Italy was the first travel experience we shared with our Sister Sara.
Also the first trip motivated by my bucket list.
I had always wanted to go to Italy so when Sara’s plans to travel to Greece with a friend fell through we conjured up an Italian adventure for the three of us. Our travel plans included seeing sights from Rome to Nova Siri, way south, and then back North as far as Florence. A lot of ground to cover on our 3 week visit.
Our trip began in Rome. We had 1 day to spend in there before traveling by car to check in for our reservation in Nova Siri. The one thing we had to see in Rome, for me, was the Sistine Chapel. I had done a presentation on Michelangelo in Junior High and fell in love with his art and the art that is Italy. At 13 I started my list of things I must see before I leave this world with The Sistine Chapel. The first day was dedicated to crossing it off.
We arrived in Rome late in the day. We had missed our connecting flight in Germany and Air Canada lost one of our bags as a result, so by the time we had sorted all of that out and left the airport the sun had already began to set. We caught a cab to our hotel for the evening. Traffic in Rome is busy and fast, very fast. We were all very quiet in the cab as it hurtled toward our hotel, swerving through traffic at lightening speed. This was common driving behavior in Italy. It was also a little unsettling (terrifying) as we were going to rent a car and drive 475 kilometers to Nova Siri in just 2 short days.
We finally arrived and checked in to our hotel (which was on the outskirts of Rome on the opposite side of the city than the airport!). The hotel was booked online and chosen for its price and the lovely photo of its exterior. The lone photo made it look stately, elegant even. When we drove up the hotel still appeared stately, on the outside. On the inside it looked old, very old and tired. Our room itself was a startling surprise, granted it was 100 euros versus 1000 euros downtown Rome. The room appeared even older (and more tired too) than the lobby. It was very sparsely furnished, not a lampshade or lamp for that matter, not to mention no night table or chair to be found.
We took a quick evening walk to find food and drink (no room service at this hotel). ate a little something in our room and collapsed into bed, exhausted from our long travel day. The plan was to get going early given how far we were from Vatican City and how busy it can get at the Sistine Chapel. We had done our research online and prepared for long line ups and huge crowds.
We woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning, had a quick pastry and cappuccino, free with our room and awesomely delicious to. After 3 cappuccinos each and a broad selection of pastry we hiked to catch the metro to Vatican city. It was October and the mercury began to rise early. By the time we reached our stop for Vatican city it was already clear we were over dressed for the heat. It was a quick walk from the train to St Peters Square and arriving so early, there were fewer people milling about. This definitely added to the awe I felt standing next to one of the enormous stone pillars looking out onto the square as the sun began to rise over the city.
We then continued our trek around the wall outside the city to find the entrance to Museum. We didn’t need to walk very far before we came upon the very long line, which snaked around the wall to the entrance of the museum. Surprisingly, the line moved quickly and we were inside before we new it.
We decided not to take an organised tour. However we did hang out on the fringe of a few tour groups to learn about certain art or artifacts as we wound our way through the enormous museum to find the Sistine Chapel. The museum was full of beauty and opulence like I had never seen before, our eyes were wide and our jaws dropped.
We finally arrive at the giant wood doors to the Sistine Chapel. We were instructed on acceptable behavior inside the Chapel and reminded of these instructions when inside the chapel. No photos. Absolutely no photos. Those who did not comply lost there camera or phone to the guard of the chapel. I can’t remember how long we were inside but I do remember how cool the air was and the calm serenity I felt as my eyes took in every fresco, every detail.
All of the windows that were around the top of the chapel were veiled to protect the frescoes which added to the peaceful ambiance. There was a low chatter in the crowd which faded into silence.
I could not believe I was standing looking at the famous frescoes I had read and researched about. All of the literature I had read and photos I had seen did not do it justice. The ceiling is high, 20 meters or so, and even with the distance and dimness the detail in the paintings is unbelievable….
Then a teenage girl took a photo with her phone.
The guard yelled and charged to confiscate the phone. The peaceful scene dissolved.
Despite the confrontation it became clear to me, that first day in Rome, I got the experience I came for in Italy. The first reason I boarded the plane to come to Italy was already satisfied.
And it was only the morning of the first day.