Friday, June 22, 2007

Civitavecchia, Italy

Today is a sea day, which gives us a chance to rest and catch you up on what we did yesterday at the port of Civitavecchia, Italy. We did another private tour, this time with Limo in Rome owned by Claudio Camponera. Our driver was Pepe, and he was at the port waiting for us at the agreed upon time of 7:45 am. Joining us again for this tour were Marie and her son Jeff. Susan has volunteered to do the writeup for today so here’s Susan.

Hi Everyone! Susan here, reporting on our fabulous tour of Rome. We woke up bright and early, grabbed some breakfast, and we got off the ship by 7:30 am. We were waiting for Marie (worktoplay) and her son, Jeff, who had also joined us on the tour of the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. Before long, we joined up with them, and found our driver, Pepe, and we settled in the van for the drive to Rome. It took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Rome, as the traffic wasn’t too bad. It was a bit overcast to start the day, but by 9:30 or so the sun was shining brightly, and it was hot. Our first stop was at the Colosseum. Prior to that, Pepe showed us the Forum, Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill, the Baths of Caracalla, as well as many other sites whose names I can’t remember. Pepe said that he knew how to bypass the long lines at the Colosseum legally, so we stopped and bought tickets at an office close by and once we were through security, he instructed us to stay to the left and go through the turnstiles. Felt a lot like doing FastPass at WDW. We had thirty minutes to wander around. We didn’t have any maps, as they didn’t offer any free maps, so we just speculated about some of the areas that we were seeing. As others have commented in previous blogs, it wasn’t hard to imagine the cheering crowds inside the Colosseum.

As we were walking back to meet Pepe, we saw a Disney tour and our friends, Vicki (vtiffany) and Tom, who were on the Amalfi tour as well. Also saw the Disney photographers near the Arch of Constantine, but didn’t have time to get our pictures taken (plus the tour group had just arrived). Back in the van, Pepe told us that he grew up a few blocks from the Colosseum and that as a child he played hide and seek there. We drove by the Mouth of Truth, but the gates were still closed, so we didn’t stop. Next stop was the Church of St. Peter in Chains where we saw Michelangelo’s statue of Moses and the binding chains of the apostle Peter. At one point during the tour we passed ruins where Peter and Paul were jailed in Rome. We stopped at the top of the Spanish Steps and walked down for a few pictures. We were all amused by the McDonald’s cart out in front. We drove around some more, as Pepe pointed out the important sites and told us about the history or the area.

At the Pantheon, we were all amazed at the architecture of the building and the vastness of the dome. It is truly an engineering marvel, considering the construction techniques of the age in which it was built and that the dome is self-supporting. The sunlight streaming in the open top did give you the feeling of being near heaven. The picture shows a group of nuns we saw inside. Next stop was Trevi Fountain (photo below), and we all tossed the obligatory coins in. The Disney photographers were there too, so we snagged one for a picture. It wasn’t quite time for lunch, so we went to another church. The interesting aspect of this particular church was that the patron family of the church ran out of money during construction before the dome could be built. One of the money saving measures was to paint a forced perspective of a dome on the flat ceiling. From the rear of the church, it looks so real. It is only when your get closer that you notice that the top of the dome is not in the center. Really cool effect! Also some of the “marble” columns are also painted in perspective.

By now we were getting hungry, so we all decided that a quick stop for pizza and gelato would do the trick. We stopped near Piazza Navone, at a Pizza shop recommended by Pepe. The pizza was outstanding, and of course I wound up wearing my lunch, dribbling pizza grease all over my shirt and skirt. Grrrr!!! And I had just done all of the laundry the day before. Oh well, hopefully most of it will come out. We sat at the restaurant across the street with the promise of getting gelato when we were through with pizza. They had 51 flavors of gelato. Pepe recommended getting ciccolato (chocolate) with pana (cream), and Jeff and Katy took his suggestion, while I got my standard dish of limone (lemon). Marie got cream caramel and Jeff got the standard vanilla. The waiter brought out the lovely dishes of gelato with cookies and a little decoration. Very cool and very yummy!!! Again, we saw the Disney tour walking by, seeing Vicky, Tom and Steph (taysmom).

After our gelato, we walked around the piazza and looked at the fountain. It was 1:45 and time to go to the Vatican to meet our tour guide at 2:00. After going though security and purchasing our tickets, we were off to the museum. Our guide told us that there are over 70,000 pieces of art in the museum, making it the most vast collection in the world. The first hall contained busts of Roman emperors and other famous Roman citizens, their “celebrities.” Next, we went through the Courtyard of the Pine Cone – yes, I said Pine Cone. This cone is bronze and HUGE. It was built by the Romans as a fountain in the first or second century BC. We also visited the Octagonal Courtyard, home of more beautiful sculptures, the Hall of Animals, the Round Hall (inspired by the Pantheon) and the Hall of Maps. We actually saw much more in the museums but those are the high points.

Our guide explained what we were going to see prior to entering the Sistine Chapel. The paintings are truly breathtaking. It would have been nice to linger, but the crowd was oppressive, and not following the instructions to not take photos or video, not talk, and not sit on the floor, despite the instructions that had been given in every language imaginable. Tourists!! We then went to the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world. We were all amazed at the size of the church and the beautiful mosaics. There is only one painting in the Basilica, with the rest as reproductions of famous paintings in mosaic. Some were so detailed, that it was difficult to tell that it wasn’t a painting. There were opulent statues and alters in the various alcoves to mark the crypts of popes and wealthy rulers from all over. Now, only the popes are allowed to be buried in St. Peter’s. From grates in the marble floor, one can see the level below and some of the crypts. We bought a book about Vatican City that describes the area in more detail than we could see in our tour. We entered into St. Peter’s Square, and imagined the crowds of people that assemble to see the Pope give his blessings every Sunday.

We said goodbye to our guide at 4 pm and were off to the ship. The ride back only took about 45 minutes, as the traffic gods were on our side. We said goodbye to Pepe and boarded the ship. There were very few people on board, so I got some Shout wipes from Marie, and proceeded to attempt to get the grease out of my skirt. I made it to the laundry before the hordes arrived.

We had a wonderful tour of Rome, without having to walk around for hours. We weren’t nearly as tired as many others that we talked to. We were able to see most of the important sites and spend reasonable amounts of time at the more popular areas.

Dinner was at Animator’s Palate and it again was outstanding. Big thumbs up to the kitchen and service staff! We finished out the evening by visiting the Buena Vista Theatre to watch James Bond in “Casino Royale”. Good flick!


Anonymous said...

I have been enjoying your entries. I especially enjoy that you have been sharing the writing job. All the entries have all been very entertaining. I am going on the cruise in july and your information is helping me plan. Thank you for posting.

Myra Horn said...

Good Job, Susan, Could almost see the paintings and statues. Have studied all about it, but was nice to see it through your eyes! I believe you saw more this time than last. Looking farward to the next report!
Love you, Myra

mdhutch said...

Hi Susan & Family, You are doing a very good job with your blog. Marilyn & I have seen a lot of the places you are talking about, and it sure brings back a lot of good memories. Thinks for sharing.
Love Dan & Marilyn