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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Touring the Sistine Chapel in Rome

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The Sistine Chapel is probably the single most impressive, influential and famous art-filled room in the whole world.  Intended to be the private chapel of a pope, the whole world now comes to worship at this altar of artistic creativity.  It also serves as the election room of new popes.

Sistine ChapelThe building and the painting of the Sistine Chapel was completed in three major phases.  The first was the building and wall painting phase.  Commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV (of the della Rovere family) it took about eight years (1475 to 1483) to complete.  It was consecrated and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary on 15th August 1483.  The architect was Baccio Pontelli and the construction was supervised by Giovannino de'Dolci.

In 1481, while the chapel was still being constructed, Pope Sixtus IV brought in several great Florentine artists to paint the walls.  They were Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Piero di Cosimo, Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, Pinturicchio and Bartolomeo della Gatta.  They took only eleven months to complete their commission.

The walls are divided into three horizontal sections.  The uppermost comprises of pilasters that support the vault.  The middle section (or order) tells two stories from the bible.  The left wall relates the life of Moses while the right wall tells the life of Christ.  At ceremonial occasions the lowest portions of the side walls are covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515-19 at Brussels.

There are six windows on the long walls.  Between each window is a niche with painted images of the first popes – Peter to Marcellus – who were all martyred.  A beautiful and delicately carved marble screen, with an inset wooden door, divides the presbytery from the nave.  The screen is the work of three sculptors – Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno and Giovanni Dalmata.  The screen used to divide the chapel into two equal parts but was moved making the presbytery much larger.  The floor is a marble mosaic beautiful in workmanship and design.

The second phase saw the introduction of Michelangelo.  In 1508 Pope Julius II (a ‘nephew’ of Sixtus IV) wanted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel repainted.  The ceiling was originally frescoed by Piero Matteo d'Amelia with a star-spangled sky in 1481.

He had originally called upon Raphael (a passionate enemy of Michelangelo) to take up the project but he refused.  Instead he suggested Michelangelo’s name in an attempt to discredit him knowing Michelangelo was a sculptor and not a painter.  Raphael created one of art history’s greatest gaffes.

Michelangelo worked on the ceiling from 1508 to 1512.  What he created has become a beacon of art throughout the world.  He demonstrated control and understanding of detail, proportion, colour, texture, form and an unmatched originality that has illuminated the world – let alone art.  He brought perfection to reality.  The Sistine Chapel is a display of one man’s incredible creative genius.

The pope wanted paintings of the 12 Apostles.  Michelangelo dismissed the idea as a “poor thing”.  Thank heavens for his courage and ‘artistic licence and integrity’ or we would not have the most amazing works in the history of Western art.  Instead what Michelangelo painted were stories from the Book of Genesis – from the Creation to the story of Noah.

This phase of Michelangelo’s work included the incomparable and stunningly daring fresco, the Creation of Adam.  Michelangelo’s portrayal of God as a muscular figure with long white hair and big white beard is the one many of us, today, picture him to be.  In earlier works God was represented only as a hand reaching down through the clouds.

The near touching of God and Adam’s hands is one of the most replicated, parodied and iconic images of the world.  It also goes against the common perception of God breathing life into Adam.  Michelangelo also shows Adam with a ‘navel.’  Other departures are the serpent in Eden depicted with a woman’s head; the forbidden fruit is a fig and not the commonly accepted ‘apple.’

To paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo built his own platform, extending over half the chapel area.  It allowed him to stand upright (Sorry! He did not paint it on his back).  However, it denied him the possibility of viewing his work from the floor.  Despite that he painted huge scale figures from a distance of only a few inches.

Twenty-eight years later Michelangelo was back.  This time it was Pope Clement VII who commissioned him.  Shortly after Pope Clement died and was succeed by Pope Paul III who pushed the artist to quickly finish the fresco.  In this phase Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the altar wall – the largest fresco of the century.  He started work in 1535 and finished it in 1541.

Winding staircase in the Sistine ChapelEven if Michelangelo had not created what he did in the Sistine Chapel, it would still be a room filled with an extraordinary collection of masterpieces.  From this single room emanates more creativity, beauty and inspiration (artistic and religious) than any other collection of art anywhere.

Despite its amazing fame there is nothing outstanding about the Sistine Chapel’s architectural features.  Its dimensions are based on that of the Temple of Solomon as detailed in the Old Testament.  It is 40.93 metres long, 13.41 metres wide and 20.70 metres high.  The roof is barrel-vaulted.  The exterior is a remarkably bare brick-walled edifice with no ostentatious embellishments, sculptures or carvings.  There is no grand entrance door.  Entrance to the Sistine Chapel can only be made from within the Papal Palace.

Visitors today are blessed because what they view is the restored and cleaned frescos, which took about 30 (1965 to 1994) years to accomplish.

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Traveller Tip: The Forum in Rome

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rome-august-2011-154I went to Rome last week and The Forum was so amazing – was just like actually being in Ancient Rome.  There is an amazing view as you enter through Arch of Titus – it just leaves you standing in awe.  Although the buildings are ruins,  the site is so much more than a few bricks on the ground: it fees like you can actually see where the Roman’s lived.  It is astonishing how all this has survived. It feels like the ancient Romans just left it one day:  you almost expect to see a Roman walking through, just going about their day!  It is great just to sit and imagine what it was like. There is not much written information, so to visit with (an audio) guide is good: they will tell you the stories as you wonder around. – Victoria Badger

Discover the Forum in Rome for yourself and skip the queues by booking a tour in Rome ahead.

Victoria receives an isango! gift-voucher for her tip – For a chance to receive a voucher, send us your Travel Tip at competition@isango.com with Travel Tip in the subject line.

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isango! Customer review: Vatican Walking Tour

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This tour is the best way to see the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s. Our wonderful tour guide, Francesca, was a wealth of knowledge and her passion bought Rome’s history to life. If you are lucky enough to get Francesca as your tour guide you are in for a fantastic experience.

Janine, Australia

Janine booked: Vatican Walking Tour

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Customer review: Ancient Rome Walking Tour

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This was the 1st of our European organised tours and what a high standard we started with! Francesca, our tour guide, was exceptional. Her knowledge and per trail of past events bought everything to life. It was a fabulous tour and we highly recommend it

Janine, Australia

Janine booked: Ancient Rome Walking Tour

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Rome Sightseeing, any way you want it!

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As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Known for its expansive roads, ancient edifices, and religious importance, Rome is a metropolis of history and wonder waiting to be discovered. Because there is an endless array of things to do in Rome and a charming surprise down every cobblestoned street, making sure you see it all on your own is quite a difficult task. Rome sightseeing is best done by bus, boat, bicycle, or vespa, as such vehicles enable you to see and experience Rome’s gems in all their glory, without wasting too much time. continue reading

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Eat…Pray, Love

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You might wonder what taking a hop on hop off Rome tour, buying Last Supper tickets, and embarking upon a Venice gondola ride have in common with Julia Roberts. If you’ve seen her latest film, then you will know that one third of it takes place in Italy, where all three of the above experiences can be enjoyed. continue reading

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Airport to City Hotel Transfers Made Easy!

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Say good-bye to the days when you arrive in a foreign city, weary from the plane-ride, only to be assaulted with the task of finding your hotel.  

With pre-booked vehicles you can hop off the plane and be greeted by a bi-lingual driver who will bring you to your accommodations in an air-conditioned vehicle.

Transfers, round or single trips, are available both to and from your hotel in popular destinations such as Moscow, Geneva, Barcelona, Rome and more! continue reading

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“Where the hell is Matt” is not a hoax

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Er…? OK, for everyone’s background, Matt Harding is a guy who admits being much better at travelling rather than coding video games. He’s been traveling around the world for a few years and, everytime, shooting short videos of himself dancing in front of landmark attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or the Lion of Singapore, from Rome to Delhi, San Francisco or Sydney and hundreds of other cities.

The videos are fun and inspiring for anyone who likes travel and cultures. They can easily be found on YouTube or Google. The latest version from 2008 is an “innovation” as Matt has been inviting locals to dance with him. continue reading

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Snacking banned at monuments in Rome

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People caught snacking near monuments will have to pay a £40 fineRome City Hall has banned snacking near its famous monuments in the city”s historical centre, according to reports.

A £40 fine will be slapped on those who violate the ban which runs until the end of October, the Associated Press said.

Officials told the news agency they want to preserve artistic treasures and decorum in a city that has millions of visitors every year.

The ordinance also bans the homeless from making makeshift beds and people loitering around at night, as they are “often drunk [and] not only leave all manner of litter on public grounds and in the fountains, but also disturb the peace”.

Rome is the latest Italian city to take steps to protect its historical sites.

Venice banned picnics in public places and bare torsos in St. Mark”s Square, while Florence is clamping down on men who wash the windshields of cars for payment.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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Chariot racing could return to Rome

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Chariot races could once again roar through RomeMany visitors to Rome hope to experience some of the ancient culture that has made the eternal city famous – however, few would expect to catch a full-blown chariot race.

But that”s exactly what could be on offer as the historical society Vadis Al Maximo hopes to stage a major chariot race event next year.

Speakung to ANSA, Vadis Al Maximo head, Franco Calo, explained: ””The event would last three days, starting on October 17, at the same period when the race took place in Roman times.

””If possible, we hope to involve charioteers from all over the world””

He said the society has plans to transform all the main squares of the capital into scenes from Ancient Rome, using props on loan from the Cinecitta film studios.

””According to our calculations, the Circus Maximus area could hold up to 35,000 people,”” he said.

In Roman times the course in the Circus Maximus could accommodate 12 chariots, each drawn by teams of four horses.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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