Funny Thing Happened On Our Way to the Vatican

04/11/2013 04:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 06, 2013
  • Mark DeCarlo 3 time Emmy Award winning Comedian, travel & foodie expert

DeHoneymooners "Our European Honeymoon"

Part 2: Sistine Comedy

When in Rome...see it:
Unless you are an antiquities scholar, or a masochist, (or both, I guess) we recommend taking a guided tour of the Musei Vaticani. In an arrangement that is so deliciously Italian, anyone holding a ticket for a guided tour is given instant access to the museum, while the unguided believers are left twisting in an eternal line that wraps all the way around the wall, back to St. Peter's Square.

"Pssst. I wanna see the Sistine Chapel."
"Back a' da line."
"I gotta guy."
"Ahhh, come on in - Eh! Wipe your feet!"

Vatican City is home to iconic art worth BILLIONS, donated and collected over more than a millennium. In fact, they have soooo much bling, only a small fraction can be displayed at any given time. The only way to see it all is to get the job as Pope -- or as the Janitore with the big key ring.

Speaking of wealth, when you go to the Vatican, bring plenty of cash. As of January 1, 2013, just like whorehouses & dice games, the Vatican don't take plastic. The Bank of Italy suspended Vatican credit card payments because of the Church's inadequate "measures to fight money laundering."

I think that's ridiculous. How would the world's largest organization that deals primarily in cash, non-registered transactions know anything about money laundering? This is the exactly the kind of slander that tarnished the memory of the Inquisition.


Ill gotten booty or goodly gotten booty, the Vatican has all of it. And I don't mean just the booty in the Gift shop adjacent to the Sistine Chapel, I mean the actual masterworks of Raphael, Michelangelo and the rest of Western Civilization. The Vatican Museum is filled with transcendent artifacts, things so ingeniously imagined and meticulously crafted that after just one Gallery I was suffering from awe-fatigue. We were led through this magnificent maze by the ideal Guide, a snarky woman who's insights and behind-the-scenes info made every artifact spring to life: Rafaella Olivia was articulate, knowledgeable and hilarious.

Outside the Vatican walls, sightseeing in Roma can take on a different character every few blocks. Make sure you budget enough time for at least these highlights; Colosseum/Forum Guided Tour (find a good Guide and skip the line here too), Vatican City, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, an A.S. Roma Football game, Summer Festivals & Opera and every piazza you stumble across.

Before he burned the City to the ground, Roman Emperor Nero erected the Colossus Neronis, a 30-meter tall [that's 100 FEET!] bronze statue of himself at his imperial Villa. The statue was slightly changed post-Nero to suggest Sol Invictus, the Sun God, and the immense metal mountain was eventually moved adjacent to the entrance of the Flavian Amphitheater.


The Romans invented showmanship. And this is where they did it: Superdome B.C.

The Amphitheater was fun central. It served, in various epochs, as a circus, theater, giant bathtub and sports arena. Like the geniuses that produce the mechanical showmanship of Cirque de Soleil today, the architects, designers and showmen who staged events in the Amphitheater were the Merlins of their age. The wooden floor, long since rotted away, covered an elaborate series of channels and cubicles housing gladiators, lions, zebra and elephants. Zoological Vaudeville.


To begin each bout, a Gladiator would enter the ring, alone but adorned in his combat armor. Then, a trap door would open, delivering his ferocious opponent up from the catacombs below. Imagine seeing THAT at your next Cubs game -- the pitching mound cranks open to reveal a roaring Lion! The Friendly Confines indeed.

You've seen it in pictures. You've read about it in clever, witty blogs. But you can't fully appreciate the majesty of human endeavor until you see the Colosseum through your own eyes. Avanti!

More Must Do's:

Go back in time at Polvere di Tempo: Handmade art of Travel & Time.

Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain: Bigger the coin, better the outcome.

Buy comfortable leather shoes: Leather. Leather. LEATHER.

Roman drivers are worse than you've heard...because the wine is better than you've heard.

Always start a conversation with a salutation, then ask your question -- otherwise you'll be a rude Tourista.

Key Words: Grazie, Prego, Vino rosso della casa, per favore!

Have handmade gelato: The more colorful, the better.

Have a conversation with a Roman using only your face and hands.

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