In the spring of 2006, I was lucky beyond measure to finally visit Italy. I am sure Ron and I took on way too much in the short time we were there but I know I have to go back.
Rome was the last leg of our 13 days and we were getting punchy. Maybe Rome should be at the beginning of a trip like this because it was overwhelming. You need to have all of your wits and senses completely tuned in. As a photographer, I can get into visual overload pretty easily but if you combine that with the huge history around every corner, it’s almost like your brain says” Oh…just another ancient temple…”. You have to stay focused or you risk glazing over.
If you tour the Sistine Museum, the famous chapel is towards the end of the four hour trek…imagine being swept along art encrusted corridors, some light, some very dark, shoulder to shoulder with masses of visitors. Many different languages and cultural habits all thrown into this boiling crowd thing. It’s probably the closest I have come to body surfing. Somehow, I expect my art encounters to be sublime and free of this bobbing and weaving fabric. The Chapel itself should have been quiet and calm with seats for all. Instead it was a sardine can…all packed in and staring up into the rich heavens created so long ago. The guards kept yelling NO PHOTO! and each time they did some unfortunate soul would pull out their point and shoot and it would start all over again. My view of the Sistine ceiling was straight up and ringed by jostling shoulders. Not sublime.
As we left the last galleries, the crowd thinned and we started down a ramp towards the exits. The stairway that opened up in front of me took my breath away. My brain came alive and I found myself starting to frame this massive beauty before I brought the camera up to my eye. Sublime accomplished.
Built around the turn of the 16th century by Donato Bramante, the spiral staircase was part of a new entrance to the palace and was designed for riding up on horseback.