Tuesday, 8 April 2008
When in Rome....
This is what it has come to: There is so much history in Rome--so many classical statues, so many hunks of fluted stone and finely-worked pieces of bronze--that a marble likeness of some Caesar or other is stuck in a corner of the Vatican Museum directing tourists to the cafeteria. In any other city he'd be in a place of honor. In Rome, he's lucky he isn't in a broom closet.
Yes, it's possible to overdose on the art and beauty here--possible, but unlikely. I haven't even started processing it all yet but it's nice when foreign places are, well, foreign, when they do things differently.
But I suppose stereotypes are nice, too. For example, in a way it's reassuring to know that all that blather about Heathrow's ill-fated new Terminal 5 and how the English can't build anything was actually spot on, as the Brits might say. We checked our four bags 90 minutes before our flight left then watched in Rome as only two of them spun around on the baggage carousel. Yes, the carousel repeatedly broke down and bored looking Italian airport personnel would kick it occasionally and then disappear, but after 45 minutes it was clear our bags weren't coming. Nor were the bags of half the other people on the British Airways flight. We waited in line for an hour to file our claims, cursing our folly at departing from Terminal 5. My bag came the next day; My Lovely Wife's the day after. But that's why hotel rooms have sinks, right? To wash your clothes.
What can I say about Rome that hasn't been said before, except maybe that it's possible to have too much Sistine Chapel. We went there first thing yesterday, shuffling in the interminable line that leads to Michelangelo's masterpiece. It's been cleaned since I saw it last, 20 years ago. It gave me a shiver, despite the room having all the ambiance of a bus station. Rome is much more crowded than last time I was here. We made our escape then tried to see what are known as the Raphael Rooms, a set of rooms painted by that master artist. But the Vatican Museum is like Ikea: It's set up to take you through a predetermined route from which you may not deviate. Every route includes the Sistine Chapel. What I mean is, to get to the Raphael Rooms we had to go through it again: the same meandering route, the same preparatory rooms (the tapestry room, the map room...), the same lines. It's enough to make you convert.
That's all I have time for now, blogging as I am from the lobby of a hotel with spotty wi-fi, listening to the rain on the cobbled streets outside. Yes, the rain followed us from Blighty, though yesterday was glorious and sunny.
Here are some photos to frighten you:
If that Medusa head doesn't turn you to stone, maybe this will:
Wow, it's so lifelike.
Pull It, Sir
News travels slowly here, so belated congratulations to all my colleagues who cleaned up at this year's Pulitzer Prizes. Six of U.S. journalism's top honors were awarded to The Washington Post. The nice thing is, each one was richly deserved.