“Travelers, there is no path, paths are made by walking” – Antonio Machado
And walk we did…all through Rome. From one end of Rome to the other, from the Vatican to the Roma Termini train station. What our director said would be a 40 minute brisk walk ended up being…well, longer than that and still a brisk walk. We made the train.
Let’s just say that Rome really needs to be experienced in more than one day. We woke up that morning to catch a 6:51 train out of Orvieto. The sun was not even up. Our train trip was uneventful. As soon as we got off the train, though, we were inundated with sight upon sight of Roman art. From a statue of a horned Moses (due to a mistranslation somewhere along the line, for a while people thought that instead of Moses’ face being shining and brilliant from seeing God, he had horns) to Caravaggio’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa to his series on the Life of Matthew, to the Pantheon, to piazzas, to obelisks, we were rushed through Rome. We didn’t make any paths of our own, but I think we definitely deepened some ruts in some of those streets. We were finally allowed to rest for lunch, which I ate at the base of one of the numerous fountains that lives in the city.
After lunch we were rushed off to the Vatican. Entering it, you feel like you’re going through airport security to get into the museum. The building of the museum is a labyrinth in itself. And another fact about Italian museums: rarely do they provide maps. With the Uffizi, that wasn’t so much of a problem, since the entire building is only shaped like a “u”. Pretty hard to get lost in that thing. The Vatican, on the other hand, twists and winds around. To top it all of, the museum guards decide to change the way the signs point, depending on the traffic flow at any given point of the day. So pretty much, when you see a sign pointing to Sistine chapel, it’s really pointing you to a mile-long walk that will eventually take you to the Sistine chapel. Somewhat frustrating when you don’t actually want to get caught up in the throngs of people snapping pictures of every piece of famous artwork along the way. The school of Athens was worthy of stopping and looking at, though.
Once you’re in the Sistine chapel, it’s like you’re in a study hall where the students have been given permission to “talk quietly” but don’t know what that means. Literally every 30 seconds the guards holler our “no talking” and loudly shush people. Sometimes is works, sometimes it doesn’t. More often it doesn’t. So, in a massive room packed with people, you see one of the best-known pieces of work of all time.
After finally disentangling ourselves from the mass of people, we cruised through St. Peter’s Basilica and then were on our way back to the train station on the other side of the city–one of the fastest and longest walks that I’ve taken in a while. Two sites on the way that were worthy of note:
Walking down the road away from the Vatican, I came across a building with a Taiwanese flag hanging on the outside of it. Go figure.
The other sight that I found interesting was when we walked across the Tiber on a bridge known as the Bridge of Angels. Along the edges of it are statues holding symbols of the passion of Christ. I personally found it interesting that in Rome, there are bridges of angels, while in Taiwan, you have nine-cornered bridges that are supposed to stop ghosts from following people across them. Why is it that bridges so often are tied to religion in different countries?