I was going to finish this post yesterday, but a couple of close friends invited us out for lunch, then we all went to an exhibition (Magritte, De Chirico and others)…so by the time we got home it was too late to do much of anything constructive.

Rome. Ah there is so much to write about…but I will try to keep in mind that this is not a travel blog. Let’s see, we arrived in Rome on Friday April 2nd…this was, incidentally, my first train ride in a very long time…we took one of the superfast trains, the Frecciarossa (=Red arrow), which got us to Rome in an hour and a half, impressive! Anyway, as soon as we arrived, we took the subway to the B&B, checked in and then went off on a walk. After grabbing a slice (or two…) of yummy pizza, we took the subway to the Coliseum…a few photos (but we had been to the Coliseum before), then we set off for the Basilica di San Clemente (photo no 1 shows a view of the Coliseum from via di San Giovanni in Laterano, near the basilica), which I had read about on Tripadvisor…apparently, one of Rome’s best-kept secrets…

The reports I read were correct. The basilica itself, built around the year 1100, is nothing spectacular…well, except for the floor…but the underground visit was amazing. After buying a ticket right inside the church, you go through a tiny door and down some stairs. And there you find yourself in a 4th century basilica that used to be a Roman nobleman’s home. Part of it had served as an early church (1st century), part as a temple devoted to the cult of Mithras. You go down more stairs and you find a Republican era building that had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 64…yes, this was really fascinating. Lots of history, there.

At one point you hear the sound of rushing water…and in fact on the lowest floor you will see an opening with a tiny waterfall…one of the church ushers told us that some visitors had actually drunk that water but, she added in a whisper, “nothing was ever heard of them again.” Hehe, very funny. To be on the safe side, though, Stefano and I didn’t touch the water…even though Roman tap water is safe and tastes very good, too. For more information on the Basilica di San Clemente, see Wikipedia, e.g.

On Saturday we went to the Vatican Museums (see photo of one of the courtyards). My recommendation: buy your tickets online unless you like standing for hours in very long queues…unbelievable…those folks must have spent 3-4 hours in line…

Once inside, we hurried to the Sistine Chapel, ignoring the Egyptian Museum and Raphael’s Rooms (we saw all this later), so as to avoid the crowds as much as possible. This turned out to be a good thing to do, so here is my second recommendation for the Vatican Museums: get early morning tickets and make a beeline for the Sistine Chapel, especially if you are going there on a weekend or during a religious holiday…

The Sistine Chapel was definitely, for me, the highlight of our visit. I didn’t know where to look…at the floor (stupendous) or at the ceiling (stupendous)…at one point, overwhelmed by all that beauty and also achy from the previous day’s walking, I sank onto a bench and looked up to admire the famous depiction of God and Adam reaching out and almost touching fingers (=the “Creation of Adam”). As luck would have it, I sat next to a U.S. couple whose own private guide (no kidding!) began describing the chapel to them (in U.S. English, obviously)…now, I have no idea if this guy was making things up, but I enjoyed his stories. Here follows a bit of what I remember.

He said that Michelangelo was paid a very handsome sum of money to paint the Sistine Chapel…but he had to pay for all his expenses, including materials (paint and whatnot) and assistants. From where we were sitting, we had a great view of the “Last Judgement,” which has a gorgeous blue background. Blue, the guide said, was a very expensive colour to make. You had to use lapis lazuli, a quite rare semi-precious (blue!) stone that had to be ordered from abroad. In fact, I remember reading that the lapis lazuli used by Michelangelo for this fresco might have come from Pakistan, so that should give us an idea…no planes or fast trains back then… Anyway, that is why there is no blue on the ceiling frescos. the guide said. I don’t know if that is the true reason why Michelangelo didn’t use blue everywhere, but the guide told a very convincing story…

Another titbit…when the chapel was cleaned in the 1980s, a startling discovery was made: Michelangelo had “signed” one of his frescos. He had touched and left his fingerprints on the eyes of Eve depicted in the “Temptation and Expulsion” fresco. The guide said that Michelangelo was probably particularly happy with this fresco and wanted to leave a sign for future generations. Hmmm. Who knows?

Another story: until Michelangelo came along, the guide said, God had always been depicted as a sort of stern, immobile figure. But Michelangelo painted God as a sort of Superman…a flying, very active character…so this was a huge break with the past. True or not, I was much amused.

You are not allowed to take photos inside the Sistine Chapel (but of course all you have to do is google “Sistine Chapel” and you will be able to see what I saw…except being there is, of course, quite different!), but you can take photos everywhere else in the Vatican Museums. So Stefano and I were quite busy with our cameras, as you can imagine. I have posted many of my photos on my private Facebook profile, by the way.

Other places we visited, not in chronological order: the Coliseum (this time we didn’t go inside, though), the Roman forum, Castel Sant’Angelo (photo no 4; if you go to Rome, don’t forget to visit the museum, incredibly interesting and with great views of the city, see photo of the bridge, Ponte Sant’Angelo, photo no 5), the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona (see fountain detail, photo no 7), the Trastevere neighborhood, Ponte Fabricio (a bridge that has been standing since 62 BC, the oldest bridge in Rome, see photo no 6), isola Tiberina, St. Peter’s square…

And finally, one of the fabulous things we did was go to the Caravaggio exhibition. Very highly recommended. Again, buy your tickets online. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We couldn’t take photos inside the exhibit, of course, so all I have is a photo of the banner above the exhibit entrance. That experience was beyond words…so I will end this post with a big “wow”! Oh, I didn’t even mention the yummy food we ate…oh well. Enough! 🙂


  1. You said, “…this is not a travel blog.” However, I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I enjoy reading about your travels, adventures with your cats, and sharing with you the funny things you run across. Those of us who don’t get to travel as much as we’d like enjoy sharing this with you!

  2. Margaret,

    Wonderful to hear about your trip! Rome sounds beautiful. I do hope to get there some day. I live in Canada. We have the great Rocky Mountains on the west coast and Niagra Falls on the east coast. I don’t live near either of these, but rather in the middle of the country on the prairies. We have long cold winters and flat land for as far as you can see or drive for that matter.

    Anyway, off the topic. My husband was diagnosed with MM in Oct. 2008. He went through stem cell transplant after a year of drugs to bring the disease under control. His monoband is 2.9 and was 2.5 in Dec. 2009. So, it is still low but heading the wrong way. Unfortunately, he has a deleted chromosome 13, which is one of the more aggressive forms of the disease. My question for whom ever can HELP is … do you know if curcumin or anything else will hold this aggressive disease? We are very desperate at this point as the oncologist wants to put him on Thalidomid next week. We would rather avoid this very toxic drug. Please email asap … please.

    Thanks so much for your time and effort,

  3. Hi Alanna,

    In addition to what I wrote to you on FB…are you by any chance a member of the MMA patient support list? There are a couple of MDs with myeloma on the list, and I am almost positive that they would have some good ideas for you. If you are not a member, why don’t you join? It’s a big friendly group of myeloma, SMM and MGUS folks and of course their caregivers.
    I don’t have too much experience with post-SCT treatment or with chromosome deletions, so I am really not much help to you. For instance, I don’t know if the CRAB symptom rule applies to post-SCT patients…and so on. Anyway, there are people on the list who have undoubtedly been in your husband’s condition or a similar one. That’s all I can think of at the moment. Certainly curcumin wouldn’t hurt, but he would need to take it for more than a week to see if it helps…
    Another thing: I think is very important is to get a second, even third, opinion. If you get the same medical opinion from more than one doctor, then it’s probably the way to go.
    Hang in there. Ah, if you decide to join the MMA list (I link to it from my blog), just scroll down my Pages on the right until you reach MM blogs/sites.
    Let us know what happens, ok? Thanks.

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