Visiting Vatican // Letters to October (5)

Dear October,

In the quiet moments — a few seconds before opening my eyes in the morning or just glancing out of the corner of my eye — Rome felt like Calcutta. All memories of my birthplace are tied to my grandmother’s house. The barking dogs, narrow alleyways, even the way the rays of sunlight fell in the early afternoon — all brought me back to the place I spent my holidays, playing and napping and eating to bursting point.

I liked Rome especially in those moments. It felt like being home.

Day two of our visit to Italy, my parents and I visited Vatican City. We took a hop-on hop-off bus, which took us on a beautiful route around Rome as well. The streets bustled with life and energy and for the third time in my life (after living in New Delhi and London), doubt flickered in my mind about New York being the only city that never sleeps.

Upon our arrival in Vatican City, we joined our group for the day, with a tour guide who would show us around the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.

One of the words that comes to mind when thinking about the Vatican Museum is extravagant. Another is… rushed. A perk of being part of a guided tour was that we got to skip some of the lines. We also got a lot of information from the guide. However, it also meant that we couldn’t look around at our own pace, and we couldn’t always explore the exhibits we wanted. However, even the brief glimpse into the museum was striking. Just take a look at some of the details in just one section of the ceiling:

After the Vatican Museum, we saw the Sistine Chapel. The room was brimming with people. Sounds of conversation rose and fell like the tide, punctuated with calls for silence from the guards. We shuffled into place, peering up at Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement on the ceiling.

It was gigantic in proportion and even more impressive in artistry. My eyes sought out the smaller details — the supposed self-portrait Michelangelo drew of himself as a man with flayed skin, the figures he had drawn nude, but which another artist was forced to paint clothing upon, giving him a reputation as the artist of underwear — because the whole thing was difficult to take in as a whole. A few minutes’ observation put a crick in my neck. I don’t know how Michelangelo did it for years and years.

Afterwards, we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica. I felt particularly brave and wanted to climb the 551 steps to the top of the dome. However, the first portion of the steps was closed by then, so I took the elevator that covers the first 320 steps. I counted my lucky stars afterwards because even the remaining 231 steps took it out of me. Was the view worth it? You decide:

When I finally made my shaky-legged way downstairs, something seemed to be going on near the entrance to the Basilica. By then, we were too hungry to investigate further but I managed to snap a quick photo.

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The day ended at a lovely Italian restaurant for a much needed meal and admiring the cathedral in the sunset. Credit to my dad for these amazing photos below, as well as the one of the museum ceiling.

Now all that remains is to go back at some point and explore all those remaining nooks and crannies of the museum.

Steps walked: 14,345
Places seen: Vatican City, the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica
Gelato count: 2

Thank you for reading! I’m blogging every day this month. Take a look at the introduction to the series here. Until next time.

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