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Greg’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013

Location: Rome, Italy

Map24 July Wed
It's our last day as we fly home tonight. Typing this at Rome airport which is not a great airport by comparison with Singapore and others but it does the job. Had a tour of Vatican and St Peters Basilica this morning and I'm glad it is on the last day. The crowds are almost suffocating and move very slowly. The lineup for general admission is about 1 km long and once again our tour organizer (Ruth) has got it all under control by booking a "Skip the line" tour with an excellent tour guide. It's a bit of a pain chasing a bloke with an umbrella but you get in quick and get a lot of info in a short time so it's the only way to go. 10 million people visit this place every year. That averages about 30,000 every day. Today was no exception. Can't help but wonder at the opulence of this place against the plight of the beggars in the streets. 500 people live tax free in the Vatican in an area of about 40HA with their own tv station and newspaper. It is a country within a country. There are over 23,000 works of art within it's walls including amazing statues, paintings and mosaics. The thing that amazed me most is that the ceilings appear to be curved whereas they are actually flat. By utilizing perspective, the artists created the impression of curvature. I looked very hard at this and was still convinced that the ceilings are rounded but they are not. The artists of these times were unbelievably skilled. Walking past certain statues their eyes follow you, as do those of the Mona Lisa in The Louvre. Michelangelo was not renowned as a painter until he was commissioned by the Pope to paint the wall of the Sistine Chapel. He was a sculptor, famous for the statue of David in Florence. His painting of the ceiling is incredible as are his stautues. What he he did with the tools at his disposal in the 1500s is hard to imagine. I equate it to the efforts of the great classical composers and wonder why it is that the great composers and artists of the 16th to 19th centuries do not seem to have been outgunned since then. 
Ruth decides to buy a Vatican book, available only at the Vatican. For a second I think that she has seen the light and turned all religious on me but she explains that her mum would be interested in reading the story of the Vatican so she would buy it for her.
St Peters Basilica has to be the greatest monument to the excesses of religion I have ever seen. It is a magnificent structure and awesome to see. As I walk out the front door I pretend for a moment that I am the pope waving to the devoted. The Vatican square can accommodate up to about 200,000 people. I wonder why you would choose to be part of such a crowd but I guess if it was for Mozart or Chopin I would probably put up with the crush too.
We get a taxi to Barberini square and Ruth nearly buys a leather bag but she can't quite find the right one. My urging and the shop assistants selling skills still didn't get her across the line. By now I'm almost thinking of getting a man bag. I never thought in a million years I would do that when I have thought they were a bit gay but the Italian blokes all have them. Back packs are obviously bourgeois to the average stylish Italian bloke. If I get one all I would need is a Vespa to get the full Italian look.
We are about to board our flight for Zurich. Our highlights have to be the wedding at Piedmont-a real Italian experience of food, wine, beautiful countryside and a lot of fun with Markus and Isobel along with the Lincon contingent and our new Greek friend. Next came the bike trip where we experienced the real Italian countryside. And for me, the stay in Amalfi topped it all off. Rome was a bonus at the end but the crowds were a bit much.