The night before we were to visit the Vatican I discovered that there was a dress code. Shorts were verbotten and a number of sources indicated this code was strictly enforced. In an effort to travel light I’d only packed shorts. Joanne and I had struck out from the convent to find me a pair of “big boy” pants.
Fortunately, there was a UPIM department store a short distance away. Unfortunately, the ONLY pair of pants in the entire store that would fit were a pair of ugly white sweat pants. People who know me might enjoy the irony.
That being said, it was an ugly but functional solution. I mentioned these pants to Jo the other day and she burst out laughing. Apparently she didn’t have the heart to tell me they were ladies sweat pants at the time.
Especially galling is the fact that I observed the vast majority of visitors that day were wearing shorts.
Italian Traffic Lotto
We had breakfast at the convent and took an Uber to the Vatican. Am I going to mention Italian traffic yet again? Do Sicilians take the gun and leave the cannoli? You know, I’ve done cage dives with Great White sharks and in all candor, I truly believe that had diving with Great Whites WITHOUT the cage would be safer than driving in Roman traffic.
Heck, I think diving with a Great White inside the cage would only be marginally more dangerous than driving in Italian traffic. No matter, the car eventually stopped and I opened my eyes to discover we’d arrived at the Vatican safely.
Well… almost at the Vatican. The driver crosses the River Tiber and drops us at the Via della Conciliazione, the pedestrian thoroughfare leading to St. Peter’s. From there it’s a 500 meter hike to St. Peter’s Square. Then there’s another kilometer walking the perimeter of the Vatican’s wall just to reach the Vatican Museum lineup, still a half a kilometer from the museum entrance. At this point, there were options.
During the Korean war the Chinese army was a huge presence. A popular joke among American servicemen was that a Chinese squad consisted of a mob and three hordes. Between the Uber and the lineup for the museum we were assaulted by a Chinese squad’s worth of vendors who offered a range of tour packages up to being carried about on a palanquin by a team of burly men. I speak with a few and haggle a “deal” for one of the skip the line tours.
The skip the line tours are interesting in that there’s no actual “tour.” A wrangler rounds you all up and leads you past the lines waving his pass and blowing past security with the ease and speed of a courier delivering a kidney for papal transplant to the Vatican hospital. We arrive at the ticket booths where he makes a bulk purchase, hands out the tickets and disappears. Jo and I set out on our way.
The skip the line tour cost roughly 30€ each and lasted as long as a water slide ride at Six Flags. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn if you take the actual tour it’s 15€. That being said, it saves about a kilometer’s worth of riding the line.
The Museum Proper
Once inside the museum the sights and press of humanity can feel overwhelming, but the traffic flow is linear, one way and sensible. However, Joanne and I had a 7.5 km walk through 54 galleries with the last stop being the Sistine Chapel so we couldn’t really dally if we wanted to see St. Peter’s as well.
Suddenly, we were Olympic speed walkers. Arms pistoning, hips a rolling with that stiff gait of someone trying not to break into a run. Whooo boy. Joanne HATES being rushed and she’s not shy in letting me know this. I get it.
It’s a shame not to be able to really linger. Really, it’s kind of obscene to be blowing through rooms dedicated to work by Raphael and Caravaggio, seeing the work like you’d see billboards from the highway.
On the other hand, to not take in as much of the Vatican as we can would also be a shame. We just had to be selective in where we decided to linger in the limited time available.
At this point in the narrative, I’d like to invite the reader to take part on our walk through the Musee Vaticano.
A Photo Tour of the Vatican Museum
Previously on TTWTH: Rome-ing Underground: The Catacombs of San Sebastian