Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Getting Lost in the Vatican Museums (Literally)

Vatican Museum
A very long corridor of Roman statues and this is just a teeny-weeny part of the museum, I tell you.

On our second day in Rome, our agenda was to go to Vatican City, which is currently the smallest state in the world. This brings me to ponder that we technically did visit 7 states in Europe! Okay, not some earth-shattering feat you have in mind but.. give me a chance. I'd likely be back in Europe if something close to miracle happens.

Anyway, to reach this walled city, we simply hopped on Metro A from Termini Station and 6 stops later, is the Ottaviano-San Pietro Station, the nearest to the Vatican Museums entrance. By that I mean, you need to walk about half a kilometer. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. (No door to door delivery, Madam.)

Now, the walk from the Metro station to the entrance was pretty straightforward, if I recall correctly. Of course, there was a steady stream of people, seemingly going in the same direction and that helped a lot. Alleluia!

Perhaps, the same scenario we would have inside the museum itself?

Vatican Museum

On our way to the entrance, we saw this lofty wall that separates the city-state from Rome. This is one obvious clue that we were in the right direction, aside from those people who looked like they're heading somewhere nice.

The Vatican has an area of 44 hectares and there are only two entrances that are open to the public - the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Square.

Directions to Vatican Museum

A far more obvious clue is this sign attached to the traffic light. We celebrated our joy with a quick photo sesh. But of course.

When we arrived at the entrance, there were no terrifyingly long queues that I frequently read in travel forums. I was stunned for a moment, when we just breezed through the entrance door and we were instantly in the main hall for the tickets. Was everything for real? I had even mentally prepared myself for such event. lol

And because the horror stories about the queues were disheartening, we already bought our tickets online. After claiming our admission tickets, we passed through security check and we then, faced the biggest question of where to begin.

Vatican Museums

Of course, we began by doing again the classic move. We followed the constant flow of human beings and then, we found this courtyard. We spent some time here, basking under the sun as we took photos of our familiar state in flooded sunshine. We hail from Southeast Asia, after all. With already enough Vitamin D, we scurried back to the confines of the grand maze that we still had to surmount. Walang kawala.

Apparently, we didn't sign up for any tour, aware of our short attention span and our inclination to linger for a number of photos. (But most probably, because we didn't want to pay more.)

Vatican Museums

The only rough guide with us, was the Vatican Museums self-guided tour app that I downloaded in my phone. It helped us navigate the immense place, somehow.

The Vatican Museums, come in plural form because it actually consists of many museums and each needs perhaps a day of thorough exploring. Well, maybe a couple or so for a day. Can there be like a multiple-day visit ticket? Yes?

Vatican Museums

But we didn't go with the flow as yet. Instead, I told my cousin that we would go to the spiral stairs after seeing it in the app. It was a major boo-boo that I made because the spiral stairs are meant for exit. haha We knew we were still about to join a battle but surrendering was not option!

Vatican Museums

Going back, we saw this miniature layout of the Vatican but we couldn't put up a pretense of listening to the teacher's explanation to these students because it was in Italian. The only thing that we understood was when a staff reprimanded the students for being too close. See those two hands? No one is supposed to be touching the display. And notice the disappearing belt barrier? Kids will always be kids! haha

View from Vatican Museums

Soaking up the view before we would start our ordeal... I mean our museum tour.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum in Vatican Museums

I am debating with myself if I'd put the photo of the actual mummy in its coffin, which is open for the present mankind to see, or the photo above. I find the mummy photo quite disturbing enough to be in this post so, I decided otherwise. It actually felt strange having these unearthed mummies to be in the room. Perhaps, during their civilization, these mummies were laid to rest in peace and not to be enclosed inside a glass in some distant future. And I wonder if our generation would likewise have the same fate. Hmmm...

Reclining Statue of the River Nile
Reclining Statue of the River Nile

Mummies aside, we encountered this lonesome statue, which looked like it could use some company, albeit for a while. This is one of the Roman statues, during that time in Rome (1-2 AD) when it was influenced by the Egyptian civilization. This statue, for instance, epitomizes the River Nile but in Roman style.

Vatican Museums

Yes, another breathing space after a deluge of information and to think, we only skimmed through the Egyptian museum! lol We had lunch thereafter, as a result.

Pius - Clementine Museum

Laocoön in Vatican Museums
Laocoön, Apollo's priest

This statuary represents the serpents sent by Athena and Poseidon to attack Laocoon and his sons, after the father warned the Trojans not to take the wooden horse left by the Greeks. Just a bit of Greek mythology because I found this particular group of statues riveting and bold, if you know what I mean.

Hall of the Muses, Vatican Museums
Hall of the Muses (Ehem, ladies)

Vatican Museums
Just one impressive fresco, among hundreds in the Vatican Museums!

Round Hall in Vatican Museums
The very definition of massive.

Vatican Museums
Oh the artwork on the floor!

Vatican Museums
The Goblet of Fire?

And my captions are now in haywire. haha This is exactly how I was feeling after going through halls after halls of displays. It was beyond overwhelming! Not to mention, the audacity of the Roman statues, with every human anatomy visible in its glory. We were initiated, alright.

The following won't then be per museum because it's hard to keep up! The tour groups were moving too fast that it's useless to eavesdrop the explanation and it's not always we chanced upon an English tour. Most of the time, we only indulged ourselves with the written information near a certain display that we found interesting.

The Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

Vatican Museums Frescoes

One of the after-effects of our tour was strained neck. As we navigated the hallways, the beautiful frescoes made a good distraction from the feeling of walking into infinite hallways. These frescoes look impeccably restored and well-maintained and to see them in my very own eyes, was already an unforgettable experience.


One of the Tapestries in the Vatican Museums
One of the sections that I was most amazed at, was the Gallery of Tapestries. The intricacy was remarkable!

Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums
Gallery of Maps

We actually waited the moment when the crowds would be shepherded by their respective guides for this photo. But a quick one before another set of crowd would roll in.

The other gallery that I liked was this Gallery of Maps. The maps that existed long before there's Google maps! The geographers during this time, who embarked to an unknown world, were indeed the true pioneers of navigation.

Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums

With our aimless wandering, we came upon a deserted hall, much to our relief. This is a refuge, you'd likely hope for after staying afloat in a sea of people. Breathe in, breathe out because we're going to the famous Sistine Chapel last.

Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Inside the Sistine Chapel, photography is not allowed. There were a few sneaky ones but the security were alert as well. Although, I hadn't seen anyone asked by the security to delete their photos, just a loud reprimand for everyone to hear. If you're ashamed of that, you can just google the Sistine Chapel's images.

We were actually a big crowd huddled inside the chapel, each of us trying to fathom the extraordinary work of Michelangelo on the chapel's ceilings. After much musing, we decided to end our tour.

Vatican Museums Spiral Stairs

And we were finally on the right way to our exit!

The Vatican Museums was a great experience for me even if I'm sadly not adept with art, and history was not one of my top subjects in school. But the experience gave me a chance to grasp the significance of the past and on how it eventually shaped today's world.

Even if I'm not into art, it's not really hard to appreciate the beautiful creations, done by the amazing people many centuries ago. I think they were even more commendable, knowing that the tools they had then, were not as advanced compared today.

My realizations from our tour:
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Buying online tickets can save your day.
- If you don't have a guide, be sure to have a map or better yet, download a Vatican Museums app in your phone. It's a maze out there. (I can no longer find what I downloaded. It was only a Lite version which is for free.)
- You need not digest everything. I think it's enough that there are a few that will stand out in your memory.

And was it worth it? YES

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