Roma, Day 4! Can’t believe I haven’t lived here, always.
As of today, I throw the concept of traditional breakfast (Roman, American, what have you, whatever) out the window. Flatbread pizza for breakfast is my new normal; a dramatic improvement in lifestyle, if you ask me. The fact that Rome is ruining New York City pizza for me is something I’ll happily remain in denial about for the next three days. (What? Only three more days? What??!! I’m going to live here forever.) Andiamo!
The big event for the day was a guided tour of the Vatican. We took a walking tour through Context Travel, which provided us with the most amazing tour guide ever, Livia. Check out this completely lovely lady:
The vague Jurassic Park vibes I noticed in Livia’s outfit come from her education background: she has a PhD in archeology. After spending 25 years digging up ruins and studying topography in Ostia, Livia’s teaching position was de-funded when the economy crashed in 2008, and she used her Masters-level knowledge of art history and religion to reinvent her career as a professional tour guide. Yup, I was impressed too.
The amount of knowledge this lady dropped on us over 4+ hours…well, my head’s still spinning trying to absorb it all. Not to mention her warmth and enthusiasm for sharing information. A natural born teacher! We couldn’t have gotten luckier to have her with us as we walked through the Vatican grounds. During the outdoor portion of the tour, she oh-so-casually whipped out a fan. She was born and raised in Rome, after all. These people have style coming out their ears without even trying.
Honestly, I took some photos at the Vatican but they hardly do the place justice. The Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica were the obvious highlights; the volume of tourists, and their obsession with photographing the art as opposed to just looking at it gave me a lot to ponder re: psychology and technology today. There’s got to be more written about this somewhere, some emerging research, but I found myself wondering what inside the human brain is comforted by the act of taking a photo or video? Faced with the immense, overwhelming beauty of the Vatican, room after room, you have two choices: take it in in the moment and try to enjoy the experience, or grab your camera and shoot your ass off. Most people, without hesitation, did the latter. On a tour, though, which ultimately has a time limit and will move you from room to room rather swiftly, this leaves you viewing most of these incredible (and incredibly detailed) works through the viewer of your iPhone. Modern experience grappling with death? If we capture it, we’ll have it forever so we can’t lose it? A psychology student somewhere, right now, is writing their dissertation about this phenomenon. It was acute today.
But, back to the art and Livia. The juiciest pieces of information she shared today, unsurprisingly, have to do with this most famous panel right here:
Three things. 1) That red flowing cloth, behind G-d, and his surrounding angels? It’s in the shape of a human brain. It’s there to represent all the wisdom and power of thought endowed to us, passed from G-d to Adam as he receives life. Pretty epic. 2) G-d’s other arm? It’s around Eve. (Obviously, she’s a babe.) So even before Adam was granted human life, Eve was literally already in the picture. Rib, schmib. This leads us to a third factoid I walked away with burned on my brain, to do with this panel also depicting Adam and Eve:
Michelangelo was a very well-educated man. He read the Kabbalah and the Talmud, which influenced his depiction of the Adam and Eve story most of us know from the Bible. You know, where it’s Eve who gives innocent ole’ Adam the apple and they are both forever stained by sin? Apparently Adam was given a wife before Eve, whom he rejected. She’s depicted here coming back into the story as the snake, tempting both members of the couple into original sin at the same time. A small but significant shift in the story that I found extremely satisfying. Way to go, Michelangelo. Thank you, Livia.
Pizza bookended our tour. Despite spending nearly 5 hours on our feet, we soldiered on to Bonci for a second taste. It did not disappoint.
This time, I thought I was ordering more roasted yellow peppers and I got a sweet surprise.
That’s a peach slice! I’m a fiend, know what I mean, peaches and cheese!!!!!!