Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The day began with a one hour trip on the bus into centro Roma (this same trip takes about 15 minutes by metro--which gives you a bit of an idea as to the amount of traffic in the city). We happened to be sitting in the front seat of the tour bus for that trip. Holy Moley that was some crazy driving! Twice I thought we had made Flat Stefano (Italian version of Flat Stanley) out of a couple of Vespa drivers. About 20 of us were taking a tour of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peters, apparently with several thousand other tourists that day. It was shoulder to shoulder during the entire tour. Though we wore earphones and had a receiver, hearing what was going on was somewhat problematic. Didn't matter, we were swept up in the flow of humanity and didn't have much of a chance to immerse ourselves in the works of art around us. We're surrounded by statues and paintings completed by "the masters" and what amazes me to no end is that we are actually allowed to touch many of the works! The museum has 1400 rooms; I think we power walked through three of them. Our guide was usually several hundred people in front of me, so her expertise was a little lost on me.

The only place we can't take pictures is the Sistine Chapel. When we entered, it was another sea of people, so we also got swept through there. Some lucky people not on tours got some quality time sitting and contemplating just how Michelangelo got those scenes painted. We have a good excuse to go back and hope to do the tour at a more suitable time when the crowds are a bit smaller (that seems to be late in the day).

St. Peter's is just immense. Again, the theme of lots of people continues. There are some amazing pieces in here...some of the robes on the carvings look so real, we had to touch them to be sure they actually were marble. We kept trying to guess where the singers would be set up that night, then found no one was allowed into the forward area due to set up for a service...the service our singers would be part of that evening.
Back to the bus for another one hour ride back to the hotel, because people have to change for the concert. 30 minutes for the quick change, then back on the bus for the one hour ride back to St. Peters ( no you aren't imagining it, we are spending a lot of time on the bus). 

The singers, clad in their black performance garb, gathered in the hotel lobby/cafe. There's a lot of people in this group, and it takes awhile to get everyone assembled. Once gathered, a little warm up takes place. I loved seeing the hotel staff recording it with their iPhones and breaking into applause at finish. Then onto the bus for the trip back to town again. It was a beautiful day outside, which made the bus warm to begin with. Even well into the trip, there was no relief. Thought we would lose a couple of singers to fainting from heat, but these are Alaskans and it takes more than a little heat stroke to get one of us down!

Arrival at the Piazza brings on an air of excitement. They were quite a site all in a line in black formal wear, walking to the entrance. Those of us not singing were designated "alternates" so we were able to enter at the same door as the singers. We were whisked to the very front of the Basilica, in an area we had not been able to enter earlier in the day. As the singers lined up, we alternates kept busy snapping a lot of pictures. 

Soon the two priests arrived and mass began. The singers sounded wonderful against the backdrop of the powerful images within the Basilica. I could not help but be powerfully moved by the whole experience. Though the sermon was in Italian, easily understood was the heartfelt message of the priest and the descriptive way he moved his hands. I could make out that he was speaking about Christianity...that was about all I picked up. The singers sang the rest of their numbers to the delight of the rest of the mass goers. None of us could figure out how one signed up to attend the Mass, but I imagine all that's online, along with getting an audience with the Pope.

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