The Carriage Pavilion is tucked away off the main drag in the Vatican Museums, which is great for those us us looking for it because there are no crowds in the dimly lit fantasy of astonishing wheels on display, unfortunately kept primly at arm's length behind ropes.
What the carriage pavilion reminded me of was the vast wealth of treasures the Vatican has stashed away out of sight and out of mind and of which only a tiny fraction is ever displayed. This collection of carriages, just a couple of dozen leads one to imagine all the treasures not visible.
There is a preposterous side to the pomp and circumstances of these ungainly machines, especially when one considers the appalling state of the roads in the Papal States said to be noted for poor maintenance in an era of bad roads generally, and suspension here was managed with heavy springs and leather straps.
The carriages are remarkable things for all that, lined up and ready to go.
This one has some fairly severe toe-in worthy of a sidecar outfit...
And this convertible landau was especially cute:
Here in a photo with it's owner Leo XIII at the turn of the 20th century.
I found a better likeness of the convertible Holy Father in the stamp collection of the museums, another of my favorite displays in the museum.
There were a few cars in the display as well, modern vehicles for modern times, though rather less fascinating.
An Italian couple next to me was struggling to make sense of the license plate, and I was struggling to bite my tongue but eventually they figured it out - Stato Citta del Vaticano- one of the first things you do when you create a nation is create a way to license vehicles...it's a bureaucratic thing.
Not everyone knows there is a railway station in the Vatican but they had a model engine on display here as a reminder.
The first Italian train to enter the Vatican in 1932, three years after the Vatican and Italy signed their treaty of mutual recognition, known as the Lateran Pacts.
The station at St Peter's is only used for freight and the occasional papal rider, as mass transit is not a Vatican concept. Why would it be with but 900 residents?
And who would have guessed this little tid bit?
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