Courtney did not sleep well in her sickness and unfortunately could not go to the Vatican. I felt horrible leaving her at the hotel, but she wanted me to go and in all honesty she needed undisturbed sleep. It was probably better that I was off and let her sleep. I made it to the Vatican right on time where I had been three and a half years prior and, then, had waited in line for over an hour (maybe two) during the summer, even with reservations, to see the museum. This time there was absolutely no line and I entered the museum nearly undisturbed by people. I took my time walking through the numerous halls filled with Roman and Renaissance sculptures. I marveled at Etruscan goods and war gear. I tried to find my family towns in the Hall of Maps and genuinely enjoyed all of the art surrounding me. Near the end, however I came to the first of the two most famous rooms in the Vatican; the Room of Rafael. Rafael frescoed the entire room covering it with four of the most beautiful paintings in the world, including his most famous piece “The School of Athens”. My last time through the Vatican I had been rushed through by the workers who wanted to control the massive crowds swelling around the incredible piece of art. This time I had endless time to study and memorize the picture from left to right.
Besides that this time I had spent several years studying philosophy at Boston College and knew much more about the figures in the painting. I had read their works and knew their philosophies and they had greatly affected my life and here they were all grouped together into one place. Without photographs and without portraits this painting gives the best representation of what these geniuses looked like. The painting, besides being aesthetically gorgeous, filled me with the intense desire to succeed. I wanted to be like these great philosophers who spent their time thinking, learning and debating. I wanted to discuss life and its intricacies. I was in the presence of some of the greatest minds in the world represented by one of the greatest artists to ever put a brush to canvas. I wanted to do nothing more than write and try to prove my value amongst the School of Athens. I doubt I have ever been more moved and more inspired by a single painting in my entire life.
Then I made my way to the finale of the Vatican City Museum, the Sistine Chapel. Like the Rafael room I found myself with endless time to observe fully the room instead of the limited, rushed time I had my first time there. I walked right up to the wall, taking in all of the magnificent details of “The Last Judgement,”. The detail of the faces caught between anguish and salvation shook me with its accuracy and intensity. I took it all in, never looking at a singular picture for a longer period of time in my life. What is there to say about perfection except for how it makes you feel? I could write the description of the picture, but the real mark of a masterpiece is how it affects those who look at it. “The Last Judgement” brings people almost to tears. It is that powerful. Can I call Michelangelo the greatest artist of the Renaissance? I think so. How can one man possess the genius to paint such beauty and sculpt such beauty? It does not seem possible.
I then observed the biblical stories surrounding the room and Michelangelo’s Genesis running along the ceiling. My first time through this room I had not been able recognize the stories and allegories represented but time, after reading much of the Bible at BC and taking Rocky’s art history class in Florence I found myself able to recognize most of the paintings. Does that make me cultured? Michelangelo’s “Genesis” might be as impressive as the “Last Judgment” but because I would only repeat the description of the wave of emotions which overtook me while looking at it, suffice it to say that I walked out with those images bright in my mind and my soul afire. Had I really just seen some of the most beautiful art in the world on my last full day in Italy?
I went over to the Basilica and continued my love affair with Italian religious art. The basilica is massive and ornately decorated as one of the most magnificent Renaissance churches in the world. The most impressive piece in it, however, is once again a Michelangelo. His Pieta`, or pity which depicts Mary holding Jesus’ dead body, happens to be one of the most powerful sculptures in the world. It’s simple and small (and unfortunately sits far away from the viewer) but still one cannot ignore the look of agony and love on Mary’s face as she holds the limp Jesus. Seriously, how did this man do it?
I went back to the hotel where I encountered an awake, and seemingly slightly better Courtney. She at least didn’t barbs fever anymore! I checked to see if her bags had arrived yet; they hadn’t. Not only had they yet to arrive, but the airport had yet to find them. This bothered me since we were leaving for America the next morning and I did not want Courtney to lose her bags! We spent a while trying to figure out what was happening before leaving it up to the winds and going to one of my favorite restaurants, if not favorite, in Rome called Sora Margherita. We had a cool taxi driver who spoke Spanish, Italian and English, which made our cab ride quite enjoyable! Courtney still was not feeling fantastic, but it made me happy that she could at least get out for a little bit and have a better impression of Rome than the city near the train station. Plus, we would be having a remarkable meal, what could be better?This happened to be my third time at Sora Margherita, a restaurant about which I blogged in one of the first blogs. They closed for lunch at 3 and even though we walked in at 2:45 they found us a table in the packed restaurant. Courtney, being not too hungry do to her being ill, did not want to eat too much. I concurred so we decided to split a fried artichoke (carciofi alla guidea, their specialty), an order of zucchini that were cooked with balsamic vinegar, a mixed salad and fresh fettuccine with cacio (sheep’s milk cheese), ricotta and black pepper.
It would be a simple meal, but a marvelous one as we ate to our hearts’ contents (me more so than her!). I love these hole in the wall establishments, ones that are not even technically restaurants, that serve such fabulous food. We had a wonderful, and surprisingly fast, lunch before walking to the Coliseum and Forum. By the time we arrived, however, they were closing as they do once the sun sets. We had to settle for walking around the outside of the impressive ancient structures. Courtney, though, seemed amazed. She could not understand that these old buildings were just left around, surviving past buildings built after them. Nor could she fathom that the ancient city of Rome was as big as it was. The Romans were so far and away the most advanced civilization in the world with a concentration of the greatest thinkers in their city. Just imagine if they never fell…
We went back to the hotel to take a rest before I brought her around the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona later that night. Her bags had still not arrived and we started to worry that they wouldn’t make it before we left from Rome the next morning. We asked the man at the front desk about the situation who told us that if we had already departed by the time the bags made it then the bags would automatically be forwarded to America. That calmed us a bit, so we went upstairs and watched Harry Potter II. By the time the movie ended it was past 9 and we were starting to get hungry again. Feeling nostalgic, I decided to bring her to the first restaurant at which I ate in Rome, right under the apartment in which I stayed with Mom and Rich for a week three and a half years ago. We walked past the Trevi Fountain and found somebody to take a picture of us in front of it. We then walked to the Pantheon and Courtney had fun trying to take artsy pictures of the exterior. We had a very good, but extraordinarily filling, dinner where we shared mozzarella di buffala and tofie (a type of pasta) con pesto and tofie with a sauce of cream, zucchini flowers, prosciutto and saffron, followed by sautéed chicory. All delicious. We walked to Piazza Navona before catching a cab home. I felt as if my experience were coming full circle, ending in the same restaurants and with the same monuments as when I had begun. Closure indeed.
And closure was something that I luckily had had the time to achieve. Taking a four day vacation with my closest friend of study abroad where we had the ability to dissect, analyze, relive and remember our incredible experience certainly allowed me to bring this semester to an easy end. Courtney, on the other hand, seemed to be struggling with the idea that she would not be returning to Granada for school. She had finished classes on the same day as me, but had stuck around hanging out with all of her friends until she came to Rome, which in all likelihood is what I would have done in Parma had anybody else been staying in Parma. Fortunately, I feel, Brian and I were almost forced (let me qualify this statement…we really wanted to go somewhere, but would have stayed if others were around) to leave Parma immediately and take time to let it soak in.
I’ve had a four day head start on Courtney. Then again, the simple reason may just be that I have some crazy aptitude for adaptation. I can move from place to place and be fine in the immediate. As you have seen from my blog, there come times when I analyze and miss home, but departing from one place to another (like school to home or home to abroad or abroad to home) has always been easy for me regardless of everything that I left behind in the change with home being the only exception because I still, in the end, feel compelled to return there. Still, I’m sure that the four days with Brian helped me get a grasp on what had happened in my life. It helped me feel finality and it helped me really appreciate and miss the life I had left behind while simultaneously looking forward to, and anticipating my life awaiting me in America.