Vatican Museum – Heaven on earth?

The museum entryway

The museum entryway

Feeling a bit touristy and daring, a couple of us Sooners decided to go and explore the Vatican City and its museums today. I went with high hopes, expecting to find a lavish city filled with the typical roman ornament, but what I actually found was both overwhelming and underwhelming.

The line for the museum is not actually found in Saint Peter’s Square, but around the old city wall to the north where a rather large line had formed (despite the fact the museum did not actually open for another 20 minutes). When turning the corner to enter you are greeted by a IMG_1408rather modern lobby and staircase up to the beginning of the museum, making us question if we were in the correct line to begin with, after all we were going to see the a museum that was established in 1506. We began climbing a spiral ramp with small cases of boats from around the world and over time. The top of the ramp lead to a strange juxtaposition of an older building (now gift shop  with a relatively new ramp and large skylight. Seeing these modern elements began to change my expectations for what the rest of the tour had in store.

We began the long tour around the Vatican’s grounds to find room after room filled with statues and nothing more, with the exception of the spectacularly decorated rooms themselves. We walked through what seemed like a hundred rooms (and that probably was not far off) each featuring some sort of breath taking element, from the frescoes  to hand carved wood ceilings, to the most detailed mosaics I have ever seen. No room was the same as the last, each covered from floor to ceiling in such decadence that I began to consider the countless hours of work and craft each room took to assemble. This museum housed some truly beautiful artifacts; from every reach of the globe, collected over hundreds and hundreds of years. But what is real on display in the rooms themselves.

Hand laid mosaic floor

Hand laid mosaic floor

Each room featured marvelous views up

Each room featured marvelous views up

The tour took us through to the Sistine Chapel, where we sat in amazement. Every inch covered in paint and featuring the iconic images of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment, this is where I was left disappointed. These paintings seem on almost every postcard, taught in every art appreciation course, and continually referenced as being on everyone’s to see bucket list, but you are not prepared for how small these scenes are. It is best described as being told that you get to do see the Eiffel Tower and being brought to Las Vegas opposed to Paris. Despite these minor disappointments you are drawn back into just starring into every fresco. Caty Townsend even declared that if she was the Pope, she would just lie on the floor and gaze up for hours. Adding to the excitement, we realized we were standing in the Sistine Chapel a week before the Pope’s official resignation and the electoral process would begin once more and a new Pope would be elected.

The double spiral exit staircase, added in the 30's

The double spiral exit staircase, added in the 30’s

The Vatican Museums are far from disappointing, this is home to some of the most beautiful paintings and tapestries from all over the world. This large collection and the museum itself is a stunning example of the importance the Vatican plays throughout history. I will probably never be surrounded by so much beauty again.

Fotografia di Roma: Nasoni

Photo courtesy of Amber Conwell

On the long walks, roaming the winding streets of the city, the ice-cold spring water flowing abundantly from the nasone is quite a refreshing treat. Stumbling upon them on a hot sunny day, the fountain becomes a little oasis. You may come across children playing acrobatically with the water, locals splashing the cool water on their faces, or simply someone filling their water bottle.

Photo courtesy of Minh Tran

By plugging the main part of the spout, a small hole at the top sends the water cascading out in a little arch, perfect for drinking.  The long, bent cast iron spout sticking out of the fountain is what gave the fountains their unique name, nasoni, meaning “big nose”. Most of the fountains do not have basins, but just a hole to capture the water (which is recycled and reused for various purposes). The reason for this was because the purpose of the fountains were to provide the public with a means of washing, cooking, and drinking, so there was no need for the basins.

Photo courtesy of Minh Tran

What started as 20 simple public drinking fountains, mainly in the Trastevere neighborhood, turned into 2,500 scattered about the city. Each one is marked with the S.P.Q.R (Sentus Populusque Romanus), referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic, still used today as an official signature. The original fountains were designed with three nozzles topped with a dragon head, but were developed into a simpler form when mass produced in 1874, to accommodate the many immigrants settling in Rome. You can typically find them in outdoor markets, and in main piazza and squares. Although they play a small role in Roman history, the charming little nasoni are still very much a part of the daily life in Rome.

Photo courtesy of Amber Conwell

– Amber Conwell