I signed up for a group tour of the Vatican Museums because it promised a visit to Bramante’s staircase, something not generally open to the public.
The staircase was designed by Bramante and built in 1505 to allow Pope Julius II to get from the streets up to his papal apartments in the Pio Clemente tower by horse or carriage.
The downside of the tour is it started at 7:45 am. The Vatican Museums are a 30 minute walk from the apartment where I was staying.
The Tiber river is rising. When I got here, you could see the lower walkways along the river. Now they are under water.
This tour is described as an extended tour. We started on the terrace next to the Pinacoteca, the picture gallery and did not race through the Pinacoteca. I was able to look at some works I had not had time to appreciate before, like Melozzo da Forli.
And of course I enjoyed the Caravaggio, although Leonardo’s St Jerome was not there. I think it’s probably part of the big Louvre show in Paris.
It was kind of cool going through locked doors to get to the Bramante staircase.
Staircase is the wrong word as it is a ramp.
What I did not appreciate is how open it is. The windows have no glass and looking over the interior side, you can see all the way down. I could not bring myself to get close enough to take a photo of the interior curves. But the design is quite classical with columns starting at the bottom with the Doric order, then Ionic and Corinthian as the ramp ascends. The pitch is fairly steep. Poor horses who had to pull a carriage up this.
At the top, you get some good views of Rome, although, again, I could not stand right next to the openings.
A new area, for me, was the Etruscan gallery. The Etruscans are a relatively unknown civilization that lived before and during Ancient Roman and Greek times in the area that is now Tuscany, and for which Tuscany is named. Only relatively recent excavations have found their burial sites which have given better ideas about their society.
The initial part of the tour was crowd free, but then we had to join the hoards, even in November.
We took a break from the crowds to look at the Borgia apartment that was decorated by Pinturicchio while everyone else was rushing to the Sistine Chapel.
But like everyone else, we did not linger in the contemporary galleries en route to the Sistine Chapel, although I paused to take a photo of Francis Bacon’s Innocent X.
Still no photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel and there seems to be even more guards there enforcing the rule. After we visited St Peter’s which I haven’t been to since 2014, I think.
Still couldn’t get close to Bernini’s tomb for Pope Alexander VII.
Nor close to his statue of Constantine.
The tour really was an extended addition. We got into the museums right when it opened at 8 and did not finish until 1:30 although it was scheduled to end at 12:30 but our guide said it was his fault we were running late so did not cut short the visit to St Peter’s.
For a final lunch at a restaurant in Rome, I decided to be a true tourist and go to Piazza Navona so I could look at Bernini and Borromini works while eating. For a while, it poured rain but I was under the awning.
Much to my surprise, the menu included carciofo alla giudia. It’s not in season for the large artichokes but this would do.
Then back to the apartment to start packing as I leave very early in the morning.