Rome: Selfies in the Sistine Chapel

 Raphael's handiwork
Raphael’s handiwork

ROMA – We are thoroughly enjoying our Roman holiday, walking the neighborhoods, sampling the food and wine, and enjoying the arts & culture scene.

Our hotel, a gem called the Majestic, is on a tree-lined street of cafes, restaurants, book stores and other shops in Via Veneto and Piazza Berberini neighborhood. The Majestic’s rooftop terrace was meant for sipping a Campari and soda or “Italian Mule,” a refreshing locals version of the “Moscow Mule” (Cynar & Punt & Mes, lightly flavored with ginger).

The neighborhood was a swinging place in the ’50s, attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra, Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, even King Farouk. Via Veneto reminds me of neighborhoods we’ve visited in Paris or Buenos Aires in the past.

We walked to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain from our neighborhood. It also is close to the Metro and a short cab ride to the train station, where we arrived from Perugia and Florence. We also left for a day trip to Pompeii on the train.

Rome is more like three cities wrapped into one: The city itself, the Vatican and the ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. It instantly became a hit with our family.

Via Veneto neighborhood
Via Veneto neighborhood

Vatican Rag

We spent hours at the Vatican Museums. “You are entering one of the most important sites for the history of human civilization,” reads a note from the Director Antonio Paolucci. “The greatest artists of all time will welcome you: Raphael in the Stanza, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and van Gogh and Matisse in the area dedicated to modern religious art.”

We also enjoyed the surrounding gardens of the Vatican, green and meticulously well kept.  Pope Francis is extremely popular, “not stiff” like some predecessors, one local told us. “The pope enhanced his reputation as a man of the people when he surprised Vatican workers by popping in to dine in their humble canteen,” as the Daily Mirror reported this week. This week Time magazine reported the Pope will visit America next year. (I snapped up a refrigerator magnet of the Pope across the street from St. Peter’s square as a souvenir).

Selfies in the Sistine Chapel

I have wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel forever, and it was marvelous. We found a spot to sit down and gazed up at the handiwork of Michelangelo for almost half an hour. I pointed out some highlights to our son: “The Last Judgment” (including St. Bartholomew holding his flayed skin),” and “Creation of Adam and Eve.”  The flayed skin intrigued  our son (who is at that age where he enjoys macabre things). Needless to say, he is eager to visit Pompeii.

There’s no photography or video allowed in the Sistine Chapel, and we abided by that rule. But I did notice the couple next to me sneaking a “selfie” photo of themselves and the frescos with an iPhone.

We’ve been enjoying the Roman food. One of our favorites was a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel called Osteria Barberini. We enjoyed handmade pasta, fresh fish and a bottle of local wine. A display of truffles, with a truffle shaver, greeted you at the door. We are going to spend the day in Pompeii before returning to Rome for another full day.

Italian Mule cocktail at Hotel Majestic
Italian Mule cocktail at Hotel Majestic
Truffles at Ristorante Osteria Barberini
Truffles at Ristorante Osteria Barberini

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

8 thoughts on “Rome: Selfies in the Sistine Chapel”

  1. I always have a reaction upon seeing the incredible wealth of the Catholic Church and contrasting it with what Jesus, its supposed founder, said: to forsake all wealth and follow his example of owning nothing. How does the Catholic Church reconcile this teaching of Jesus and its extreme wealth contrasted with a world of so much extreme poverty?

    I did a little Google search and found an interesting article in Wikipedia on Liberation Theology, a movement in the Catholic church originating in Latin America and entertained today by Pope Francis. Some proponent of this philosophy advocate a forceful redistribution of wealth, including that of the Catholic Church.

    Nothing is simple.

    1. Nothing is simple….a cardinal [no pun intended] rule of life.

      It would be a stretch to say that Pope Francis is or was a supporter of liberation theology but saying he entertained some of its precepts is entirely accurate, as you pointed out Greg, and he is proving it every month as speaks publicly.

      On wealth and poverty he has spoken eloquently about the responsibility of wealth and the inherent inequity that is allowed to exist within modern economic systems…

      “[H]umanity is experiencing a turning point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time, we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity.

      Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “Thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.”

      …..”While the earnings of the minority are growing exponentially, so, too, is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. The imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation…. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules…. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything that stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

      —-Pope Francis “The Joy of the Gospel”

      On the environment:

      “Fraternity helps to preserve and cultivate nature. The human family has received from the Creator a common gift: nature. The Christian view of creation includes a positive judgment about the legitimacy of interventions on nature if these are meant to be beneficial and are performed responsibly, that is to say, by acknowledging the “grammar” inscribed in nature and by wisely using resources for the benefit of all, with respect for the beauty, finality and usefulness of every living being and its place in the ecosystem. Nature, in a word, is at our disposition and we are called to exercise a responsible stewardship over it. Yet so often we are driven by greed and by the arrogance of dominion, possession, manipulation and exploitation; we do not preserve nature; nor do we respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.”

      Although his statements do not yet rise to the level of Papal encyclicals, thus institutionalizing the doctrine within the church, it is clear he is moving in a substantially more liberalizing direction, on wealth, on civil rights, or the role of women in society and the Church, and on the environment.

      What Pope Francis seems to be doing is rejecting the status quo, in the Gospel, in the Church, and society as a whole, as insufficient to deal with the problems and challenges of a modern time. He is taking the Catholic Church as a world leader and spiritual touchstone for 1.2 billion people into the modern, technological, western democracy influenced, tolerance supporting, market-based world, recognizing that only by expanding our conscience can we ensure equity.

      Which is ironic since on many of the doctrines of the Church he is a traditionalist. For example, he opposes abortion, homosexuality, contraception, and Marxist doctrine [as he did with the Marxist elements of liberation theology], while stating clearly that we must embrace those who violate Church doctrine equally, love them as much, and readily extend not just forgiveness but acceptance.

      I find this interesting since, as an atheist, I find myself inspired by his leadership. Moving a culture is an incredibly difficult thing; taking that on as a responsibility knowing that you will face strong institutional resistance and not see the outcome is thankless; having faith that the good will of people will lead them to a better place rather than cast them into the pit of despair, when so much despair already exists, is remarkable. I have seen this same faith in many Protestant friends; the good will of people of faith is something that I, as an atheist, embrace wholly.

      1. Steve, as the CEO of the extremely appropriately named Sierra Business Council, I would like to pivot to one of your pet themes in that organization, the Triple Bottom Line (TBL). This is one way that “the inherent inequity that is allowed to exist within modern economic systems” will be mitigated in the 21st century.

  2. Mr. Anderson—thanks for posting this video. It is an almost perfect description of the governing philosophy and mission of the Sierra Business Council. [Perhaps a little less emphasis on photosynthesis and more focus on increasing the overlapping area of the Venn diagram would be nice.]

    I always find it interesting that some don’t understand that the economic philosophy described above is ultimately an economically conservative one. Fortunately, while some voices in our community are yelling at the kids to get off their lawn and making heroes of apostles of the cartoon version of libertarianism, embracing sustainability by small and large business, the shared economy, innovation based businesses that leverage intellectual capital, and investment in sustainability as a strategy to secure supply chains, steward labor, and improve the environment is moving forward apace.

    I attend gatherings put on every year by three organizations; the Local Government Commission’s New Partners for Smart Growth event which spotlights sustainability in the built environment, the CERES event which spotlights business, corporate and investment sustainability, and the newly created Conscious Capitalism event which spotlights behavioral change in corporate governance. Whereas the principles of sustainability as a business objective were a quaint sub-culture originating in agricultural economics 20 years ago, today they are becoming mainstream. 400 of the Fortune 500 have corporate sustainability programs, sustainable business practices in its various forms is the fastest growing business degree area, and incorporating sustainable business practices into business models through public benefit corporations, social entrepreneurship, or just measuring and reporting on doing the right thing in small businesses, is growing rapidly.

    Where Pope Francis has it right is that if the benefits of capitalism do not enrich peoples lives the system itself could fail. Capitalism is the most efficient way yet devised to actually increase wealth and spread benefit. One can be pro-Capitalist and support the reform of Capitalism at the same time, actually that is the prudent course, one could say the conservative course. The reforms envisioned do not reduce personal liberty they actually increase personal liberty by incorporating into the Capitalist business model the things that were previously considered externalities, or things business models did not have to account for like low labor standards, pollution, taxes and subsidies and damage to the commons. The ultimate theft of liberty in the existing Capitalist business model is making me pay for things I did not do through goods and services I did not use.

    The Pope’s point really is not anti-Capitalist, it is pro-Capitalist; it is saying the pursuit of profit without more broadly sharing the benefit and stewarding the resource is the ultimate totalitarianism, and eventually people will not stand for reducing their personal, community, and societal freedom, ultimately leading to social and economic instability.

    I believe that Capitalism is the best system yet devised, and protecting it as a foundation of personal liberty is essential. But the foundation cannot be protected if we allow it to be undermined.

    Ultimately there is no free lunch, we pay for it now or later, or we suffer the consequences.

  3. Steve and Michael,

    I always find it funny that people like to make it about anti or pro capitalism when in fact we are critiquing it. I personally cannot imagine an economic system that isn’t based in capitalism. The difference I guess is the form of capitalism we support. I think the new form of capitalism that is the future is going to be based in cooperative capitalism.

    An interesting paper written by Professor Noreena Hertz about the topic

    1. Agreed Ben, reading the “Joy of the Gospel” that is precisely what the Pope was saying. To those who support a brand of Capitalism that encourages externalizing costs, socializing risks, and worships the dominion of profit, reform of a market based system is always going to look like “collectivism’ of one sort or another, especially if one is steeped in Cold War ideology and fear.
      The irony is that opponents of reforming Capitalism cannot see that it is really the “Sermon on the Mount” or the modernized version of Winthrop’s “City Upon a Hill.”

      1. I wonder what you think of our local Briar Patch Coop compared to this model. The prices are the highest, consumers must drive long distances, non environmentally friendly products are featured presumably because of a profit motive, and, while the building is an improvement, it is far from a state of the art design. How much do the “owners” in fact participate in its governance, and how significant is it as a contributor to the community. While privately owned, how does California Organics and other whole food markets compare?

  4. Greg,
    Without really looking into the Briar Patch I would say they are more a niche market at the moment, a growing segment but still a relatively small niche market. To try and compare California Organics, Mother Truckers/ Natural Selection, and Briar Patch is futile since we don’t know their expectations or motives for their businesses. If we want to make the mistake of using the status quo measuring tool of total volume of sales, profit margins, and growth I would have to say Briar Patch is the doing the best.

    An article on the different types of co operatives.

    Briar Patch does operate as a coop but I am not sure what type of cooperative they fall under.

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