"Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city" -Anatole Broyard
Chuck and I had such a great time on our cruise, saying goodbye to the ship and our onboard friends was difficult....but with Rome waiting, we managed to rally ourselves. 😉
As Rome isn't on the ocean, our ship docked at the port of Civitavecchia, located about 60 miles from the city. We found a bus to the train station, bought our tickets, but had a difficult time figuring out where to find the right train. Once we boarded, we saw our Dublin friends Sinead and Ray walking outside along the train. We got their attention and were lucky enough to share seats with them to Rome.
We guessed which train station to get off the train, but did well as our hotel was only about a block away!! We were very lucky. The hotel clerk let us check in early, gave us a map and we headed toward the Vatican. We had bought a Roma pass that gave us unlimited rides on the trains, buses and subway in Rome for three days as well as admittance to the Vatican, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Coliseum and
discounts to other sites.
When we found the Vatican and located the Roma Pass office, we were told it was too late and we couldn't see the Museum or Sistine Chapel. After some cajoling, the lady had pity on us and let us join her next group. We were so relieved. To visit Rome and miss the Sistine Chapel seemed like a crime!
Our group had badges and followed the guide for what seemed like miles in the heat all the way around the Vatican walls until we reached the museum. After entering, she disappeared and we were like lost ducks. We followed the crowd, and when I say crowd, I mean shoulder to shoulder people, speaking many languages, all intent on seeing Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings.
We felt rushed as we passed paintings, sculptures, sarcophagi, ancient maps, mummies and archeological treasures just hoping we would get to the chapel before it closed. At one point, a barrier went up right in front of us and we were herded in another direction. Word went around the crowd that they had closed off access to the chapel, and everyone was crestfallen as we went through a maze of
steps and hallways. After about 10 minutes, we were hopeful that we were just on a different path. At last, we realized we were about to enter THE FREAKING SISTING CHAPEL!!!
We were all warned (in several languages) that we were about to enter a sacred place. We were to be silent, reflective and not take pictures. Upon actually entering, the chapel was an assault to the senses. It was absolutely full of people crowded around gaping up, taking pictures and rudely talking. There were guards trying to shush people and get them to put away their cameras...in vain. While feeling very fortunate to have been able to visit the chapel and see the genius paintings of the master artist, I felt let down at the atmosphere of the visit.
After leaving the chapel, I was able to visit the shop outside and purchase a Rosary for my mother. We had been told we wouldn't be able to visit St. Peter's Basilica, so we headed out ready to just leave. When outside, though, we saw the line to the church wasn't so bad, so we kind of mingled into the group, went through security and just walked in.
I knew that the church would be big and magnificent, but I almost bruised my chin when it hit the floor. The sun was shining through in sunbeams onto the beautiful Bernini altar and through the dome. Everything was just stunning. I was expecting to see the Pieta, but when I asked a guard, was told that it was behind a curtain and unavailable to see.
Chuck and I wandered around and had to stay back as a church service was in progress in the main sanctuary. We heard organ music, altar boys were in a formation and a choir was singing. After taking a lot of pictures, Chuck really wanted to climb to the top of Michaelangelo's dome to see the city from one of it's highest points. There wasn't a line to the dome, so we rode an elevator to the top of the roof and entered the sanctuary where we were right above the main altar and could see up to the dome. To climb up, there was a ramp, then almost 400 steep, slanted and at times really narrow steps to the observation deck at the top. I chickened out about half-way up, but Chuck
rallied me and we made it. What a view!! If you visit the Vatican and are able, we recommend the dome!
Our shipboard friends Carla and Willy were staying in Rome and had invited us to dinner if we were able, so we called them and made plans. After cleaning up in the hotel, we took a taxi to the Coliseum and had a wonderful dinner with our friends on a rooftop cafe across from the landmark. It was such a wonderful experience...good friends, wonderful food, and a view to die for...sunset over the Coliseum. After dinner, Willy and Carla walked around the coliseum area with us under the stars and gave us a lesson in getting around the city on the subway. That lesson proved to be a life-saver for our second day. Thanks Carla!
We said goodbye to our Belgian friends and headed back to our hotel to rest up for our last day in the eternal city.
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