>Our first full day in Rome was chock full. We started out by walking to the Trevi Fountain. On the way, we passed by the Pasta Museum. I was inclined to stop in, but Dr. P and Dr. H were not so interested. I’ll have to go next time I am in Rome.

The Trevi Fountain was impressive, and crowded with tourists and street vendors selling these weird stretchy things that are basically uninflated balloons filled with sand with faces painted on them and yarn hair attached. I’m not sure what scared me more: that there were hucksters selling these exact same things when I was there 10 years ago or that I actually bought one ten years ago. (I vaguely remember it eventually exploded and was quite messy.) I think they were much cheaper when Italy was on the lira.

Anyway, after the Trevi, we went over to the Spanish steps. On the way to the Steps, we passed a gelateria with the wackiest decorated gelato in all of Italy. After all the walking we had done, we were quite thirsty. The nice thing is that Dr. H’s guidebook said that all of the fountains in Rome were full of drinkable water, and that it is perfectly acceptable to just stick your water bottle in to fill up at any of them, unless there was a sign noting that it was not potable. Here Dr. P takes advantage of the refreshing beverage. In the picture below, I am not sure why Dr. P used my camera to take a picture of a 14 year old boy getting water at the same fountain…oh, wait – that’s me. Never mind. (I actually almost slipped and fell in while posing for this.) Obviously, we really appreciated all that free water, as here is Dr. H filling up at another fountain. This fountain was in Piazza Barberini, so named for the powerful Barberini family of Renaissance times. It was made by one of the famous Renaissance sculptors whose name starts with B (there are about four of them – Bronzino, Bernini, Bromino, and Brunelleschi – but I think this fountain is a Bernini). I like it because it has all these bees on it. (You can sort of see them on the left.) Like Mohammed Ali, the Barberinis adopted bees as their symbol of power.

We were in Piazza Barberini to see the crypt of the Capuchins, which is this super creepy set of chapels decorated with the bones of 4,000 monks who were dug up for some reason. Some of the “decorations” are skeletons, and some are mummies, dressed in monk robes. (I swiped this picture from The Scream Online because I respected the church's request not to take pictures and so I do not have my own. Not that I am judging anyone here. I’m very glad that someone took pics or scanned a postcard they bought, otherwise I would not have anything to share.) I went there 10 years ago, and I swear that it actually used to be even freakier. I remember a lot of signs in a variety of languages telling the visitors not to be all high and mighty that they are alive while the monks have been dead for hundreds of years, as some day we too will be dead like them. Hopefully we will not have our various bones nailed onto walls for decorations, but whatever. Those signs were missing this time, as was all the anti-choice propaganda. I bought a postcard for Borther-in-Law at the gift shop. (How fucking great is it that this place had a gift shop? I love it.) We also used an internet café in Piazza Barberini and grabbed an unmemorable lunch before heading via subway to Vatican City.

The Vatican Museum drove me up the wall. First, it is outrageously expensive – 12 euros!!! This was by far the most expensive museum we went to in Italy. Second, there were about 954 tour groups there. It was very hard to get around, as large groups would plant themselves in the middle of a room or hall while listening to their guides, and refuse to allow anyone to pass. I was very on edge as it was since I felt like I had entered into the Heart of Darkness. This is not to say that good times were not had. I seriously respect this statue's pubes and sac: Not even the two-headed Mary Magdalene on the unfinished Michelangelo statue that I saw at the Museo dell’Opera del Santa Maria Fiore in Florence can beat a dickless, handless statue for laughs. (Did they fall off from overuse? This statue could so be used as a warning by some of those groups that think masturbating is a sin.) And the Venus de Milo thought that she had problems…Speaking of problems, here is a sample of the crowds that continued to annoy me even after I felt mirthful from the dickless statue. By the time I took this picture in the map room, I had given up on actually seeing the fresco maps of regions of Italy that lined the hall-like room. Yet my time out was good for me. I collected my thoughts, calmed down, and concentrated on taking pictures of one of my favorite topics: sea monsters. (I wrote about this way back on October 26, 2005.)
These first two sea monsters look incredibly sad. It just breaks my little heart. This sea monster is one big, bad motherfucker. I would not mess with him, unless I was the Son of God. “What?” you are probably asking yourself. “Who ever heard of Jesus battling sea monsters! Horsefeathers!” Well, my Doubting Thomas friend, feast your eyes on this: OK, I admit that I would not have thought such a hilarious map battle scene existed either until I saw it with my own eyes. Now that I look at it again, I wonder if it is supposed to be a saint famous for battling sea monsters and not Jesus at all. Whatever the case, it was just what I needed to see to cheer me up. By the time we finally reached the Sistine Chapel, all was well.

From the Vatican Museum, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica is built right over the supposed burial spot of St. Peter. Which would make one think that the Vatican might be sensitive to the needs of the persecuted, but this discriminatory sign shows otherwise: No people missing one leg or part of an arm are allowed in! So much for the meek shall inherit the earth and all that.

Inside the Basilica, there are many relics. Above the altar, St. Peter’s chair is inside a large bronze sculpture of a chair, but I did not get any good pictures of that at all. No one is allowed remotely close to it, and my flash was not strong enough to overcome the distance. Or is it something more? (Cue the creepy music.) I also tried to get a picture of what I think are St. Peter’s relics, but the reliquary (if that is even what I saw) is place very far behind a glass window, and the pictures also stank.

Not all was lost, though, as I was able to take some pictures of dead saints and popes on display in their glass coffins. Here we have John XXII, St. Pius, and St. Josaphat: St. John XXII is probably one of the worst wax-job corpses ever. He just looked like shit. Granted, having a bad wax head is probable better than a rotted head or no head at all, but still. I did not capture his face, but he also had a ginormous nose. Seeing as us Jews are always being tormented for our schnozes, you’d think that people who venerate a saint with a nose big enough to fit a truck in a nostril might be a bit more sensitive; that’s all I am saying. St. Pius X’s bod also did not fare well in death. He now has a metal head and hands. St. Josaphat also is a metal head (ha ha ha, oh I crack myself up when I write at 2:21 AM because I am tormented by insomnia). I so dig the crown. Once my sister had a birthday party at Showbiz Pizza (now turned into Chuck E. Cheese) - which beefed me off to no end because I had previously asked my parents if I could have a party there and they said it was too expensive, but whatever – and they gave her a crown that looked very similar to this. It only made me more jealous.

It is actually good fortune that brought me to these three relics. We initially left St. Peter’s without seeing them, and I was a bit disappointed that there were no relics I could get moderately close to. However, Dr. P’s dad, who was raised Catholic, requested that she bring him back a bottle of holy water, and when we went to the gift shop, we discovered that they only sell the bottles there. We had to go back into the church to fill it ourselves. That’s when I noticed the three relics. It was almost like fate, no?

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