The last thing I want to do in Rome is stand in line. It’s why I’ve never been tempted to go to Disneyworld and why, from my very first trip to Florence in 2001 back when ‘internet cafes’ were a thing, I reserved tickets in advance to the Uffizi and the Academia.
I know that advance tickets to the Borghese Gallery are a must, and a wise choice for a few other venues too, like the popular archeology-meets-virtual-reality venues Domus Romane and Domus Aurea. With a little bit of Google Translate help, I booked tickets for all three. Given the length of my stay, I knew once wouldn’t be enough for the Borghese, so I booked a second visit later in the month at a different time of day, the better to see the art in a different light. Most of the work that interests me was made at a time when the world was lit only by fire. Art was seen in the light from candles, hearths, torches or, for the truly unlucky, bonfires.
I decided to take a couple of tours for a different perspective than my own. A friend saw the Eternal City from the back of a Vespa and that choice intrigued me for multiple reasons. First, a scooter can go where a car cannot. Second, experiencing Rome riding bitch on the back of a scooter has got to be more intense than watching it go by outside a car window. Third, yes, I saw Roman Holiday at an impressionable age. Fourth, fifth and sixth, it’s something I wouldn’t do on my own, am unlikely to ever do again, and that I won’t forget in a hurry.
After some investigation online and an exchange of inquiring emails, I settled on a four-hour Scooterama Vespa tour. Good press, consistently high user ratings, the option of a street art tour, and the founders’ first date was a Bruce Springsteen concert. That last one is what we call a sign.
For the sheer pleasure of conjoining music and my favorite museum in Rome, I bought a ticket to Sounds & Visions of Caravaggio, which combines an English language art tour with baroque musical performances at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. As I mentioned in the last post, I picked up a tour of the Palazzo Colonna that I’m excited about. it reminds me of the Cerralbo Museum in Madrid. It should be visually lush.
The biggest hurdle, in terms of horrific lines and crowded conditions, is indisputably the Vatican Museums. I visited them eight years ago and, though I was not rushed, I still moved far too quickly along a Vatican-assigned route. I saw enough to know I wanted to come back and view the art at my leisure.
I decided to use the strategy that has served me so well for the Louvre, Prado, and Hermitage; I became an official supporter, a Patron of the Vatican Museums of Art. Among the privileges of a Patron are unlimited visits, and early entries at 8am through a separate entrance for patrons. I have a special Patron pin to wear and have submitted the dates I plan to visit – about three weeks total – so my name will be on the gatekeepers approved list. That’s my biggest ticket and tour in one. It’s the reason I’m coming to Rome.
Patrons also get to chose a private tour from a selection of guided tours and I chose the restoration labs. Usually the last thing I want is someone talking to me when I am viewing art unless it’s audio guides, which dependably deepen and enrich my experience. More importantly, I can turn them off. But a restoration lab is a mystery to me and I know I’ll be fascinated by whatever the guide has to say.
There are other perks, like discounts in the gift shop and cafe. There’s even an opportunity to attend an audience with the pope. I assume by that they mean somewhere in the melee, but not in the nosebleed seats.
I’ll avoid the Sistine Chapel for the same reason I dodged the Mona Lisa and The Garden of Earthly Delights. These superfamous paintings attract a scrum of the selfie-obsessed. Hey, glorious works abound that can be viewed without having to throw your elbows and use up all your fouls.
I’ve been through the Sistine Chapel, and know for a fact that I can barely see the ceiling, even under optimum conditions. But please don’t think I lack appreciation for this sacred space baptized by the sweat of Michelangelo’s brow. If I got accidently left in the chapel alone for half an hour, no doubt you’d find me sprawled on the floor, looking up with an expression very like Bernini’s Saint Theresa in Ecstasy.