As we left our intrepid protagonists in From Italy With Love or 10 Days In Italy Through Film: Part 1 (7 years ago!), they were on the road from Paestum (an hour south of Naples) to Rome in early morning for a date with the Pope at 10:30 and a vow renewal at 12:45 when they hit of all things…a traffic jam! Well, a traffic jam in Rome at 8:30 in the morning is unlike anything we’d ever experienced. Needless to say, we didn’t make our papal appointment so we parked outside the downtown area and took transit in and got off at the Colosseum, the epic amphitheatre featured in such illustrious films as the Oscar-winning Gladiator…
…and the glorious Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dennis Rodman saga Double Team.
I wanted a tour, my wife thought we didn’t have time…loud fight ensued (there’s nothing like a fight in front of the Colosseum two hours before your vow renewal ceremony!).
I acquiesced and we decided to use our map to walk a quick tour of the Roman sights on the way to the church, like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday without the Vespa. We saw the Forum, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps…
…then it was time for our vow renewal at the only English-speaking Protestant church in Rome, All Saints Church, 5 minutes from the Spanish Steps.
After a short but wonderful ceremony, we gastronomically consummated the marriage a block down at a pizzeria with 2 dozen options in the window. We selected a couple of unique slices and some antipasto and had one of the best meals of my life (although it could have been my mood as well).
We decided to hit the Vatican for a quick tour…HA!! The lineups for everything (including bathrooms) were horrendous (I expected this but hope springs eternal).
At this rate we’d be lucky to get into St. Peter’s before close so we made a decision that seemed expensive at first but ended up one of the most rewarding decisions during our whole trip…we booked a last-minute tour. I winced as the 160 Euros disappeared into someone else’s pocket but 20 minutes later we were ushered past the crowds into a side entrance of the Vatican Museum and thus began two of the most edifying hours of my life. Two hours of history, art and beauty culminating in the incredible Sistine Chapel (which we didn’t want to leave).
As I looked at the partitions and gazed up in awe at Michelangelo’s ceiling, I was reminded of the Anthony Quinn Pope-making movie The Shoes Of the Fisherman in which the papal delegates stay in the chapel and aren’t allowed to leave until a successful vote has decided on a new Pope.
You aren’t allowed to take pictures or talk while in the chapel and there are scads of guards enforcing this by shushing and pointing at anyone in contravention so it’s not the most zen environment…but still amazing.
We spent so much time in the crowded Sistine that we lost our tour guide but the next stop was the end, St. Peter’s Basilica, the enormous iconic cathedral (not really) featured in movies like Ron Howard’s adaptation of the bestselling Dan Brown novel Angels And Demons…
so iconic that there is a law in Rome that no building can be built higher than the church. I say ‘not really’ featured in the movie because the Vatican is notoriously stingy about who can film there and Howard got a no from them. That didn’t stop the production however as a replica was built elsewhere and interiors were filmed at the Palazzo Reale in Caserta (a later blog post).
The highlight for us here was Michelangelo’s Pieta, an awe-inducing sculpture of Mary holding the full-grown Jesus and carved out of a single piece of marble.
After we left the basilica, we spent some time wandering the almost empty square, soaking it all in as the sun set and they took down the seating from the service we were supposed to be at (insert sad emoticon here).
This was a whirlwind visit to a place we both agreed we’d love to come back to one day for a longer stay but now we headed on the four hour drive back to our digs at the Hotel Cerere in Paestum, eager for our next day’s foray to Pompeii (and not realizing the life-altering change that would take place there…).