There's got to bea way to get in quicker, we reason. Whose palm do we have to grease?
The answer arrives in the form of a guy fom somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. "Join tour? Over there, man from Ohio."
The man from Ohio turned out to be Mike, an Iraq war vet who has been leading tours of Rome for over six years. "I came here for a girl," he explained. "It took me a year to figure out that she really wanted nothing to do with me. But by then I was hooked on Rome, so here I am."
I have to say Mike led one of the best toursI've ever been on. How many tours of the Vatican start out with a visit to the Swiss Guards laundry room? And include meeting their tailor? Mike also pointed out the Guards' barracks. "Listen up, people! The Swiss Guard may look like a bunch of little dolls in those uniforms, but make no mistake, they are the Vatocan's answer to the Navy Seals. They do not, I repeat not, mess around. Although in this soldier's opinion the pink stuccoed barracks undercuts the image a bit."
Mike's tour was unusual in every possible respect. "People, we are about the pass through the Hall of Tapestries. Most people just rush right through this gallery other way to the Sistina. But we will not rush through. We will admire these magnificent tapestries,and I will show you why they deserve our admiration.". Five minutes later everyone oN the tour was thoroughly spooked by the way the eyes in some of the tapestries followed us down the hall. This bit of nerve rattling, however, was nothing compared to the creeps we felt whenMike pointed out a two thousand year old statue that, I swear, looked exactly like the young Bill Clinton. "Even has Monica's dress over his arm," Mike noted. I'm telling you, it was weird.
Another thing I liked about Mike: he was nothing if not direct. "This is called the Pine Cone Court. see that enormous ball of sculpted brass in the center? It was a gift to John Paul II and is unquestionably the most hated work of 'art' in the Vatican. Look at it, it's a piece of junk! The only cool thing about it is you can spin it around. Big deal."
But like every other decent person in Rome, Mike was in love with the Sistine chapel. He gave us a half hour tutorial on the ceiling before we even set foot in the chapel. "I realize this might seem like I'm slowing you down, but trust me, you will appreciate the ceiling much more this way." And he was right, of course.