Friday, April 17, 2009

Rome, the Eternal City

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 – ROME, the Eternal City
Time change! We are now only 6 hours ahead of DE.
Another beautiful day. Without those spring showers, this is a beautiful time of year to travel. The skies were a clear blue and it was 70 degrees.

We docked in Civitavecchia, which means “small town” and is about 45 miles from the center of Rome. It has a lovely seafront promenade, lined with small shops and cafes. There is a central pedestrian zone where a glass ceiling (on the sidewalk) shows ruins of the old town below. You can see an old street sign, the frame of a building and pottery and ceramics found when excavating. Fort Michelangelo is at the entrance of the harbor.

It is an easy walk to the train station – 9 euros per person ($11.28) for the day pass for all modes of transportation. The trains leave frequently and there are 4+ stops in the center of Rome. We got off at St. Peter’s (Vatican) and walked about 5 minutes to the Square. We meandered. I was trying to find certain items to purchase and either the stores were not open or they were sold out. We hopped on bus 64 and it drove us past some of the major sites in the city and through the crowded streets…Plaza de Venezia, across the Tiber River, past the Circus Maximus, Trajan’s Column, the Arch of Constantine, Roman Forum, near the Colosseum and Appian Way, past several museums and designer shops and it ended at the main train station – Termini. We hopped back on the same bus to go back to St. Peter’s Basilica (the largest church in the world) and walked to the entrance to the Vatican, on the very far right of St. Peter’s. The high brick sloping wall was the outside perimeter of Vatican City.

Vatican: We had purchased the entrance ticket online (18 euros) last night (VERY LATE) and had a 1:00 entrance time. There was a long queue but with the printout of the ticket purchase we had no line and were entered with the groups about ½ hour earlier than our confirmed time. It was crowded throughout the entire museum; after all, it is Easter week. There was a continuous stream of people on each escalator and on all the steps up and down to the various rooms. The windows were open and there was a great breeze blowing.

Each room is more ornate than the last. You follow the flow of the crowds and end in the Sistine Chapel, recently re-opened after years of restoration. In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to fresco more than 10,000 square feet of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The task took four years and the result is a masterpiece.

The Vatican Museums are the public art and sculpture museums in the Vatican City, which display works from the extensive collection of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the 16th century. As of 2007, it was visited by 4,310,083, which to me meant they brought in over $254M in admission tickets alone!

The Museums originated as a group of sculptures and the popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections of their palaces to the public promoting knowledge of art history and culture. We toured these rooms: Gallery of Tapestries form the 15th and 17th centuries, the Gallery of Maps, The Raphael Stanze (rooms) and the Loggia, the Chapel of Nicholas V, the Sistine Chapel, the Borgia Apartment, the Pinacoteca, the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Religious Art and the Missionary-Ethnological Museum. Whew!! So many sections to cover; we heard it is 4.2 miles of walking.

Rome is the capital city of Italy and Lazio, with a population of 2.7M within 496 square miles. Its history spans over 2,500 years and is one of the founding cities of Western Civilization. It was the center of the Roman Empire, which dominated Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for 400 years from the 1st century BC until the 4th century AD. It is the home of the Roman Catholic Church and the site of the Vatican City, an independent city-state run by the Catholic Church within the enclave of Rome. They mint their own coins and issue their own postage stamps. Rome’s historic center is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

“Any ruler who refuses to cooperate will be regarded as Rome’s enemy. Those who are not with us are against us.” Roman general in Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome

Upon returning to Civitavecchia we looked around and meandered back to the port. We thought we were in plenty of time for the all-aboard time of 7:30 but quickly found out the last bus to the ship was supposed to have been at 7PM. Well, it never came and people were still standing around waiting. Someone called the ship and another bus was NOT coming to get us so we started walking. At least 2 more miles after all the walking we had done during the day! One kind lady who works at the port used her personal vehicle to shuttle the older folks back and forth to the ship but most of us were on foot. They could see us coming from the bridge so no one was left behind but sometimes you just never know if all will go according to schedule.

Too late and too tired to attend the violin concert by Vincenzo Gentile.