Ted’s family know that he has a morbid and pathological obsession with getting to the top of any building he’s in. (OK, not that pathological; it only applies to being a tourist. Otherwise, things could get difficult whenever he steps into my 20-story building at work.) In Rome, he may have finally gotten to the top as thoroughly as it is possible to do.

We were actually considering skipping the Rome excursion: we were both still feeling fairly crappy and it’s a city we’re very likely to come back to. However, having been on the boat for four days straight, Ted was getting a little stir-crazy. Also, he’s never been known to take the easy way out of anything … and I’d have regretted missing my first trip to Rome, I admit. So we took the trip. This excursion was a bit different from our previous ones: titled “Rome on your own”, it was just a bus transfer to and from the city. We thought that would be better than following a guide around, though as it turned out we did some of that too. You wouldn’t think an unguided trip would be as susceptible to poor organization, but it was: no one on the bus told us just where in Rome we were being droped off or when to be back at the bus until we asked the lone staff member on board. She told me later than she’d been transferred from another excursion to this one at the last minute and given no information.

The bus left us right near St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican – other passengers had told us cruise ship buses usually stop there, because there’s a big underground garage, so we’d been expecting it. Our guidebook fortunately had warned us that in winter the Vatican Museums close at 1:45, so we went there first, after waiting in line for nearly an hour. “Museums” is correct; there are several distinct ones connected into one. Because we had a lot to see, we skipped the Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian galleries. Instead we concentrated on the Renaissance stuff: we saw tapestry rooms, the Borgia apartment, Pope Pius the Whatever’s rooms which now have displays of ceramics and micro-mosaics (incredible stuff), the Raphael rooms, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican library. Apparently no Pope has ever seen a surface he didn’t think would be better painted, prefereably by one of the world’s great artistic geniuses. The effect is magnificent, and also overwhelming. For example, by the time you get to the Sistine Chapel, you’ve passed through any number of other rooms with painted ceilings, though none quite so remarkable. It dulls the impact a little, though nothing can quite blunt that effect. (Ted’s comment: “It would have been much easier to daydream in a church like this!”)
When we had grabbed a bit of food we emerged from the Museums, grabbed a cab nearby and headed for the Colosseum. (Our top three priorities had been the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon, but the last fell victim to time pressures and will have to wait for another visit.) We walked around the outside a bit, then unexpectedly got lured into an English language tour. This turned out to be very good: for an extra 10 Euros apiece over the base admission price, we got in with no waiting (the line was substantial) and also were enlightened as to who really raised Romulus and Remus, why the Romans used triangular bricks, and how the Roman amphitheaters benefited both the proletariat and the rulers across the Empire. Worth it, we thought.
After that we walked up the Sacred Way (Via Sacra), found our way over to a building Ted had been curious about that turned out to be the Central Museum of the Renaissance, and took a cab back to the Vatican. We waited in a line that only took 20 minutes or so, and emerged into St. Peter’s enormous Basilica. We’ve been in a lot of cathedrals in recent months, but this is the cathedral to end all cathedrals. Its incidental sculptures are by the likes of Michelangelo, who also served as chief architect for a time, as did Raphael. It is huge, ornate and beautiful with, again, no surface left unornamented. We took a quick turn around the Basilica, then stood in line for the cupola, planned and built by Michelangelo. Courtesy of John Paul II or possibly one of the Piuses, you can take an elevator partway up; after that there are a mere 320 steps to the top of the dome. (It was a little easier after I remembered that it was over 300 strides from the lake to the boatyard in Arizona – at least this time I wasn’t carrying a boat on my head.) What they neglect to mention is that there’s a gorgeous view of the Basilica from the base of the cupola, only a few steps up from the elevator. The steps went fairly fast, not nearly as bad as the ones we climbed in Utrecht. At the top, though, you look out over Rome from all directions but not into the Basilica. After descending, we took a last look around the Basilica, including a visit to the Pieta, then left to rejoin the bus for our trip home.
rome3.JPG (Not a great picture, but it gives the gist.)
Overall, the cruise itself (food, activities, organization) has been a bit of a disappointment, but as Ted has said, it was a very good floating RV from which to visit a swath of Europe we hadn’t seen. We would not have liked to visit Egypt on our own (not after seeing the security provided!) and it was a nice easy way to visit the glories of Pompeii, Athens and Rome – and Rhodes, which we’d have missed otherwise and which I loved. It was worth doing, but if we cruise again it will certainly be on another line – and now we have a few less things to visit when we return to Rome.

Next: a few days in Milan, then home.

2 Responses to “Rome”

  1. Jane Says:

    So who did really raise Romulus & Remus, why are the bricks triangular, & how did the amphitheaters benefit both plebes & aristos other than entertainment?

    Must go back to Rome – Pop & I “did” Rome in three hours between planes 45 years ago. I am the kind of museum visitor who can take an hour to lokk at 45 feet of displays, clocked by a friend of Mom’s.

  2. Marsha Says:

    Your pictures are absolutely wonderful; I was able to greatly enlarge and print them – how I regret not having a color printer. I’t’s just great being able to follow you day by day. By the way, other inquiring minds want to know who raised Romulus and Remus. My co-workers are enjoying your pictures too.

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