Six thousand people in the Sistine Chapel

Well that’s what it felt like!  Wow talk about a crush.  We were herded – yes I mean herded – into the Sistine Chapel by very stern Italian police style guides who constantly shouted – “Move up, more to the middle, no talking, no photos”.  Goodness me – I wondered where he wanted me to stand.  Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic otherwise I would have been in real trouble!

Note - this is not my photo.  They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?
Note – this is not my photo. They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?

So how did I end up with six thousand new best friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world?  I booked my tour for 9.30 am (first mistake) in September (second mistake) when fifty cruise ships were in Rome (third mistake).

I did do one thing right – I booked a private tour.  Boy was I glad of that when I saw the line up at the entrance.
vatican_sistine_chapel_lines-1024x768 Our guide was amazing – doing his PhD in baroque art and architecture – so he knew a thing or too.  What he knew best, however, was how to skirt around corners through the massive surging crowd to find the best vantage point to view this or that important statue or painting.   He also gave us so much interesting information such as the last painting Michael Angelo did in the chapel is on the back wall and is called The Last Judgement.  It is a fantastic painting full of terror and turmoil – the only problem is that because the figures were all nude it was decided that this was a bit too rude for the church.  So they asked Michael Angelo’s former student to paint scarves over their bums – as so …
The Damned cast into Hell, Michelangelo
Once this was pointed out to me by Felix our guide I was quite horrified and yes, the “over-painting” becomes horribly obvious and for me spoils the whole thing.  Thank goodness Michael Angelo never saw this.

Despite the crowds it was worth it and Rome is a fantastic city for anyone interested in art and history.  My tips – go to the Vatican later in the day and if possible avoid Fridays and Saturdays as these seem to be the days the cruise ships are in port; take your good walking shoes and enjoy the city, every corner reveals another amazing ancient building and don’t forget your sense of humour.  You’re on holiday, remember!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.

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