Thursday, April 1:  Vatican Museum

Up early to beat the crowds at the Vatican Museum. We caught the Metro (now seasoned straphangers) before the commute hour, so there was plenty of room. By design we got off one stop further than yesterday, and arrived at the walls of the city-state at just about 8:00 AM. We were about the fifteenth in line for the 8:45 AM opening time. David and Robert played dots and also entertained their fellow tourists in line with rock-paper-scissors including hand-slaps for the loser. Fortunately it was a pleasant day, so the wait was no problem.

We entered the museum through metal detectors and scanners and Pat still had her Swiss army knife in her bag. They didn’t seem to care. We began with the ancient art, taken from the Greeks by the Romans. Then the Etruscans, and then more Roman art, and finally into the Renaissance. Of course, everybody is in a rush to see the Sistine Chapel at the end.

Along the long hallway with all the tapestries, my rechargeable battery pack died, so I went to fish out my spare from my pocket. Nowhere to be found. I think I left it in the tray bypassing the metal detector. The Lost & Found at the exit of the museum hadn’t seen it either. So its out there with the Game Boy the boys lost on the plane trip. And I was out a camera for the rest of the day. And as I feared, it would not be easy to find a replacement.

We finally reached the Sistine Chapel, which was quite extraordinary. Guards tried to maintain the respect due a chapel, but folks chatted away and took photographs. I guess if I had to choose a highlight, this was it, but Raphael’s School of Athens was a close second, probably since it had Archimedes in it doing geometry.

Lunch was at the museum cafeteria, trying to mimic our gastronomic success at the Borghese Gallery. Decent, and at a fair price. Leaving, we discovered there was no line whatsoever to get in! Dessert would be gelato, at Old Bridge gelateria, a recommendation of Lindsey Paul’s, a student of mine who did a study-abroad semester here recently. I even ordered her recommended flavor, coconut. Very good and the boys said it was the best so far.

I had several errands to do, so David came with me, while Pat and Robert took the Metro several stops beyond our hotel to see the last of the “pilgrim” churches. This one featured 28 steps walked by Christ during the Passion. Roughly 300 AD Constantine’s mother had brought them from Jerusalem to this, the first Christian church in Rome. Today the religious, including Pat and Robert, climb the steps on their knees, saying a prayer on each step.

David and I went on a shopping expedition, after seeking the advice of the front desk at the hotel. Disposable camera for Robert, Michelin map of Italy for tomorrow’s drive, sketchbook for Robert, CD mailers and a thin plastic wallet for Rob. At the train station, we finally found the alleged electronics store. They could not produce a Canon battery for my camera, nor a cable for downloading out of David’s camera. But they did have a decent card reader that matched the memory card in David’s camera, so we bought that. On the other side of the train station we tried again to get a teacher ID for me, but the equipment was still broken.

For dinner we decided to splurge again and reprise our meal at Hostaria Romano, but we got there well before opening at 7:15 PM. Same cast of characters, same show, but this time the boys brought crayons to color on the wall (as encouraged by the management). We had the same waiter, whom I decided is a frustrated clown. He’d be a sad-faced clown though. He wouldn’t let me delay starting the antipasta bar until the others got their food, kidded me artfully when I ordered four liters of house wine rather than a quarter-litre (Pat had already had her wine for the evening), and chided me for requesting the bill as we finished our last course.

Tomorrow we leave Rome behind and try motoring on the autostrada. Robert seems to have become comfortable here, and is a bit apprehensive about a whole new set of changes. Me, I’m ready for a bit more elbow-room. Rome has been great, but claustrophobic at times.