Greeting from Rome, Italy. Today is Wednesday in Rome. Our flight from Seattle to London Sunday was without problems We arrived Monday morning and caught another flight from London to Rome. We were met by Lorrenzo who had been our driver several years before on a trip to Italy. He drove us to the Vatican where we met Marco our guide.
The trip through Rome was an experience. Too many cars all jammed together ;playing who will blink first. It takes hours to go a short distance because the traffic crawls. However, no horns were honking. Just cars crowding in in front of each other. Marco took us to the entrance for the Sistine Chapel. There were crowds of people, many Asian. it is a very long walk from where you start to where you finally get to the Chapel and a very long walk from there back to where we started. The crowds are like crowds exiting a Husky foot ball game. People jammed up against one another moving in lock step to an area where it opens up a little to clusters of people standing. There are a lot of steps, some steep. People in wheel chairs are carried up and down long steps. People trying to funnel through a narrow door area. And the crowd experience to the end of the tour is over two hours.
Marco is an experienced guide who speaks excellent English and is very well informed. In fact, he was determined not to leave anything out. He never stops talking from the moment we begin walking to the end. Plus he wants us to not miss anything and there is a lot to see. Lita is very interested and I am very bored wanting just to get through this and get out. So I walk ahead causing them to have to keep up more then they would like.
After descending steep long stairs we get to the Chapel which is entirely filled with people wall to wall and shoulder to shoulder. It is dim to dark inside. Marco has already explained to Lita the meaning and history of every panel in the place before we started (why I checked my email). Getting out was a pure ordeal. Picture four lanes of traffic having to merge into one lane at a narrow door. One Asian behind me simply pushes aside and physically moves through. Lita was ahead of me. She told me later when he tried to push by her she was offended enough she gave him an elbow which got his attention.
When we exit we now have to go down a long very steep set of stairs. It's wall to wall, shoulder to shoulder people with a wheel chair being bumped down step by step by an attendant. If the occupant wasn't hurt before I suspect he was after that. In addition we encounter people forcing their way up against the flow going down. We learn later these are people who have snuck in the exit to avoid paying.
We finally make it outside to the porch and Marco now wants us to go to the Basilica. I decide I've seen it before and I don't want to go through the crowd situation again so I sit on a bench and wait. There is one young man guarding the exit where I am seated. There is a continuous flow of people trying to enter this exit and he turns them away, but some slip by. Of course, there is no sign saying "Exit Only" as, I assume, that would make his job too easy.
After another almost hour Lita and Marco come out and we walk St Peter's to the street to wait for our car. There is maintenance going on and huge banners hang, covering the work, but the Vatican has sold advertising rights and there are ads on the outside. It sort of gives you a new perspective of religion to see that.
From there we drove the short distance to our hotel, but that took almost an hour since streets are blocked and one way streets send us in huge circles. Our room is large and very adequate overlooking a square.
We are here for a meeting and I gave my talk this morning. Afterwords, the group left for the Vatican where the Pope will speak and give a blessing. I'm not going back, thanks. Instead I'm heading for lunch, pasta and wine. I just don't like big cities I'm afraid.