paintings, alters, mosaics. There is mass being held, confession, prayers....... it is an amazing moment in my life. There is an alter with some pews set up in many area's of this church, many are cordoned off and are for the 'real' Catholics I guess? there is one for the tourists however. I sit at one of the pews, make the sign of the cross over my body and pray. I thank the Lord for allowing me to see this in my life time, I thank the Lord for the many blessings in my life. I sit and look and reflect. This is amazing.....
After wandering through the Basilica I head to Michelangelo's Dome. I really wanted to do this and had read about the Dome. The line is long and moves really slowly..It is 544 steps to the top or you can pay 10 euro for the lift, I opt for the stairs...whew, that's alot of stairs! The climb is worth it (see Pics below). The view of the Piazza amazing, the up close of the mosaics and the view down to St Peters Basilica worth the burning sensation in my thighs!
I return to Ad after a good 2-3 hours at St Peter's and am keen to head to the Sistine Chapel. We walk 1.5kms to the entry point only to find it is not open on a Sunday! Back we go.....Due to our change of plans we head to the Spanish steps and they are......steps! The passing parade is interesting, and the people watching is first rate.
We then go to the Fontana di Trevi. Ohhh it is beautiful, Italy really does great fountains. The aqueduct that feeds the Trevi is one of the earliest ones built in the city, they really built things to last. A coin is thrown in, in the hope I will one day return....
It is Monday, the last day of this magical mystery tour...we will be saying our goodbyes to Italia today, but before that I have to see the Sistine Chapel. We don't have a great deal of time, but I am sure we have enough to see the Vatican Museums where the Chapel is housed...Back to Vatican City, Ad & I pick a meeting point and agree on a time to meet. Ad will be reading in the shade so no pressure if the time is blown out a little but we must be no later than 3 hours as we have a plane to catch......
As I head off on the walk to the entry point, I am humming to myself...until that is I round the first corner and am faced with a massive queue. I have walked about 500 meters, so the queue is about 1km long. I am devastated! I stand in the queue for about 15 minutes, it moves at a snails pace. There are some tour guides asking for people to 'jump the queue and come with us'. I approach them and ask when, how long and how much. The next tour is about to go and takes around 3 hours. I have to get money and the next tour is not until another 30-45 minutes. I just stand there in disbelief. I am not going to see the Sistine Chapel.
I admit defeat and start walking back to our meeting point. There are tears in my eyes and it is all I can do not to start sobbing out loud! How can you go all the way to Italy and not see the Sistine Chapel, I am bitterly disappointed. I meet Ad and can hardly talk, he can see my disappointment, but the more we talk about it, the more likely I am to burst into tears. Lets just go.....and so we do, to Rome Airport. A quick stopover in Hong Kong and then back home to our girls.

Italy you have opened my eyes, ears, heart and soul. I have loved every moment of you and you will remain near and dear to me forever. My dearest Italy you have scratched the surface on what I hope to be a life of travels, and unearthed a creativity that was lurking under the surface, you have also left no doubt in my mind that I am married to the most wonderful person on this earth. My wonderful Husband made my dream a reality. In the midst of mortgage's, careers and kids he knew how important this was to me and made it happen...My love, my life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter 9 - Rome, The Eternal City

Roma is grand indeed. Everything here was built to impress and that is exactly what they do! The heart of Italy, the Roman Empire, it all begins here in Roma.

There is so much to be impressed by, the first monument that we come across is the Vittoriano.
My eyes were like saucers and WOW escapes from my lips. What is this Ad? Because he has been once I am sure he must know all of the monuments, but as I am soon to discover you would need to spend alot of time here to know (and see) them all.

As it turns out this is a baby of a monument here in Rome. It was built in 1901 and houses the tomb of the unknown soldier. It is so grand, and is funny to read that the Italians refer to this monument as the wedding cake or type writer. I love it.

We head down the road past many Roman ruins to the Colosseum. As we are walking towards it, it just suddenly pops up into your line of vision. I am jumping again, Ad look the Colosseum! He smiles. I just want to run and touch it, it is a truly amazing sight. Amidst the daily traffic and daily life is this amazing structure that has stood for so many years.

Before we head to the Colosseum we decide to stop for lunch. Ad needs a Chinese fix. So here we are in Rome, a stones throw from the Colosseum in a Chinese restaurant.....

'While the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand,

but when the Colosseum falls, Rome shall fall

and when Rome falls the world will end' - Bede

The Colosseum has an eerie and magnificent aura to it. If ever there was a monument to make you stop and think that yes life goes on, this has to be up there!

The past will always haunt her, the past has made her (as life often goes!). We cannot change what has happened but we can learn. We can embrace the good bits, grit our teeth and learn from the bad bits and move forward knowing that this life makes us who we are. We are stronger, we are more knowledgeable and we can weather the storm. There is no greater sense of this than in Rome!

The cross at the Colosseum symbolises the many lives lost but also hope, retribution, forgiveness, sorrow and shame. It symbolises life.

The ruins around the Palatine, Capitoline Hill and the Roman Forum are just beautiful. The proportions of these structures add to the wow factor.

Agrippa's Pantheon. This structure is the best preserved building and has been standing for nearly 2000 years! This is the largest masonry vault ever built and was dedicated to the classical Gods.......I love Italy

Inside the Pantheon the dome has a 9mtr opening to allow light in and the marble floor has 22 small holes to allow any rain that enters to drain away. It has such an ethereal feel to it. The beautiful light streaming into the structure, it lights up the inside perfectly. You don't get better lighting than this!
We visited the Pantheon on a Sunday and what I love so much about these churches is that they are real 'working' churches. We just made it before they were going to close if off for Mass. On a Sunday in Rome all churches have Mass no matter how old or how many tourists want to have a look at it!
I didn't realise how much I loved sculpture until my trip to Italia. These beautiful structures line the bridges on our walk to Vatican City. Those bridges are like the one below that links you to Castel Sant'Angelo (the structure on the left). I didn't get a chance to see the Castel but will next time.....