Showing posts with label Vatican. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vatican. Show all posts

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Rome with a Tilt-shift twist

Clicking on any one of above photos will reveal them all in a much more flattering resolution.


Wednesday 10 July 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Pope Leo XIII Coat of Arms


Monday 8 July 2013

Missing penises of Vatican

The Vatican Museums (or Musei Vaticani in Italian) house an enormous collection of art pieces. The collection was built over the centuries by the Roman Catholic Church and includes some of the most renowned and most important pieces of art in the world. In total there are more than 100 000 pieces! Since Vatican has been mostly safe from threats, most of those magnificent pieces of art are nicely preserved.

As I have already mentioned in my previous post where I wrote about Vatican attractions in general, it is strongly advised to book Vatican Museums tickets on-line ahead of time. If you however fail to do so, there is a last minute alternative... Try to schedule your visit at the time when Pope's audience takes place (usually every Wednesday), but there are just too many other factors to rely on this as a fact.

If you are after free admission, that is also possible. On the last Sunday of every month there is no entrance fee, but they stay open only until 2:00PM and you can expect a large crowd. They are closed on other Sundays. The Museums usually get the most crowded on Saturdays, Mondays, rainy days, days before or after a holiday and obviously on the last Sunday of the month.
So, if you can, you should try to schedule your visit on one of the remaining days. There is also a dress code to keep in mind: no short shorts or bare shoulders are allowed.

This is obviously a very popular attraction. Over 4 million visitors every year is a definite proof of that. When you walk by the usually hundreds of metres long queue at the entrance, you will quickly begin to appreciate the benefits of a ticket purchased on-line.

I think this place definitely deserves all the attention it is getting. I had a feeling I would have to spend months inside to begin to appreciate those vast collections of beautifully preserved pieces.
This obviously does not apply to everyone - there were quite a few groups of people just flying through those rooms, not paying any real attention to anything on their way, probably visiting Vatican just to thick another item on their list... Try not to be one of them and rather enjoy your experience instead - even though this means skipping some items on that long list of yours.

Everything from floors to ceilings deserves visitor's attentions. Even wooden window shutters look like pieces of art on display here!

Another thing I could not help noticing were all the missing/covered penises on those countless statues. After a brief investigation I found out they were chopped off and covered by fig leaves by the order of Pope Pius IX. Some of his successors also continued with this tradition. Supposedly there is no statue with a visible penis in Vatican today.
This made me wonder... Where did all those penises go? Do they keep them in a secret compartment somewhere behind the thick Vatican walls or were they destroyed? Is nude art still an issue today?
After some additional investigation I learned all those private parts have actually been kept in wooden boxes somewhere in museum's storage rooms. There is actually an ongoing debate about restoring various pieces of art to their original state. Nothing is certain but at the moment it seems like penises in Italy might be making a comeback sometime in the (relatively) near future.

Many people visit Vatican museums just to see the famous paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. To reach it, one has to walk through a substantial number of other exhibitions first. I believe this is a good thing - it definitely bumps one's appreciation of the place up a notch or two.
The chapel definitely left a strong impression on me, but I think some other sections are just as spectacular.
Also after a while spent there, the crowd was starting to get on my nerves. Some people were really loud and almost everybody was trying to snap a (forbidden) photo. Apart from some screaming kids (who I could hardly blame) those guards were definitely the loudest. After a quarter of an hour those repetitive "Shhhhhh... No foto, no video! Silenzio! ..." sounded like a really annoying chant and it was time to move on.
Oh, and if you are wondering... No, I did not take a photo of the Sistine Chapel.

If you have an eye for detail and enjoy classical art, I suggest you schedule your arrival early and plan to stay the whole day. I felt like I could easily keep coming back for many days, if not weeks or months and still not really see it all.


Friday 5 July 2013

Vatican highlights

When in Rome, a visit to the City of Vatican is a must. Apart from many perfectly preserved antiques tucked inside Vatican Museums and world famous St. Peter's Basilica, the world's smallest independent state is also the place of residence of the world's most popular pop icon - the Pope himself.

It does not really matter which one of those attractions is your thing, you should make at least a short stop in Vatican when in or near Rome.

No matter in which part of the city one might be, the iconic St. Peter's Basilica almost always dominates the skyline of the eternal city. If during your visit there is time for only one thing, this should probably be it. Despite the obvious fact that it is really huge, an enormous amount of effort was also invested in details.

After entering the basilica it actually did not appear all that huge. Only after I started walking towards the main altar I got the right feeling of the place. It is built with the opposite philosophy in mind compared to the majority of other similar structures - it is built in a way to appear smaller than it actually is. This became really evident to me when I climbed to the balcony built around the inside of the cupola. Only from there I could see the true size of those letters of the inscription at the base of the cupola (visible on the third photo) - they are 2 meters (6.6 ft) high. That is also the approximate size of the four cherubs positioned at the first piers of the nave, carrying two Holy Water basins.

Another thing that might help you grasp the true size of this structure is on the floor of the nave. Starting from the entrance, there are several markers showing lengths of other churches in comparison to St. Peter's.

If one of your reasons for visiting the basilica is of photographic nature, you might like to know that at certain times each day crepuscular rays are regularly seen coming through windows. They make an already great photo setting even better. Unfortunately at the time of my visit, there were none to be seen.

Another thing worth doing while at the basilica is climbing to the top of its dome. Views in all directions are truly spectacular. If you want to save a few Euro you should skip the elevator. Even if you don't mind spending a few extra coins on a commodity like that, you should keep in mind that it will not take you to the top. The hard part of stair-climbing is at the very end - those stairs that can be skipped by using the lift seemed like a nice warm-up to me.

On days when the Pope makes his public appearance (usually every Wednesday he holds a papal audience in St. Peter's Square) you can expect a large crowd of people (literally thousands from all over the world) and increased security there. It is also worth noting that on those days you will probably not have to face usually very long queues when entering Vatican museums. In any case I strongly advice you to book your Vatican museums tickets on-line in advance. For attending a Papal audience you will also need a (free) ticket. Try to be there at least a few hours early.
If seeing the Pope is one of your main reasons for visiting Rome, you should also keep in mind that during the summer (mid June or so through late August) the Pope will not be in the Vatican - at that time he he usually spends some time at his summer residence (Castel Gandolfo).

Swiss guards are also one of Vatican's attractions. If you want to witness the change of guards you can observe it below the Arco delle Campane (if looking at the front of the church, it is the low arch on the left side of St. Peter's basilica) and at most other entrances to restricted areas at every hour on the hour.
You should however not expect the "fanfare" or a particular formal ceremony such as for instance at the Buckingham Palace in London. Nevertheless, they do look quite nice in their colourful uniforms.

The Vatican museums are just huge to say the least. Therefore I decided to dedicate a separate post to the subject. It will be the topic of my next post, so stay tuned for some first-hand useful advice.


Monday 24 June 2013

Police in Rome

Those of you who have done some traveling around Italy probably know law enforcement there comes in many shapes and forms. If Wikipedia is to be believed, there are at least seven types of Police in Italy.

I suppose their efficiency is somewhat debatable but some of them are definitely not to be taken lightly. While there might be room for a discussion when confronted with Polizia Stradale there is usually no place for that when stopped by Guardia di Finanza or Arma dei Carabinieri. Often they are equipped with automatic weapons and are usually pretty serious about using them.

Another interesting fact about them is that they usually look pretty darn good. There might be more reasons for it but an important one is definitely the design of their uniforms. Italian Police uniforms are actually designed by no other then Giorgio Armani himself. The uniforms of Carabinieri, who act like police, but are technically an army branch, are from Valentino.

While in Rome I even saw some types that were new to me. These two examples on the photos are just some of many types I saw on this trip but usually they were not all that photogenic.
Luckily this time neither I nor them felt the need for interaction.


Wednesday 19 June 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Vatican in the distance

If you like the first photo you should probably also check out my previous post with some more picture-postcard material shot around the same area (Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome). The second one was shot from the Palatine Hill.

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