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This is an interesting story on the BBC News website. Essentially they’re saying that there are suggestions that the Vatican may need to consider restricting the number of visitors who can be admitted to the Sistine Chapel. The official reasons given are that the number of people may give rise to conditions that could damage the frescoes; but there are some other comments to the effect that the conditions experienced by visitors to the the Sistine Chapel detracts enormously from any benefits, either artistic or religious, that they might hope to gain.

Of course, this doesn’t just affect cruise passengers – it’s all visitors to Rome who would be affected by any such change. But if you read any of the forums on, say Cruise critic – especially those for lines doing fly-cruises to the Med – you’ll find that advice and information on how to get to into the Sistine Chapel (and the rest of the Vatican museums) is a perennial and popular topic. Nor is it just the Sistine Chapel, or indeed any other site in Rome – the huge number of tourists is threatening to overwhelm many popular sites around the world. We had an unhappy Acropolis experience a few years ago, and places such as Santorini are being faced with far more visitors than their infrastructure can accommodate.

I was interested to read that one official reason the Vatican has for maximising visitor numbers to the Chapel is that they see it as having great religious significance. The frescoes themselves tell the story of Christ, and it’s believed that there will be a religious benefit to visitors in seeing this. The Chapel is also a part of St Peter’s, and that of course is one of the Christendom’s most sacred sites. I have to say, however, that when reading those “how do I see the Sistine Chapel?” questions on the forums, I’m not seeing any addendum that reads “…because I want a profound religious experience”. I mainly get the feeling that a visit to the Sistine Chapel was an experience to be ticked-off a list: as many of the highlights of Rome that it’s possible to do in a day-visit while on a cruise. The  more sites (and sights), the more successful the day.

I sound a bit like a grumpy old man, don’t I? Increasingly, though, I’m wondering how fulfilling an experience a visit to   these sites can be when you’re in the company of so many other people. I got nothing – absolutely nothing – from visiting the Acropolis, except great frustration. Similarly with the Sistine Chapel, I think. I suspect that in fact the best way to appreciate it is via on-line study and reading, and of course the on-line access is a huge improvement over what could be learned previously.

TreviFountain

The Trevi Fountain (of course)

Val& I are increasingly taking the view for visits to places that we should decide on one thing to do with the day, and do that one thing well; and then stop. A visit to a museum or some other attraction early in the morning, followed by a good lunch, and then finish for the day, is the way to do it.

(And the picture alongside is a Trevi fountain shot I got a couple of years ago along with several thousand other people!)

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