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last day in Rome

I have to say, I will not be sad to leave Rome tomorrow. I
do not remember even India being this insane a place – though I think there my
memory may be faulty. But the city is mad, incredibly crowded with tour groups
and especially school groups from every country on earth, particularly Germany.
I did have a brief flash of what hearing that language would have meant here 70
years ago. And then put that thought away.
Thank God for my Brucie, who had booked Vatican Museum
tickets for us months ago, and steered me to the Vatican via the subway and
then through the masses at the entrance. He had chosen 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday,
which is exactly when the pope gives his public address in St. Peter’s Square,
in the hopes that the millions would be there and not at the museum. And in
fact, though there were countless people, he said there were fewer than the
last time he was there.
We parted ostensibly for the day, he to the Pinacotheque,
the art gallery, and I to the Sistine Chapel. It’s a long walk to get there though
endless galleries of extraordinary stuff, including work by Raphael, but I kept
resolutely going. Click to enlarge.
The last time I was in Rome, to visit a friend living here in
2005, the pope died a few weeks before I came; there were millions of pilgrims,
the funeral playing on giant screens in every public square, and the Sistine
was closed. But this pope looks healthy and very cheerful. I hate to say
something nice about the Catholic church, but he has a lovely face.
The Sistine is as extraordinary as you’d expect. The
experience is surreal, enclosed in that small dark space with one of the great
works of art of the planet and twenty thousand spectators, gawking upward and
being shouted at by the guards not to use cameras and not to talk. “Quiet! No
phone!” And there, above and at one end, the magnificent artistry of
Michaelangelo. And on the side walls, Botticelli and other great painters.
And all along the corridors on the way out, priceless
treasures of antiquity and later. The wealth and power of this church are
astounding.
I’d persuaded Bruce that we should bring a sandwich, as he
complained the last time, he stopped nearby for lunch and paid 18 euros for 2
coffees and a bun. So I’d made us two salami sandwiches. I stepped out into the
huge courtyard to eat mine – and who was there but Brucie having his? So we
compared notes and had some coffee, and then I went to the Pinacotheque and he
went off to see some other stuff.

I saw the stunning alterpiece by Giotto
Fra Lippo Lippi
Frescoes by Melozzo da Forli
Raphael – including the prophet Elijah, to the left, which I
will show his namesake, my grandson in Toronto
And the always extraordinary Caravaggio, so modern, violent
and immediate.
And Saint Matthew by Guido Reni
And now out into the hot sun to make my slow way back. Huge
huge lineup in St. Peter’s Square to get into the church.
Some pilgrims from – Estonia?
Was looking for a paper store near the Pantheon

and found it, bought a little handmade address book to
replace my last one, bought last time I was here, that’s now falling apart.

Got lost a few times but not as badly as before. And fought my way through the crowds back
to the apartment, to get immediately into the bathtub. Beyond weary, full of magnificence and aches.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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