When sitting in the breakfast room of our hotel in Rome, trying to mentally go over all the things I wanted to see during my three day stop in the city, I was informed that the “Holy See” or Vatican City, was governed independently from the rest of Italy. Despite the fact that it occupied the heart of Rome.
For my travel goal, this worked out well: two birds, one stone!
So what’s the deal with Vatican City?
Its ruler is the Pope, obviously, it is protected by the Swiss Guard, due to their neutrality, and it is unquestionably the richest country in the world. No Finance Minister, no public accountability, and no tax, I would assume.
The Swiss Guard that protects the city, as cute as they may be, as stuck in these unfortunate outfits. Check this blog out for a good photo: http://blog.beliefnet.com/pontifications/2009/05/women-as-swiss-guards-they-cou.html. This blog entry is actually about the subject of women being able to join the Guard, and is worth a read if such things interest you.
The wait outside of the Vatican was long, as it was for every other site in Italy, but not unbearably so. If memory serves me correctly, it took about 45 minutes to get in. This under an unrelenting sun, which was actually welcomed after the days of rain we had previously received.
At the entrance I was told that no flash photography was allowed, as it ruined the frescoes. No problem, since I was equipped with my manual 35 mm Minolta, sans-flash, a camera that I dropped and broke later that afternoon. Once inside, I headed straight for the Sistine Chapel, wanting to spend most of my time admiring the Vatican’s most famous room.
The Chapel was filled with 1000 other tourists, taking photos every millisecond, flashes filling the room. Clearly all of the signs reminding us that flash photography was forbidden, were being ignored. I made my way to the center of the room, squeezing through the thick crowd and getting caught in a web of backpack straps. Once at the center, I brought my gaze up to the ceiling, to see “The Creation“. Eyes locked on Michaelangelo’s craft, I was no longer being blinded by the flashes, and the Japanese chit-chat that filled the room was slowly drowned out.
It was just me and Michealangelo, for at least 4 minutes.
The crick in my neck ended our moment of serenity, and I suddenly felt vulnerable, having taken my attention off guarding my bag from pickpockets. Apparently this was very common here, yes, even in the Holy See!
Starting off with the Sistine Chapel was, in retrospect, a mistake. The museum, containing loads of Egyptian artifacts, just couldn’t compare. I ended the day by visiting St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) the permanent residence of the Pope. Another regret was that I didn’t go inside the residence, just hung out at the Obelisk outside. At this point I was mourning the loss of my beloved 35mm. It was time to call it a day.