Michelangelo Buanarrotti is a bit of a rock star in Italy judging by the interest in an exhibition of his drawings that opened 3 days ago. I found the queue outside the Palazzo San Macuto by accident as I wandered from the Piazza Navona towards the Pantheon and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what had dragged a small crowd of Italians away from their caffès so early in the morning.
The exhibition celebrates 500 years since the Sistine Chapel opened to reveal Michelangelo’s ceiling for the first time, after being closed for 4 years while the artist was at work. On display are numerous pencil sketches of an arm, torso, hand or face that were the blueprints for the ceiling fresco. Some of the drawings are unfinished but they are all beautiful, more beautiful in their starkness and simplicity than the finished art in the Sistine Chapel I think.
It’s quieter than a church inside the library where the exhibition is being held and more respectful too. No photographs are allowed, bags are scanned on entry and access is controlled so there is plenty of room for everyone.
Michelangelo was 33 years old when he started work on the ceiling. He had been reluctant to accept the commission (perhaps foreseeing a very sore neck!) but 24 years later, he was back to decorate the wall behind the altar with his painting of the Last Judgement. He was 61 years old by then and a lot more feisty. He managed to offend just about everyone at the time by with the large number of nudes and controversial iconography in his painting. The Last Judgement survived only because of some clever repainting by Michelangelo’s friend and student. Thankfully the rock star himself went to his grave never knowing that his masterpiece had been photoshopped.
I’m in Hong Kong at the moment. I’ve been traveling for just over 24 hours although I’m not 100% sure about that as I’ve lost track of what day it is and it could be much longer. It feels like the car came to pick me up from my apartment in Lucca a million years ago. I know that I had been traveling for 7 hours and hadn’t managed to leave Europe. That’s by choice though as I love trains and I chose to travel from Lucca to Rome airport by train. Three of them. Not so much fun though when you’re lugging a suitcase that is dangerously close to the weight limit (even with the extra that comes with a Koru membership) and a carry on bag that is almost the same.
I ‘m glad I chose the train. Italian trains are so convenient and relaxing. The fast intercity train that I jumped on is actually runs from Milan to Salerno and one day I’ll do that trip. It would actually be easy to travel all over Italy by train. Now there’s a plan! I bought a ticket for one of the fancy compartments which means leather seats, free coffee and newspapers and no loud cell phones.
I was sad when the plane left Rome and even sadder when, after leaving my Alitalia flight, Italian was no longer what I was hearing all around. I have become so accustomed to it over the past few weeks and I miss it. I said “Sì Grazie” to the Chinese lady who cleared my table just now. She probably sees lots of confused people in between flights and she just smiled.
So, right now I’m in the Koru lounge looking out on a foggy, drizzly dark Hong Kong. A little bit of New Zealand in the middle of more duty free shops, luxury boutiques and fast food outlets. Disappointingly, I have seen not one hobbit but there were a few in London (well Air NZ ground staff wearing t-shirts which is close enough for me). My lovely sister is in Wellington at this very moment rubbing shoulders with the stars and a few short hairy people too if she’s lucky.
Only another 12 hours or so and I’ll be back in Middle Earth. Time for (another) second breakfast I think.