Remember that one time we almost didn’t see the Sistine Chapel?

That’s what we’ll say to each other ten years from now. And we’ll nod and laugh and then we’ll tell the story to whoever will listen, and maybe we’ll embellish a little more each year, but maybe not, because it’s a pretty good story as it is.

Saturday, July 19 2014, 2:30pm.
We’ve just checked in to our unexpectedly lovely bed & breakfast in Rome, and set down with maps and lists and the internet to decide what to do with the wealth of a whole afternoon. We find out the Vatican museum is closed on Sundays, and we’ve waited twenty years and 4000 miles to see the Sistine Chapel, which makes the decision pretty easy. We look up bus routes.

2:50pm
We learn that, although the museum is open till 6, the ticket office closes at 4pm. We gather our things, exit the hotel, and run to what we hope is the right bus stop.

3:05pm
The bus comes. The bus doors open for about three seconds and, when we hesitate, the driver closes them again and would have left us in the dust, if it weren’t for some frantic arm flailing. We get on the bus, but then of course there’s the matter of the coin machine and the ticket-validating machine, with their circa 1994 technology that is just a little high-tech and complicated for some inexperienced Roman-bus-riders (me). Nonetheless, we are on our way.

3:35pm
We get off the bus, check the time and the map and start walking. We see no sign of Vatican, museum, or chapel, but are undaunted.

3:45pm
We realize we a) got off at the wrong stop and b) walked the wrong direction. We walk faster.

3:50pm
We meet a hill. It is a very tall hill, and at the top of the very tall hill is a very high wall. Also in involved: very hot sun and very tired legs. So many verys. We sigh, check the time, and start climbing. We pant and we sweat.

3:54pm
We reach the top of the VTH, but there is still the VHW with not sign of a door. We (or maybe just I) begin silently fuming against whoever had the stupid idea to make this place that’s supposed to symbolize the church so hard to get to. Whose silly idea was that anyway? We choose a direction, and walk. Still panting, still sweating.

3:55pm
We run. We (or I) begin rationalizing how really it will be okay if we don’t see the Sistine Chapel, because it will continue to be there whether I see it or not, and really this trip has already had so many good parts, and no matter what the sun will rise tomorrow, and Jesus. But still we run.

3:57pm
We see a door. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, a door. And it is open. It is also ringed by a lot of those ropes designed to keep you out of interesting places, but we cut behind those. Inside, there is a sign that says TICKETS, pointing up the stairs. (Really? More climbing.)

3:58pm
The stairs are full of a tour group. We navigate, and keep running.

3:59pm
Three girls, red-faced, panting, dripping with sweat and smelling like it, swoop down on the ticket desk and each gasp “one student ticket” and not even in Italian.

4:00pm
We make it into the museum and fall, trembling, laughing, and still so sweaty, onto an obliging bench, tickets in hand.

Of course, there are still some obstacles, like guards telling you you’re going the wrong way, maps that don’t make sense, and signs “inviting” you to be respectful and not show up in shorts or with exposed shoulders (one or the other of which each of us has done, because how in the world are you supposed to know that before you get in and see the sign?), but at this point, all these are but minor inconveniences.

And it was unspeakably worth every frantic minute, every aching muscle, and every drop of sweat.

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3 thoughts on “Remember that one time we almost didn’t see the Sistine Chapel?

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