Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rome without crowds

In summer, Rome is wretchedly hot – and its often mobbed. But in February, relative calm reigns.

That was part of the allure for Mainers Helene and Bill Chase, Scott and Patty Ruppert and Dave and Maggie Baribeau. The Rupperts have visited many times before and chose February for both the temps and the relative peace. “Other parts of Italy go on holiday for renovations, but everything in Rome is open,’’ said Scott.

I arrived at the Vatican Museums about 10:30 – and waltzed right in, a luxury unthinkable in June. And while there were plenty of other visitors around – including several school groups – I could easily enjoy the Eyptian mummies, the Raphael-muraled rooms and even the cafeteria without having to elbow for space.

Today’s visit was like seeing the museums for the first time. Before, I took the shortest route to Michelangelo’s staggeringly beautiful Sistine Chapel. Today I took my time, tempted by a relatively new audio guide and other changes in recent years. The result: sore feet, an overwhelmed mind – and five hours that left me wishing for more.

“It’s all so breathtaking,’’ said Antoinette Schifferer of California, making her first visit. “I’m not a very religious person, but I found it moving. I can’t even explain why.’’

But then it was time to dash off to St. Peter’s before it closed for the day. The wait: 7 minutes – and that was for the security check.

A few scenes:

1 comment:

Brent O. said...

Sounds so delightful! We had a bad experience at the Vatican Museum, but it was one of our own making. We also tried to get in during a busy time, but I at least got in line before they opened. As soon as we hit the doors, I dragged my girlfriend through the whole place, determined to beat everybody to the Sistine Chapel so that we could take in the beauty with as few people as possible. I kept insisting that we'd backtrack through the museum and see the rest of the stuff afterwards.

You can probably guess what happened - we got there and it was packed anyway, shoulder to shoulder. To add insult to injury, they won't let you backtrack through the museum - everything is one-way only. Argh.