Thursday, October 31, 2013

St. Peter's, 2013

We visited St. Peter's two or three times in 2011, and each time were thwarted by some religious observance--the nerve!!!--that closed the building off in the nave, even before the crossing. Each time we sat patiently in the area before Pope John XXIII (thinking of poor Anti-Pope John XXIII back in Florence), asking the marshals/wardens/whatever when the place might be open again, every time being told 5 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever, and then, hours later, giving up and leaving. This time we figured we'd sign up for the English language tour, at the official Vatican Tourist Information office, and would be escorted in by a prelate and given a real first-class tour and perhaps even some behind-the-scenes stuff. Our tour guide, as it were, was a very nice and well-spoken seminarian, Stephen, hailing from Washington, DC, in his 2nd or 3rd year in the North American Pontifical Seminary or somesuch. Rather than walking right through security, however, we stood in line with everyone else while Stephen told us about the history of Vatican City, St. Peter himself, the original St. Peter's, Julius II, Bramante, Michaelangelo, Bernini, the new building, and much else. For an hour. It was an hour well-spent, however, for he knew his stuff and fielded all questions artfully. Once inside, finally, we'd gotten only to the port transept when the barricade went up and all were shepherded back into the nave. We got to see a few more dead popes, both corrupt and incorrupt, corporeally, and finished up at the Pieta. We thanked Stephen cordially and went back to Pope John XXIII to sit and wait. The marshals/wardens/whatever told us, variously, that the service would be over in 5 minutes, 45 minutes, or 6PM. I guess they are trained to say whatever is necessary to keep the tourists in line. Or possibly they don't know, aren't told, whatever. Perhaps no one knows. Much as I like Bernini and friends, I did not feel like another hour or two of waiting and uncertainty. And disappointment. We left. I took just a few photos since this time I was more into experiencing the thing apart from the camera lens and processor. Oh well.
There, as you can see, people are being moved out of the
starboard transept to the left, then out of the port, and back
into the nave...

Bernini's Throne of St. Peter

Up closer

Bronze St. Peter; for centuries, pilgrims have
touched his right foot in order to earn time off
for good behavior

The very well-worn right foot...

Still the main attraction, however, Michaelangelo's

Boys lined up to process into the great church; I admit to
having had very unkind thoughts seeing them, as we were

But we'll let them pass, as the sun sets on yet another
unsuccessful visit to St. Peter's

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rome's Villa Farnesina

We spent most of Monday driving from Paestum to Rome, setting up camp at our old friend Prato Smeraldo, near Laurentina and the EUR. We stored the camper at Prato Smeraldo in 2011, and also camped there for the weeks we toured Rome that year. It is a short bus ride and then a quick metro ride to the heart of the city. On Tuesday we went into the Eternal City and did the Villa Farnesina, which we had missed in 2011, and then the English tour of St. Peter's, which we figured would get us privileged access as well as insight. Maybe an indulgence or two. Figure again.
The Villa Farnese was the (Cardinal) Farnese villa across the
river from the Farnese Palace; it was built in the early 16th
century for Agostino Chigi, banker for Popes Julius II and
Leo X, and later acquired by the Farneses; it main claim
to fame, other than beautiful Renaissance architecture and
grounds, are the frescoes by Team Raphael; above, the
Triumph of Galatea

"Stop with the music or I shoot off your Johnson!"

Still in the Loggia of Galatea, there were other interesting
frescoes, not by Raphael, that did not escape my critical gaze,
although I still have not come up with a good caption for
this curiosity

Moving right along, we are now in the Loggia of Cupid and
Psyche, the impressive ceiling of which was done by Team

Up closer of the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche; note the
wings on the airborne creatures


Now in the Room of the Frieze, which is the little strip
running around the top, mostly the deeds of Hercules; what
impressed us was the drapery all around, in many of the
rooms, all of it illusionary painting

Nice alabaster torchiere

Nice marble staircase

Nice marble door off the staircase

In the Hall of Perspective Views, more illusional stuff

More ditto, by Baldassare Peruzzi

Graffiti left by Charles V's soldiers, sacking Rome in 1527

And lastly, in the Room of the Marriage of Alexander the
Great and Roxana, The Marriage of Alexander the Great and
, by Giovanni Bazzi, who went by the possibly
unfortunate name of Sodoma

Although it is certainly the most heavily advertised sight on
this side of the river, we weren't convinced it was worth the
5 euros

Although the grounds were nice

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paestum, 2013

In the south, there was one more place we wanted to see one more time, remarkable Paestum. We saw it in 2011, after Turkey and Greece and just before Sicily. There are many Greek temples in those places, but none are in as fine a condition as the three 6th century Doric temples at Paestum. (Doric because they hadn't invented Ionic or Corinthian yet). The Greeks began colonizing the Black Sea and all over the Mediterranean in the 8th and 7th centuries, not long after Homer. The 2011 Paestum post is at
Columns of the Temple of Hera, with those of the Temple of
Apollo behind...sunset; interesting to remember that these
structures were built generations before Pericles, Socrates,
et al.

Temple of Hera illuminated


Temple of Apollo; not pictured because it was at the other
side of this sizable walled ancient city: Temple of Athena;
see 2011 post

At Paestum's excellent museum; the Lucanians--successors
to the Greeks--painted the insides of their sarcophogi; here
is "The Diver," inside lid, said to celebrate a passage to a new

Pompeii, 2013

We visited Pompeii Scavi, the ruins, twice in 2011, and left some of the longer posts I have done, starting at We like classical stuff. A lot. We visited again on Friday, spent most of the day, saw lots of sites we'd visited before but also got to see several new ones. Specific sites open and close without notice, but the people at the information desk generally know of special openings and closings. Thus, they might tell you the House of the Village Idiot will open today only at 2PM, and, if you wait outside, sure enough, by 2:30, someone with the mother of all key rings will show up, unlock the padlocked doors, and proceed to his/her next showing. In our experience, apart from a few of the perennial favorites, that's how the really good stuff is presented.
We proceeded straight-away to our perennial favorite, the
Villa of the Mysteries, which we found to be undergoing
research, restoration, etc.; this is the main room, three walls
of which are covered with some of the best frescoes in
Pompeii; it was a treat to see them with ample light and also
to watch all the calibration, measuring, photographing going
on; it was fairly early in the day, the Villa is well outside the
walls, and we had the place pretty much to ourselves

Details from the Villa of Mysteries


Ditto again; Dionysan Mysteries, BTW, not Dashiell Hammett

Speaking of city walls, we walked them a bit,
hoping for a short-cut; we'd never paid much
attention to them before; so here is what a
Roman city wall looked like in the 1st century

Mosaic in the House of Apollo

House of Amorini Dorati

Ditto; snakes were good luck charms...

Many people wonder why the House of the Faun takes up
nearly an entire block; I like to tell them, well, there are the
Haves and there are the Have Nots; the residents of the House
of the Faun obviously were Haves; it says so on the door

Temple for worship of household goods, no,

In the Stabbian Baths

After years of work, now finally open

In the House of Menander...there's Menander

Frescoed atrium garden wall at Menander's

Special place...we'll be back

Monday, October 28, 2013

Naples Out-takes, 2013

Just a few...
Perils of museums leaving windows open...a mosquito is about
to bite this Vestal Virgin on the lip...

Miniature in the cameo room

Spare parts area out behind the museum

Stupid Satyr tricks: do not try this back home on the farm; from
a group of visiting English school boys, Vicki heard someone
ask "But why would you want to do that to a goat?"

Stupid American tricks (at Pompeii, next day)

Vending machine outside a farmacia...