Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rome, Day Two

PHOTOS: Two views of the beautifully restored Sistine Chaple, and the Castel Sant’Angelo

On the morning of our second day in Rome, we had reservations to see the Vatican Museums. The most magnificent part of them include the Sistine Chapel and the Stanze (gigantic rooms) decorated by Raphael. It was a revelation to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, since its restoration. The frescoes of such famous episodes from the Book of Genesis as “The Creation of Adam” and “The Temptation and Expulsion are notable not only for their renewed brightness, but also their greater visibility. In the 1990s Michelangelo’s later fresco “The Last Judgment” was also restored. Its much darker story is also fascinating, and it occupies the wall over the main altar in the Chapel. On the Sistine Chapel’s side walls are further, earlier frescoes done by the predecessors of Michelangelo, including Perugino and Botticelli.

Luckily, because of our reservations, our party were the first ones into the Chapel, and it was good to converse about the masterpieces while not people swamped by crowds.

After the Sistine Chapel we devoted some time to the four Stanze, decorated by frescoes of Raphael and his followers. Though I’ve taught such masterpieces as “The School of Athens” for many years in college classrooms, it never fails to impress me. Now that the great fresco has been cleaned, it too glows with vivid color. In the Pinacoteca, or Picture Gallery, we saw masterpieces by Melozzo da Forli, Raphael, Caravaggio and many others.

After a rest stop for sodas, we took a cab to the Villa Farnesina, also on the same side of Rome. I had always wanted to see Raphael’s fresco of “Galatea” and was not disappointed by that graceful masterpiece or his frescoes about Psyche and Cupid. Our last stop before lunch was the Palazzo Corsini.

After lunch we returned to St. Peter’s, but decided the line waiting to enter the basilica was too long, particularly in such bright sun. So we walked onward to the Castel Sant’Angelo, the mammoth fortress of the Popes, originally built as the tomb of the ancient Emperor Hadrian. The view from the top terrace is spectacular. But after that attraction we took a taxi ride back to the Hotel Quirinale, and a rest before dinner. Dinner on the Via Rasella took place at a typical Roman hosteria.


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