Italy Moblog #5

Had to get up at 6am today in order to put the bags outside the room for them to be loaded onto the bus. After breakfast, we reached the Vatican Museum around 8.15 am.

A long line had formed at the entrance already even though the museum opening was still 30 minutes away. It was pretty cold there standing out in the open. No local entrepreneur selling coffee in sight. If someone did that, quite a killing could be made. There were souvenir vendors however.

We finally entered the Vatican Museum around 9am. We saw several rooms filled with paintings, murals, tapestries etc. We also saw a map room with maps from various periods in time. The tapestry room is maintained at a certain temperature, with no direct sunlight, and is inspected every 48 hours for mildew formation.

Some innovative techniques were on display – the 2D painting made to look 3D was fantastic. It has to be seen to be believed. They’ve actually painted the shadows that would have been there if it was truly 3D to bring about the effect in 2D. There were also several rooms containing gifts given to the Pope from different parts of the world.

Finally, we reached the place that embodies possibly the best art from the renaissance world – the Sistine Chapel. Here Michelangelo can be seen at his best. The vault is covered by Michelangelo’s depiction of the Genesis. This also includes the most famous of all – Creation of Adam – Adam lying on earth reaching out to the sky with an extended arm and God doing the same from the sky.

On one of the big walls, you can see Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. He was 60 years old when he painted this and it took him almost 4 years to do. He did it singlehandedly which is amazing. Again this painting has to be seen to be believed. When he painted the Genesis series he was not actually a painter but did it at the behest of the Pope because Raphael, the other famous painter was busy painting some other part of the Vatican.

Considering that he was a newbie, the Genesis series is an expression of pure genius. Over the years, because of the soot from the burning candles, all the paintings in the Sistine Chapel had turned black. A project to restore the paintings was done for 19 years and completed only in the year 2000. Interestingly, the Last Judgement took 12 years to restore with 15 people working, what one man did in 4 years.

Priya remarked that this is similar to software – maintenance is a lot harder than development! The Sistine Chapel also has panels painted by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosselli etc.

Many people wonder why the Pope who is supposed to be the owner, can’t sell all this art and erase famine from the rest of the world. Our guide said that was not possible due to a law preventing that. We left the awe-inspiring place reluctantly around 11.30 am. It will take a few days to do justice to seeing the Sistine Chapel alone. We have decided to come again to Rome and spend some quality time here. From there, we jumped on the bus and started towards Florence.

We stopped at Pisa to check out the Leaning tower of Pisa – one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. Factoid – the Pisa complex including the tower took almost 500 years to complete starting in 1100 AD. When we reached it was dusk, we barely had enough light to take some pictures. The leaning tower’s facade is still under restoration. Another little mentioned fact, the Duomo (Dome) which is nearby is also tilting a bit. So the same mistake of not realizing that there were sink holes in the soil has been committed twice in the same location – once in the tower and second in the Duomo.

Priya noticed this and asked the guide about it who confirmed. I have a picture as well. When we reached Florence it was around 8pm, in time for dinner. Some interesting facts about Florence – Amerigo Vespucci and Verrazano (of Verrazona Narrows fame) are from this area.

Tomorrow, we’ll be spending the whole day here. More to come.