Surprise Trips Make Meaningful Memories

When you surprise a family member with a weekend getaway or a more elaborate trip it shows your love for that person.  Your spouse or your child/sibling/parent can tell that you had to do some planning to make the trip special.  You had to think ahead, make arrangements, get babysitters or tickets or reservations.  If you did it especially well, you  thought about what your spouse, child, sibling or parent really likes, and you made it happen.

My husband is very good at surprising me.  Once, for our anniversary, he took me away for the weekend.  We stayed at a nice hotel, ate dinner at a nice place and went to see “Phantom of the Opera”.  I loved that.  I knew he thought about what I would enjoy.

But the granddaddy of all surprises he gave me for my 40th birthday.  He took me on a 7-day Alaska cruise!  And when I say surprise, I mean TOTAL surprise!  I didn’t know a thing about a cruise until we boarded the plane to Seattle.  He did EVERYTHING secretly!  He got a babysitter for the kids, made carpool arrangements, even got a sub for my aerobics class, and–what I would say is a next-to-impossible feat for most husbands–he packed for me!  And he remembered everything from my favorite clothes, to accessories, to the right shoes, to all the pieces of my make-up!  I couldn’t have done that for him.  I was amazed and grateful and ecstatic to get away for 7 days without having to make any arrangements. It was a wonderful, beautiful, exciting, meaningful cruise, and I loved him so much more for working for months to surprise me.

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Enjoying breathtaking Alaska scenery

Now, you don’t have to plan a surprise on that scale to strengthen your relationships.  I know it’s cliche, but it IS the thought that counts.  I once surprised my husband on his birthday and took him to the concert of one of his favorite singers.  We stayed overnight at a resort and had dinner at a nice place.  He says that is one of his favorite memories.  It didn’t take months of planning and it was relatively inexpensive.  My husband says it wasn’t even that he really loved the concert.  It was the time away together that mattered to him.

Time and thoughtfulness.  Throw in a little surprise and you have the makings of a meaningful memory.

 

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Savor the Small Moments

As a parent, I love to travel with my children.  I want to take them to cool places, fun places, and places that will create lasting memories.  But as I plan these grandiose trips to “big” places, it’s good to remind myself that my children are more likely to remember the feelings they had on a trip than the place they went to, no matter how great I think it is.

For example, we once took a trip with extended family to southern California.  For the first two hours we were at Disneyland–the purported “happiest place on earth”– my 3-year-old daughter whined and bawled.  Then, at SeaWorld, she and her same-age cousins bawled again when they got soaked by Shamu.  I’m not sure what her memories are of those “big” places, but I do know she had a fabulous time on the (“little”, inexpensive) beach, dodging waves and building sandcastles.

On another “big” trip with my family, we stopped momentarily at a neighborhood park just to get out and stretch our legs.  There was a merry-go-round on the playground, which my youngest son and teenage daughters climbed on, while my husband and other son pushed them.  As they spun faster and faster, they were all smiling and laughing uproariously.  It was a sweet, unscripted moment of pure joy, which no amount of planning could have produced.  That is the kind of moment we hold close to our hearts and treasure forever.

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One of my favorite "small" moments on a "big" trip!

So, as I plan the next “big” trip, I will try to remember to leave some unscheduled time for those kinds of experiences, and to savor the spontaneous moments of joy that pop up along the way.

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Family Trip to Son’s LDS Mission has Meaning for All

Last year, my husband and I took our 4 children on a trip to Portland, Oregon, where our   son, Dallin, had served a 2-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as LDS or Mormon Church).  It turned out to be one of my favorite family vacations that we have ever taken.  I asked myself what was different about this trip that made it more meaningful than some of the other fun vacations we’ve taken.  And here’s what I concluded:

First, the location had special meaning for our son, who spent 2 years there teaching, serving and learning to love the people.  As we drove through the different areas where Dallin had served and he recounted memories from this house or that church, or this restaurant or that park, culminating in a visit to the famous doughnut shop, VooDoo Doughnuts (where, of course, we had to get a doughnut), we could feel the strong attachment binding his heart to this place. The people, in turn, had an obvious love for Dallin, which we were able to see first-hand when we visited some of the families with whom he had developed a close relationship.  Each member of our family felt their love, enjoyed their hospitality, and learned more about our son/brother as they told us stories of his service there.  I felt that our son had become their son through the experiences he had during his 2 years in Oregon, and I was grateful for those who had watched over him in my absence.

The second significant thing about this trip was that it was the first trip we had been on as an entire family in over 2 years.  Our three youngest children were glad to have their brother home, and there was a palpable contentment that filled our car as we traveled together.  It was a 2-day drive to Portland from Arizona, and I can’t recall a trip where there was a more peaceful, happy group of kids who got along so well!

Portland and the nearby coastal towns are breathtakingly beautiful!  We loved the green, green landscape, seeing the gorgeous rhododendrons, visiting spectacular Multnomah Falls, the Rose Garden, the Columbia River Gorge, the beaches at Seaside and Astoria, and the fun cheese factory at Tillamook (with delicious ice cream!).  And although we thoroughly enjoyed doing the “touristy” things, these were not the things that made the trip so special.  It was the joy of being reunited as a family after a long separation and the significance of a place where our son has left a piece of his heart.  Because of that, Oregon will always hold a spot in my heart, too.

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Enjoying the Beautiful Oregon Coast

 

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Night-Life in Rome a Social Tradition

People come out at night in Rome.  And not just tourists–regular Roman citizens go out in the evenings to enjoy the cool air, good food and the company of friends and family.  Dinner is late by American standards.  Seven o’clock is kind of early to start dinner.  A lot of restaurants don’t even open until then.

Going out in the evening is a nice social tradition.  I noticed that many couples, especially the older ones, make it a habit to walk arm-in-arm.  I like that.  They dress up, too.  Not like we Americans.  It seems we’re always casual, except on a few special occasions.  But I digress.

Rome has many plazas (piazzas) where lots of people congregate in the evening.  After a day in Vatican City, we returned to Rome to get a taste of the night-life.  We followed the Rick Steves’ chapter, “Night Walk Across Rome”, www.ricksteves.com rather haphazardly because we were looking for a restaurant as we went.

First we found the Trevi Fountain.  You can’t see this fountain until you’re suddenly there because it’s tucked away in between buildings.  But you can hear it and feel the energy from the happy crowds as you approach it through the narrow streets.  This large Baroque fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1762.  The water comes from one of Rome’s many aqueducts.  This is a great place to people-watch.  Tradition holds that if you stand in front of the fountain and toss a coin over your shoulder, you get a wish and you will return to Rome one day.  So of course we had to toss coins over our shoulders.   I’m going to have to come back to see all the things I missed the first time around.

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The Trevi Fountain draws an evening crowd of both tourists and locals.

After the fountain, we stumbled upon the Pantheon.  The Pantheon itself was closed (we went back when it was open–I’ll get to that), but there are many restaurants on the square surrounding it.  It was a lively place, but we moved on.

I think we must have had the map upside down, because the next place we came to was Piazza Venezia, in the complete opposite direction of the restaurant we were looking for and not part of the walking tour.  This plaza is not a place where people hang out, as it is a busy intersection.  But it looks pretty impressive at night, with its beautiful, white building topped with huge statues on the roof, all lit up.  For us it was a landmark telling us we were going the wrong way.

We turned around and made our way–finally–to Ristorante il Gabriello on Via Vittoria, not far from the Spanish Steps.  The restaurant was a nice place, and the food was good, though the portions were smaller here than at some of the other places we ate.  Drew and I split some ravioli with spinach, and our daughter, Kari had an entree.  For 2 meals, it cost €33, which was about what we paid for 3 meals the night before.  But I would eat here again.  The food was very good, as was the atmosphere.  We all enjoyed our meal.

We ended the night at The Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna).  This is a beautiful spot with a picturesque fountain, bright flowers, and a lively crowd.  The steps lead up to the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican, where there is a pretty view, especially at sunset, but the real attraction is the people congregated in the plaza, and the designer-name shops nearby on Via Condotti.

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Enjoying a beautiful evening at The Spanish Steps

After a long day of sightseeing and walking, we were ready to hop on the metro and head quickly back to our hotel for some sleep.  It was not to be.  We were very disappointed to find that the metro had shut down early (for construction or something) and we would have to take a bus.  When we finally figured out which bus we needed to take, it was late and we were in danger of having the busses shut down, too.  But we managed to cram ourselves into what was an already jam packed bus on one of the last runs of the night–along with about 100 other tired tourists.  We were literally smashed together with no room to breathe with all the other people desperate not to have to walk home.  (I don’t know how they got the bus door shut) It was the most uncomfortable bus ride of my life!  We were relieved to get off the stifling bus, but then we kept getting turned around trying to find our way back to the hotel.  (This was a recurring theme tonight).  By this time we were all exhausted, frustrated, and starting to worry about our safety on the streets of Rome at this late hour.  My husband finally figured out where we were (I am notoriously bad about directions) and got us safely back to our hotel.  We all gratefully collapsed into our beds just after midnight.

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St. Peter’s Square and Vatican court jesters (oops, I mean “guards”)

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View of St. Peter's Square from the top of the cathedral.

Our first glimpse of St. Peter’s Square came as we exited the gigantic St. Peter’s Basilica.  Most people do it the other way around by coming through the square to enter the cathedral.  But we took a shortcut from the Sistine Chapel to the church, so had not yet seen the square.  As I gazed out at the obelisk in the center and the rows of columns encircling the square like arms, I could imagine the place packed with thousands of people come to get a glimpse of the pope.  And indeed that’s just how it would be in a few days’ time, on Easter Sunday. The square, like the cathedral, was also filled with chairs and huge screens in preparation for the pope’s appearance.  We would be gone from Rome by then, thankfully.  My daughter, Kari, commented that it would be cool to see the pope.  Yeah, but it would be a lot cooler to miss all the crowds and just watch him on TV (we didn’t) from the comfort of our Florence apartment, which is where we would be on Easter.

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Standing in St. Peter's Square, in front of the obelisk and basilica.

We slipped into the Vatican Post Office just before they closed to buy some Vatican City stamps.  As this is the smallest country in the world, we thought it would be cool to have some of their unique stamps to remember our visit.

Before you leave Vatican City, be sure to get a look at the mercenary guards from Switzerland.  They look more like court jesters than guards, if you ask me, and there’s nothing “mercenary” about them.  Do you think these guys ever get to do anything exciting?  Or do they just have to stand around all day enduring the indignation of tourists like us taking silly pictures of them in those goofy uniforms.  They must get tired of that.  I know they do, because we were trying to compose a funny picture with one of them in it, and just at the moment we clicked the shutter, he stepped aside.  We laughed.  Sorry, I know they’re traditional and all (and supposedly designed by Michaelangelo), but come on, those uniforms are just so . . . 16th century!

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One of those silly tourist photos the poor guards must endure.

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St. Peter’s Basilica — Wow!

St. Peter’s Basilica is a gigantic place!  It’s the Ultrasaurus of cathedrals!  It covers 6 acres, and 2 football fields would fit in the central nave.  It was designed and decorated by masters from both the Renaissance and Baroque eras.  (It took 120 years to complete the project) The huge, Michaelangelo-designed dome rises 448 feet from the ground, with Bernini’s 7-story bronze canopy surrounding the altar underneath, and Raphael’s “paintings” (actually mosaic copies of them) adorn the walls.  The large canopy (looks like a giant 4-poster bed–but a stunning one at that) is said to reduce the perceived height of the dome and make it feel more “intimate”.  I found it hard to feel any intimacy in such a cavernous space, but it is jaw-droppingly ornate and beautiful.

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Bernini's intricately carved canopy over the main altar.

Built over Old St. Peter’s church (AD 326) and the tomb of the apostle Peter, the cathedral is a spectacular monument to Christendom and the Catholic Church, in spite of the shady origins of the money used to build it.  (The church sold “indulgences” to wealthy parishioners.  In other words, money for forgiveness of sins) It is the largest church in the world, with a capacity of 60,000 (standing) worshipers.  The day we were there, luckily, it was not crowded.  However, because it was Easter week and hundreds of chairs were set up for the pope’s Easter mass, we were not able to explore parts of the cathedral normally open to the public.  Bummer!

We were still able to see the grandeur of the place–the marble floors, the Bernini dove window, the bronze carvings and statues, gold trim, corkscrew columns (salvaged from Old St. Peter’s church and said to have been originally pillaged from Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem), marble columns, and richness and splendor everywhere.  In the late afternoon, beams of light shone through the windows, giving the place a feeling of reverence, which seemed to me to override the muted noise of many tourists.

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Late afternoon sunbeams work their magic in St. Peter's dome.

My favorite thing in the church, though, was hands down, Michaelangelo’s exquisite sculpture, “The Pieta”.  It’s behind bulletproof glass, sadly, thanks to some crazy guy who took a hammer to it in 1972, so you can’t get very close.  You can still see Mary’s sad, tender expression as she holds on her lap the heavy, dead body of her son, Jesus Christ.  It’s amazing to me that a sculptor can convey through stone, the emotion of such a poignant moment in Mary’s life, and at the same time sculpt folds of cloth, the human body, and strands of hair that appear soft and supple.  Of all of Michaelangelo’s sculptures, I think this one is his best.

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The beautiful Pieta.

St. Peter’s Basilica has a strictly enforced dress code, so be sure no one is wearing, shorts, mini-skirts or bare shoulders (not even your children!)

One thing you can do at St. Peter’s Basilica, which we didn’t do, but I wish we had, is climb the dome.  It costs €5 to climb the stairs to the top of the dome, or €7 to take an elevator to the roof of the church, where you can continue to the top of the dome by climbing the 323 remaining steps.  From the bottom of the dome, you can even go inside the church and look down on the altar below.  From outside, the view of Rome is said to be fantastic from either here or the top of the dome.

 

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Separated at the Sistine Chapel!

I never dreamed (or had a nightmare) that when I finally got to see the famous Sistine Chapel, I would remember it more for what happened to pull me away from it than for the amazing artwork I saw inside it.

After spending about 30 minutes in the Sistine Chapel, my artful musings were suddenly interrupted by my teenage daughter, Kari, insisting that she had to find a bathroom–immediately!  I thought there must be one close by, because I had seen a sign near the exit with an arrow pointing to restrooms.  That’s where I was wrong, and that’s where our adventure (that we really didn’t want to have) began.  Thinking we would be right back, we left my husband, Drew, in a rush saying only that we were going to find a bathroom, with no communication about where or when we would meet up.  As we hurried out through passageways and then down the  endless corridor toward the entrance of the museum, it quickly became apparent that there were no bathrooms close by.

I’m raging in my head.  “I’m in Rome, in the Sistine Chapel–THE SISTINE CHAPEL–which I may never see again in my whole life, and we have to find a BATHROOM??!! Right NOW??”  About the same time that I realize there are no bathrooms close by, it dawns on me that Drew will likely leave the Sistine Chapel before we return.  I am right.  I also realize that getting separated in this huge labyrinth of a museum without a way to contact each other is going to be a disaster.  We do not have cell phones (except one for calling home) and we do not have a plan, except to go to St. Peter’s Basilica after the museum.  After leaving the restroom, I decide that we might find Drew if we just go back to the Sistine Chapel the way we came.  Nope. He’s not there and we don’t run into him on the way.  We head back to the bathrooms.  Not there. (This is a LONG walk, which we have now made 3 times).  Back to the Sistine Chapel–AGAIN!  Not there.  Hey, we have to go return the audioguide–at the OTHER end of the museum–maybe Drew will be there.  Good idea, but no, he’s not there.  (Found out later he went there, but not at the same time we did).  We sit down to think.  I’m angry, frustrated, and tired, (so is Kari) and now fear is starting to creep in.  I cry.  “How are we ever going to find each other?”  “What do we do now?”

About 2 hours have passed since we got separated.  The museum is about to close.  “Well, he must have gone over to St. Peter’s Basilica,” I reason, “because that’s where we were going after the museum.”  That place is huge, too.  How will we ever find him?  Meanwhile, I have been praying all this time to know what to do, and asking for a small miracle.  We head to St. Peter’s, believing we will find Drew there–somehow.  My prayers are answered after about 5 minutes at St. Peter’s.  Drew walks up behind us with a smile and says, “Where have you been?”  Relief floods my whole body.

Miracles do happen.

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The Sistine Chapel: A feast for the eyes

It’s an exercise in patience getting to the Sistine Chapel, but once you get there, try to find a seat and take it all in at your own pace.  Don’t hurry.  Try to tune out the noise and the crowds (it IS a chapel after all–the pope’s personal chapel, in fact–and they try to keep it quiet in there, but not very successfully).  The artwork on the ceiling is amazing in and of itself, but when you take in the fact that Michaelangelo painted virtually the whole 5,900 square feet himself–standing up, no less–it’s just an awesome (in the true sense of the word) accomplishment!  He didn’t want the job–said he was a sculptor, not a painter–but when Pope Julius II pestered, cajoled and threatened him, Michaelangelo agreed on the condition that he have complete freedom to do it his own way.  The 4-year physical, mental and creative effort almost killed him.  But what a spectacular result he achieved!

We’ve all seen the famous central panel, The Creation of Adam, but there are 8 other panels depicting scenes from Genesis, from God creating the earth, to Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden of Eden, to Noah and the flood.  There are also 12 panels along the sides, each one portraying a prophet.  In between those are some triangular panels portraying important ancestors of Christ.   For good commentary (and humor, too) on the masterpieces here, we downloaded Rick Steves’ free audioguide to the Sistine Chapel from his website.  www.ricksteves.com

There is no photography allowed in the Sistine Chapel, so these pictures I got off the internet.

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The Creation of Adam and a few other scenes from the famous Sistine ceiling.

When you get done contemplating the frescoes on the ceiling, you’ve only seen half of Michaelangelo’s work in the Sistine.  Now turn your attention to the far wall, which contains a gigantic illustration of The Last Judgement.  Michaelangelo returned to paint this in 1535, 23 years after completing the ceiling (it took that long to recover).  While this painting is magnificent in its scope, size, and emotion, it’s not how I imagine the last judgement.  It’s very dark and dismal.  We do not see a merciful Christ in this portrayal.  He is definitely meting out justice here.  Even the righteous, who are headed for Heaven, do not look happy.  You have to wonder what Michaelangelo was thinking about his own fate when he painted this.  He included his own face in the flayed skin held by St. Bartholomew–on the left-hand of Christ. Yes, that’s the Hell side.

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Michaelangelo's "The Last Judgement" - A sobering depiction.

I never knew until I got to Rome that the famous chapel is at the far end of the monstrous Vatican Museum–not a freestanding chapel that you can just waltz into.  I suppose you could make a beeline for the chapel upon entering the Museum and then look at everything else on your way out (and if I ever go back, I might try that strategy).  But, once you’re in there, you can stay as long as you want (until they close, that is.) It’s shoulder-to-shoulder people most of the time, but if you find a little spot where you can gaze up and get a good view, you can tune out the crowds.  If you can’t tune out crowds, a private tour may be the way to go.  There are many good tour companies out there.  Check Rick Steves’ guide to Rome for a list.  www.ricksteves.com

Some friends of ours did this, and were able to see the Sistine Chapel early in the morning with only a few other tour groups there.  That would be nice.  Expensive, but nice.

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The Vatican Museum: Opulence, Grandeur and Great Art

After strolling leisurely through the practically empty National Museum earlier in the day, it was an uncomfortable contrast to be herded like cattle through the extremely crowded Vatican Museum.  I hear it’s always crowded, though, so you just have to deal with it if you want to see the cool stuff here.  And there’s a LOT of cool stuff!

The Vatican Museum used to be a series of papal palaces.  The popes had expensive taste in art and trinkets to decorate their palaces with, and they used the church’s wealth to amass a sizable collection of Europe’s greatest art.  And they didn’t just hang paintings on the walls and put statues in the halls; everything is covered in splendor– from the coffered, gilded ceilings to the large tapestries, vases and urns, mosaic floors, and frescoed living quarters painted by none other than Raphael, the elaborate furnishings attest to the popes’ appetite for luxury.

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One of many ornate and beautiful ceilings in the Vatican Museum.

 

This museum is HUGE, and you have to know where you’re going and what you want to see to get the most out of it.  We rented an audio guide (€7), which was great for describing individual pieces of art, and allowed us to go in any order (well, sort of) through the museum.  Each piece is numbered, so you just punch in the number and listen to the description of whatever you’re standing in front of.  We tried to follow the Rick Steves self-guided tour to see the highlights of the museum, but our path was blocked off in some places to divert traffic in a certain order.  We were able to follow the guidebook for the most part, but many times we were just carried along in the sea of people, trying to make our way to the “grand finale” at the far end of the museum–the Sistine Chapel.

Along the way (and it’s a LONG way) we saw many beautiful and captivating works of art.  The Apollo Belvedere, Laocoon, and the Belvedere Torso are just three of many famous Greek sculptures I remember from my Humanities class in high school.  Because of his perfectly balanced, graceful body and youthful looks, Apollo Belvedere was once considered the “most perfect work of art in the world”.  Yes, he’s a very beautiful rendition of the human form, but there are several of those in Italy (okay, technically, he’s NOT in Italy, as Vatican City is its own country, but you know what I mean).  Laocoon, on the other hand, is not what I would call “beautiful”, but it is powerful, emotional, and amazing!  This guy was the high priest of Troy, who tried to stop the Trojans from allowing the Trojan Horse inside the city walls.  For his trouble, the gods sent huge snakes to kill Laocoon and his two sons.  This sculpture, as well as the Belvedere Torso (the remains of an ancient statue of Hercules), were pieces that influenced the work of Michaelangelo.

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Laocoon, "the most famous Greek statue in ancient Rome", discovered near the Colosseum in 1506.

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Apollo, god of sun and music, epitomizes classical Greek balance in the human form.

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Michaelangelo declared himself "a pupil of the Torso". Its influence can be seen in his later works.

There is so much to see in this museum, I can’t possibly write about it all.  Suffice it to say, give yourself time to visit the Egyptian and Etruscan (an elusive but sophisticated group of Italians about which relatively little is known) exhibits, the Raphael Rooms (private living quarters of past popes with walls by Raphael), and notice the ceilings, floors and views along the way.  And don’t run out of gas before you get to the Sistine Chapel!

If you’re going to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel (a “must-see” when visiting Rome), get a reservation!  We saved a long wait in line by making an advance reservation through the Vatican’s online reservation service.  http://mv.vatican.va  It’s definitely worth the €4 reservation fee to bypass the ticket line (which can take up to 2 hours) and go right in.  The Vatican also offers guided tours, which can be booked on the same website.  You print out a voucher when you make your reservation and just show it to the guard when you arrive.  The Roma Pass does not cover anything in Vatican City.

Private and group tours are also available.  If you are extremely short on time, a private tour may be the way to go.  They can be expensive, but it might be worth it for a little time in the Sistine Chapel before the general public is allowed in.  For a list of good tour companies, see Rick Steves’ guide to Rome.  www.ricksteves.com

 

 

 

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The National Museum: Worth a quick look

For a Roman history buff, The National Museum would probably be fascinating.  But for me, there were only a few standout things to see here, and if I had missed it completely, I wouldn’t have felt bad.  Still, the things we saw were worth seeing.

The best thing about this museum was that it wasn’t crowded, and we got in free with our Roma pass.  (Although I might have saved my other free admission to use somewhere else, had I known this museum wouldn’t thrill me) We spent about 2 hours here before heading on to Vatican City.

Following our Rick Steves guidebook, we saw the things that were interesting to us and didn’t waste time on things that weren’t.  You can get a sort of synopsis of Roman history in the form of portrait busts and statues of emperors and gods dating from about 500 BC to  about 300 AD.  Much of the Greek influence on Rome is evident here in the copies of Greek statues that Romans adopted.

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Kari thinks this emperor looks like Voldemort.

We breezed past the busts of emperors, noting what is thought to be Julius Ceasar and another one that we thought looked like “Voldemort”.  (These busts were supposed to be realistic and not idealized like the Greek busts.  Man, some of these guys were ugly!)

My two favorite statues in this museum were first,

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This boxer looks weighed down by defeat.

The Boxer (first century, BC) because there is so much emotion in his face and body language, and second,

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A well-preserved Roman copy of the Greek original Discus Thrower.

The Discus Thrower (Roman copy of Greek original by Myron, 450 BC) because it is just an amazing and beautiful depiction of the human body in motion.  If I’d been an emperor’s wife, I’d have put these two guys in my garden courtyard!  (I’d have to include Bernini’s David, too, but I’ll get to him later).

We made a quick scan of the mosaics and frescoes on the second floor.  These were very beautiful and had meticulous detail in them.  I especially liked the frescoes from Livia’s villa.

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Intricately painted frescoes from an Emperor's wife's villa.

The coin collection in the basement was worth a brief look, too.  A coin collector could spend hours there, but once you’ve seen one emperor’s face (or his wife’s) on a coin, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

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