We had already experienced two great tours of the Provence region and Florence/Pisa. We had booked the “ultimate” tour of Rome and only knew the high-lights, but knew that it was another 10 hour tour. We were literally running on adrenalin, but wanted to see and do as much as we possibly could. We boarded a bus from the port to the city of Rome 55 miles away. It was a 1 1/2 hour ride from the port of Civitavechia, the closest cruise port to Rome. The Fortress of Michelangelo protects the port. (Good to know for next visit)
As we approached Rome, our bus guide, Romona, explained the following: It was built upon the ruins of an ancient city. It is the 3rd capital in Italy. It has 3 million residents, but 800,000 are not Italian citizens. The aqua dusts were built 1700 years ago, but still work, supplying the fountains and drinking water. We picked up our local guide for the day, Pasque. The bus parked near the Colosseum. The Arch of Constantine was our first stop. When there was a victory, they celebrated with a parade. It would end at the Colosseum and the nearby temples to thank the Gods for the victory. After one such victory in 312 AD, construction on the Arch of Constantine was began. It took 3 years to build and was dedicated in 315 AD. The Arch of Titus was visible in the distance. It was built to honor the victories of Titus.
The Colosseum was built on the site of an old amphitheater. It is in the shape of an eclipse. It’s circumference is 620 feet x 525 feet and is 180 feet high. The site was chosen as it had a lake in case of fire, giving an easy access to water. Also the river was nearby, to transport supplies.
It is called the Coliseum due to the Colossus of Nero statue that was placed near the entrance. It took 24 elephants to move it. There is nothing left of the statue today. The Colosseum has 76 arches with number, 4 had no number.
The four unnumbered were… 1) the Emperor, 2) Magistrates/authorities and their chosen virgins. These were women who were chosen at the age of 6 and lived in the Roman Forum. They had to keep the fire of Vesta burning. They lived like Nuns and were finished with their assignment at the age of 36. 3)musicians and gladiators 4)Exit for the gladiators. The top-level was a standing area for plebes and women.
The seating of the Colosseum…there was even had a retractable awning for shade. Toilets were marble slabs with holes with running water beneath. Wet sponges were provided as a convenience.
Romans liked bloody shows, so the animals were kept in the dark below the arena to make them more ferocious to kill the criminals in the morning shows. There are tunnels below the arena floor. The floor was made of wood and covered in sand. Animal cages and decorations were lifted with a counter weight system. Gladiators fought in the afternoon. They were called Gladiators due to their short swords. Most Gladiators wore a hat, shield, front and back plate. The lesser gladiators only had a net and a sword.
Gladiator fights lasted until the 5th century, when they were forbidden by the Christians. There is no evidence that Christians were killed here. In the 14th century a cross and 14 travertine marble blocks were added in honor of the Pope. The Pope usually visits during the week of Easter.
The Colosseum was pillaged of building materials to build other buildings. the Renaissance era was the most destructive. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and wish we had more time, but there was more of Rome to explore.
As we walked back to the bus, Romona kept telling us to watch for the gypsies as they would steal our bags. We didn’t know what or who we should be looking for but was very insistent to keep our eyes on the look-out. As we passed other guides, they would warn that the gypsies were out. We have no idea if we saw one or not…
The Great Circus Maximus was built on Palatine Hill. There were 2 obelisk that the chariots raced around. If Christians were killed, it was most likely here.
Our bus took us past the Capitoline (Capitol Hill). This has the Cordonata, which is a set of stairs created by Michelangelo. It also has stairs leading to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli church.
We drove past the Victor Emmanell II monument. It contains the tomb of the unknown solider. There is a horse sculptor in front that is so large, that 15 people once had a dinner in the belly.
This is the balcony where Mussolini announced Italy’s entry into World War II.
A few more interesting sights from our bus tour…
We got off the bus and started our walking tour. First stop was the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that in 19 BC, Roman soldiers were led to a pure water source, by a young girl. This led Augustus to commission the construction of an aqueduct leading to the city. This gave Rome an endless supply of water. The Trevi Fountain was completed in 1762. We were told to throw coins over your shoulder from right to left. If you threw in 2 coins it was good luck for love. (Jerie threw in 2).
We were given time for lunch, so we found a good pizza, a really yummy pastry, and a gelato.
As we walked to the Pantheon, we passed several interesting obelisks/sculptures.
We followed Pasque and her orange “flag”, arriving at the Pantheon, which means Temple to the Gods. The building today is last of three versions. It is the best preserved ancient Roman monument Originally it had a bronze door, The Margherita Chapel, named after the person who is buried there. She was the Queen of Italy with Umberto I. The wall supporting the dome is 6 meters thick. It is bigger that St. Peters dome by 1 meter, and is the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The top of the dome is open and on April 21st at midday, the sun shines through the hole, striking a metal grille above the door shining light to the outside courtyard. The Emperor would stand in the doorway, surrounded by light, raising him to the level of gods. Since the 7th century it has been used as a Christian church and is dedicated to St. Mary and the Martyrs. The red marble comes from Egypt and was only to be used for royalty. Napoleon was inspired by Roman architecture, which is why you see similar buildings in Paris.
We began our walk back to the bus, seeing interesting buildings and vehicles.
We boarded the bus and headed toward our final destination the Vatican. We crossed the Tiber River, which starts in Tuscany and runs 540km to Rome.
In preparation of arriving at the Vatican, our guide told us an interesting story…Pope Gregory organized a procession to pray for the demise of the plague. St. Michael appeared on top of the castle and Rome was cured.
VATICAN CITY, with an area of 110 acres and a population of 1000, it is the smallest country in the world. Mussolini declared it an independent country in 1929. It is surrounded by a wall, however, there are a few buildings considered part of Vatican City that are outside the wall. It is considered a monopoly, but it is has diplomatic relations with almost every other country in the world. Official languages are Latin, Italian, French and German. The Vatican, itself started as the second residence of the Pope but became the permanent residence in 1376.
We waited in a short line, before entering. We were provided head phones as part of our tour, however, they didn’t work very well if you were not close to the tour guide. There were a lot of people, so we didn’t always hear what was being said. The first stop was in the Courtyard of the Pinecone.
Lots of statues and artwork.
You could spend hours in the Vatican Museum…
The Vatican Museum contains roughly 70,000 pieces, but only 20,000 are on display at a given time. It was founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century
While we waited on our group to reassemble before going into the Sistine Chapel, we got a fresh drink of water and Jerie held the tour flag.
You are asked to be very quiet and not take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, which we obeyed both of those. However, many people did not, and they kept announcing, (actually yelling) over the intercom, “Silence, no photos”. It took away from the peaceful feeling we were expecting. The Sistine Chapel is the chapel of the Popes. It was built as a fortress, being long, rectangular, and is divided between clergy and faithful members. The walls are divided into 3 theme levels. The top: Pope The middle: Moses and Jesus as they both set me men free, and the Bottom: A tapestry completed in 1483, where Moses is the prominent figure. The original ceiling was a blue sky with stars. Julius III called Michelangelo back to Rome to paint the ceiling. It took him a year to re-learn the fresco art style (wet plaster painting). The ceiling’s theme is Salvation. Adam, Eve, and Noah as they started mankind. It took 4 years to complete. 24 years later, Michelangelo was called back again to paint the Last Judgement. Jesus is in the middle, the Virgin Mary on his side, with Saints surrounding them. One cardinal criticized the nudity of the ceiling. So Michaelangelo painted the cardinal’s face on a person who is going down to Hell. After Michaelangelo died, the Vatican decided to put white pants on the nude figures, they then changed their mind and had them removed, except for one figure. Conclave, where the Cardinals gather to decide who the next Pope will be, takes place in the Sistine Chapel.
We next went to St. Peters Square and Basilica. It was the Jubilee Year, so there were many groups of pilgrims. The Basilica was consecrsted in November, 1626, it took 120 years to build.
We had the opportunity to walk through the Holy Doors as they were open for the Jubilee. This only happens once every 25 years. They asked that no pictures of the doors be taken.
Jerie and Cindy stepped up to touch St. Peters feet, but before Jim could get up there, the section was roped off. A group of Pilgrims were coming through. The Cathedral is massive. It has a cross design with several, “arms”.
When we exited the chapel we saw the Swiss Guard. They have guarded the Vatican and Pope since 1506 starting with Julius the 2nd.
We walked along the edge of St Peters Square, as their were chairs set-up for the Jubilee celebration. Our guide did point out the Pope’s residence, second window from the right, top floor, in the building behind the pillars.
We took our last look at the Basilica and Square. We are not Catholic, but this is one of the holiest places to the Catholic religion. We tried hard to maintain a sense of reverence while in the different buildings and courtyards. We walked to the underground bus garage, and we had 1 1/2 hours before getting back to the ship. We took advantage and slept.
Back on the ship, we had made a reservation at the Shogun restaurant. We had Tiger rolls, spring rolls., sweet & sour pork, orange beef, special fried rice , and lemon shrimp. It was the most food we had in almost 4 weeks. (Not a fan of the lemon shrimp)
We had a beautiful sunset, what a way to end the day.