We sailed into Civitavecchia, the closest port to Rome, early Wednesday morning. For this port, I had arranged a private tour with Rome in Limo for 8 people. We met the other 6 people through Cruise Critic, an online website with forums, reviews, and information about the different cruise lines.
Our first stop in Rome was the Colosseum. We only had about 45 minutes there. So, we ran around quickly; but didn’t really get a chance to look at any of the displays or information. We were able to listen to an audioguide I had downloaded from the Rick Steves’ website.
After leaving the Colosseum, we drove around looking at some of the other sites before stopping at Giardino degli Aranci (Parco Savello), a peaceful park with an orange grove, fountains, and a sweeping vista of Rome. This fountain is at the entrance to the Park.
There were beautiful rose bushes scattered around the Park. (I know, we have roses in the U.S. But, these were really pretty.)
And, a fountain that everyone (well, not me) had fun trying to drink out of. The water flowed out of the bottom of the spout. To drink, you had to block the flow of water from the bottom, causing it to squirt out of the top. Our driver said that, when he was young, they used to play in the water during the hot, summer months.
From the Park, it was a short trip to the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta (the Piazza of the Knights of Malta). The main attraction here is the view from the keyhole in the door leading to the Villa which houses the Grand Priory of Rome – an ancient institution which is made up of the Order’s members in Central Italy – and the Embassy of the Order to the Italian Republic. If interested, you can learn more about the Order here: http://www.orderofmalta.int/faq/26466/faq/?lang=en
I didn’t get to take a picture, but if you look through the keyhole in the door of this gate, St. Peter’s dome appears, perfectly framed by trees and the keyhole.
After leaving the Piazza, we headed to the Pantheon. We were in awe of the architecture and the engineering genius of the Pantheon. It was built between 118 and 125 A.D. and is one of the most well preserved buildings from ancient Rome. The builders used a series of intersecting arches and a mix of materials (heavier materials at the bottom -> lighter materials at the top) to create the dome. The oculus at the center of the dome allows for natural light (and helped to reduce the weight of the dome). Rain comes in through the oculus; but the floor has holes and drainpipes built into it to allow the water to drain out from the building. Several notable figures are buried in the Pantheon, including the painter Raphael and two kings and a queen of Italy.
After leaving the Pantheon, the driver took us past some of the other sites before dropping us off at the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the Fountain, you will one day return to Rome. We did this; but I think you’re supposed to stand with your back to the Fountain and use your right hand to toss the coin over your left shoulder. Oh, well. We got most of it right. 🙂
From there, we made a quick stop at the Spanish Steps (which aren’t really Spanish). The Steps connect the Piazza de Spagna at the bottom with the Trinita Church at the top.
While waiting for the driver, I saw this neat sculpture/fountain through a driveway. I think it went to a private business or apartment building.
At that point, it was time for a late lunch before heading to the Vatican, our last stop of the day. The driver recommended a café located right across the street from the entrance to the Vatican Museum. And, they actually had gluten free pizza. Yay! But, it wasn’t the best gluten free pizza I had in Italy. We arranged for a private guide for our tour through the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. After lunch, she met us at the café and walked us over.
View of St. Peter’s dome from the courtyard of the Museum.
We walked through the Courtyard of the Pinecone with this sculpture by Pomodoro displayed in the center.
From there, we started our trip through some of the different Galleries. You could easily spend all day looking at everything on display. Unfortunately, we only had a couple of hours. So, we had to rush through most of the areas. Here are some of the tapestries on display.
The Gallery of Maps:
After the Gallery of Maps, you head through more Galleries and, ultimately, into the Sistine Chapel. Visitors are not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. But, you can find some online, if you haven’t already seen what it looks like. I was greatly impressed by the skill involved in creating and executing the design of the artwork. Michelangelo truly was a genius.
From the Sistine Chapel, we walked to St. Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica is huge! We were running short on time, so we did a brief stop. You could easily spend at least an hour or more just walking through it. The Basilica was built upon the site of Peter’s crucifixion and was where Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. For more history, you can look at this site: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/monumenti/basilica-di-s-pietro.html
Upon entering the Basilica, to the right, is Michelangelo’s Pieta.
From the nave, looking at the main altar.
Some other pictures of the interior:
Stationed outside of the Basilica are members of the Swiss Guard, protecting the entrance to Vatican City.
St. Peter’s Square:
We met our driver outside of the Square and headed back to the port. It was a long day of walking around, fighting the crowds of other tourists, and cringing at the drivers. (The drivers are crazy; but good. Rarely do you see a car with damage or scratches.) We saw some amazing things in Rome. And, we didn’t see a lot. You could definitely spend a week or more in Rome and still not see all of the sights. Just be prepared to have crowds wherever you go.
NEXT: Pompeii, Sorrento, and Positano