Rome 15th Oct Norwegian Spirit Thurs
An early start is necessary as it is 90mins to Rome from the port. We have a romeinlimo booked for the day. We were delayed docking as there are 5 other cruise ships in port today including Allure of the Seas which at 6,000 passengers, the boys advise is the second biggest cruise boat in the world.
The driver Stephen is a wealth of information and was flexible as to what we wished to see. We said the Forum so we parked illegally and went to a small office that sold combined tickets to the Colosseum and the Forum with no Queue. It was necessary to take in the children so they could prove that they were children for €2 tickets. Rome has wonderful buildings everywhere and he knew a spot near the Colosseum to park. He left the vehicle and helped us down the stairs to the entry. He knew a short cut in and probably saved us 2 hours on the queue that stretched for a long way. Matthew in a stroller meant we were able to use the lift to the second floor. It was a wonderful feeling to emerge through the brickwork from the lift to be inside the stadium halfway up the building. It was built in 9 years in AD 80 and held 50,000 and is now.being restored to its former glory. The Romans were great engineers using concrete and the rounded arch to support the enormous weights. The stone alone alone took 200 ox drawn wagons on a continuous shuttle, 4 years to transport. Originally copies of Greek statues graced each arch to preside over this “arena of death”. There were 76 entrances to quickly vacate the building.
It is possible to see from above the the underground passages that held gladiators and animals. It was covered by wood and sand and the bit of recon structured floor gives the impression of what it was like. There were 2 classes of fighters, the professional gladiators who put up a good show and after lots of time and money invested by their owners/promotors and were like today’s sport stars, and the slaves/prisoners whose lives were cheap. The guide book says that the opening of the stadium was celebrated by 100 days of games that lead to the death of 2000 men and 9000 animals (lions tigers crocodiles bears and elephants). Our driver was waiting for our wave to signal to collect us from near the arena.
It was a short drive to the Palatine Hill ( and an illegal park outside the entrance). Caleb explained that this was the Oxford st. of Ancient Rome and it had a Circus Maximus houses and shops. We ascended into the Forum to seethe remains of Squares, temples, a Basilica and a Palace. It is gradually being restored and we saw the coded pillars parts ready for erection. Our trusty guide was at the exit and had again found a park a short distance away. There are Roman ruins everywhere and we could do with a week here.
Lunch was a pizza cafe known to the driver with a pic on the wall of a famous soccer player and great pizzas that we ate here before our 2pm Timee to the Vatican. Again we parked next to the entrance and the driver found us the shortest way in and collected our tickets and had them read as we went through security. We saved another long queue.
The Vatican Museum has 4 miles of displays. Dauntingly? Not to our tour leaders Karen who set a cracking pace past the many other tours to Rick Steve’s highlights so we could finish in 2 hours to meet the Mercedes and get back to the ship in time.
The Raphael rooms highlight was the School of Athens where he painted the Greek heroes of Aristotle Plato etc with some contemporaries like Da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel is breathtaking and no pics are allowed and there is lots of noise with guards telling the crowd in the room to be quiet and not use cameras. It contains M’s Ceiling and Last Supper that rate with the greatest ever paintings. 6000 sq ft 6 storeys high of scaffolding, mostly done by himself in 4 years. Long corridors of statues tapestries and artwork would take years to just look at all exhibits.
Then to St Peter’s. It is the greatest Christian church and the splendour of the artwork statues and marble are unique. The original Peter was crucified by the Romans in 65 AD and his remains are under this church. I he is recognised as the first “pope” and Constantine the first Christian Emperor built the first church on this site in 329 which lasted until 1500. Michelangelo designed the dome and the new church here today was started in 1506. Mussolini had the buildings in front demolished and the current square opened up. The size is amazing. The church is 2 football fields long and just the canopy over the alter is 7 storeys high. The Vatican is a separate country and our guide bemoaned the fact that the church owns much other land in Rome including hotels, and is not liable for rates.
The guide regaled other stories as we left Rome and we passed a surf beach near our ship with surfers. Not Oz but as close as we will get.
Dinner was in the posh French restaurant and of course I had snails and duck, while the kids had mixed success with trying new tastes.
Rome 15th Oct Norwegian Spirit Thurs