Having made friends with a roommate from Uruguay, we decided to attend breakfast together before parting ways. Her name was Patricia but everyone called her Pato. She spoke great English with a thick Spanish accent and was in Italy on vacation for a month.
When we got to breakfast we were immediately approached by a man who looked to be in his mid-thirties. He smiled broadly and carefully pronounced, “Buongiorno” but then quickly shook his head and decided instead to say, “Guten Tag,” which was German for 'Good Day.' I laughed and said “Salve”, an Italian word for 'hello'.
He then sat next to us and began saying something in German. I smiled and said, “Sono Americana”, thinking that he was an Italian who assumed I was German. He laughed and said “Ich..” something, which I knew was German for “I...” Somehow Pato picked up on it because it was close to her native tongue of Spanish, and she translated that he was Turkish. He then held up three fingers and said something that sounded like the number thirty in Spanish, but I knew it wasn't Spanish, it was Italian. I new he was trying to say something about the number thirty but the rest of his sentence was coming out in German. Finally Pato picked up that he had lived in Germany for thirty years.
We went on like this throughout breakfast, the three of us translating for one another. He knew a tiny bit of English, I knew a tiny bit of Italian and Spanish and Pato new Spanish and English very well. It was a challenging but rewarding breakfast conversation, not one of those surface level ones that come all too easy.
Just when I thought I couldn't be more entertained by all the languages we were hopping around on, the table behind us called out in English, “Do we need to translate? We are German.” Suddenly our new friend lit up and spoke rapidly in a language that left Pato and I completely out. I smiled and just when I did the other table behind us spoke up, it was three American boys. I instantly started speaking with them, asking them where they were from and how long they were here. My new Turkish/German friend laughed and pointed at us. He was now the one lost in translation.
So there we were, a room full of young people from four different countries, all cross-communicating with one another. I laughed and thought to myself, “what a wonderful way to start the day!”
I had just one main goal for the day and that was to reach the Vatican Museum for which I had purchased a 1 o'clock ticket for. I had studied my map and I knew the route by which I would take. It was a straight shot to the west from the hostel and on the way I would be sure and stop by the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. I figured the entire walk would just take thirty minutes, so with a few stops it might take an hour and a half or so, depending upon how long I stopped at each site.
First came Trevi. It was beautiful and oh-so crowded. But the fountain wasn't even working while I was there! It was being cleaned. I still took the obligatory selfie and then marched on through the beautiful Roman alleyways, towards the Pantheon. The Pantheon creeped up on me just as the Colosseum had the day before. I had no idea how large it was until I saw it. It was grandiose and captivating. When I saw the line happened to be very short, I decided to go inside for a look.
Inside there were several religious monuments and even an altar. I enjoyed reading about the saints who were honored there, and the tomb of Raffael was really neat to see. I also enjoyed seeing a large sculpture of the crusifix. The entire process was very humbling, and it reminded me of how thankful I am for my religious roots and upbringing. In fact, all of Rome is so deeply rooted in the Christian and Catholic faith, I can't help but feel reverent all over the city. I didn't realize how much religion played a role in history until I saw it first-hand for myself.
What better way to understand the history of religion than by visiting the Vatican Museum? I honestly didn't know what all to expect, but I heard there was a fabulous art collection so I figured I'd see that and hit up the Sisteen Chapel as a must-do.
For the record, the Vatican Museum is ridiculously huge and I don't suggest going unless you're very studied up on the layout of the building and where what you want to see is. There is so much to see and so many people that I found it extremely overwhelming, even with an audioguide. After fighting my location with the map and getting all the numbers wrong in the audioguide, I finally decided to just follow the crowd and see where it took me.
Everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get to the Sisteen Chapel. No one cared that much about the other exhibits, and the signs were even set up to rush you through to the Sisteen Chapel. For the few like me who wanted to linger and learn, it was definitely not the right environment. For the first whole hour of the visit, I was rushed and frustrated and irritated with all the pushing and shoving. However, I felt as though I got my payback at the very end. The last three exhibits just before the Sisteen Chapel are all focused on art. First, the Raffael rooms, which are floor to ceiling covered in beautiful artwork done by the famous painter, Raffael. Next the Borgia Apartments, the former residence of several popes, has been turned into an exhibition of contemporary art.
In 1973 Pope Paul VI realized that the artists of the modern day were no longer painting religious art, which had been a theme for hundreds of years before that time. He said it was time to examine the “imperfect friendship” between the church and the artist. What he found out was that the artists felt creatively restricted on their expression of religion, due to the works that had come before them and the stern glare of the modern day church. With that, the Pope apologized for the neglect of the Catholic Church and told the artists that “we need you.”
That was all it took to establish a museum with over 800 works by 250 artists from all over the world. The result is 52 rooms of modern religious art that are anything but traditional. I loved the bright colors the thoughtful themes and the unique twists on a steady truth. The audioguide pointed out that the only theme that was constant throughout all of the art was that of Jesus Christ.
That being said, you have to walk through all 52 rooms before you can see the Sisteen Chapel. I loved it. Not only did it set your mind on art but it also reminded your heart to be reverent of the religion behind it all. Being both artistic and religious, I know that most people don't care for either subject, so the fact that I had to watch hundreds of people sweat through both in order to get to what they really wanted, really made me giggle.
When me and the masses around me finally reached the Sisteen Chapel, I was pleasantly surprised. It was gorgeous. I listened to my guide tell me about Michelangelo painting the ceiling and the dozens of others who painted the frescoes below and even the tile on the floor had meaning. It was really quite a site. I sat and stared at the marvelous work for quite a while. Here, in one room full of art, was the entire story of Christianity, as told by the Bible. Michelangelo had to have been part theologian in order to translate that many stories into one huge work of art.