Going to Rome and not visiting the Vatican would probably raise just as many eyebrows as telling someone that you didn’t go and check out the Colosseum. But out of all the things on the ‘must do’ list in Rome, I honestly felt a little disappointed and cheated by my Vatican experience. Is the Vatican really worth the visit? Not really, but you can’t help but force yourself to go because it is infamous.
I was just expecting to see a lot more than a giant, ‘you could spend three days in here’ museum.
It probably is a little naïve to think I was going to see a glimpse (however small) of the dark history of this walled ‘city’ established in 1929 – now classed as the smallest independent state in the world. It’s shrouded in such mystery and intrigue (and that in itself sells) but I still went there wanting to witness something of the grittiness that we hear of about this ambiguous walled enclave. I’m too inquisitive for my own good sometimes.
But when you make your way over to the other side of Rome’s Tiber River you don’t get to view a ‘city’.
Sure, it has a population of over 800 people, employs nearly 2000, has its own postal system, currency, police and the infamous Swiss Guards, but you don’t really get to witness any of that in operation, so it doesn’t really count. It just sounds good.
I made it worse for myself as I walked towards the entrance, taking in the tall, imposing, looming walls. The dark and mysterious feeling they generated felt like you were about to walk into something secretive, where you were to be given the privilege to be a little nosy. I loved taking pictures of the wall, it added to a sense of excitement that we were about to start a grand investigative adventure. Sadly not.
I admit, the interior décor of the Vatican is beyond stunning and I loved that.
Neck cranking though it was, you can’t get past the beauty of the wall and ceiling designs and their beaming colours. The statues, carvings and paintings were amazing, although in droves, but we had recently come from Florence having strolled through the beauty of the Uffizi and staring admirably at the adonis that is the Statue of David in the Accademia. Still, I sucked it all up like the non-arty type I am. It had to be done – when in Rome and all that.
But then I just started to get annoyed by the Vatican set-up.
Corridor after corridor, like a never ending journey of extreme cover-up by painting, we were like a herd of cattle wandering from one room to the next and being shoved past groups of crazy tourists with leaders waving those annoying flags and umbrellas. The only salvation (excuse the pun) was finally arriving at the Sistine Chapel, (which essentially acts as the end point to the crowded pain) where I found Michelangelo’s biblical frescoes quite magnificent. It made the colossal herding feel worth it as it is a spectacular sight.
While I don’t feel it was time completely wasted, (it is, afterall, a UNESCO World Heritage Site), I do feel as though so much of it is off limits that it takes away the ‘edge’ of being within an independent sovereign state. That was what I wanted to see just a small part of. Museum buildings and being let outside into a couple of gardens didn’t really feel like a very unique experience.
To me, the museum is not only a big show off of wealth but it feels like an artistic brainwashing for all the underground doings that take place there, so that when you leave it takes you a couple of hours to go ‘oh, what about the religion thing?’