Inside the Vatican Museum, one of the first things that struck me was that the chattering crowds pushed through corridor after corridor of magnificent art and antiquities like sheep, not sparing a glance at the decorated marble floors or the extensive carvings in the stairwells. More to the point they never looked up. I spent a lot of time with my neck cricked back, looking upwards as I walked slowly from gallery to gallery. From a distance, the muscularity and detail in the frescoes and paintings were all the more compelling.

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I’d rented an audio guide, which wasn’t all that helpful because there were no ear buds and the device couldn’t be clipped to my lapel – I had to hold it up to my ear. Even so, it did slow me down. Hub was back at our B&B – I’d spared him five more hours of gallery-hopping. I’d hug the walls as waves of oblivious tourists pushed by, taking deep breaths, filled with wonder, just taking in the beauty of all of the restorations and caught up in the awe of my surroundings, wondering how those ancient builders hauled the millions of stones, carved the miles of carvings and hauled up larger-than-life marble horses and centurions and gods high above our heads.

I raged at the hundreds of loud-mouthed visitors who clogged the Sistine Chapel – a holy place that was rendered more mall-like than sacred by their lack of reverence. I realize that I was a visitor as well, but I went seeking to feel the spirit of the place. That didn’t happen.

In the end, though, I am so fortunate to have been able to see what I saw. I have over a thousand amazing photographs to stare at when the rain pounds against my office windows or the wind whistles down the fireplace flue as I hunch over my typewriter editing my novel.