The Rome bound bus we boarded in Civitavecchia stopped only about 30 minutes into the trip at a gas station for a washroom break. It seemed odd at first so early in the journey, but our guide explained that there were limited opportunities once we reached central Rome. When we got back into the bus, the driver could not get the bus restarted, well - not at first at least. The driver and guide both went outside to the back of the bus for a while and the driver returned to try starting it a couple of times more - the second attempt being successful. From there we drove into central Rome to meet a local guide who would lead us on a walking tour through the city.
We started at the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) - a beautiful fountain constructed between 1732 and 1762. We walked from Trevi Fountain towards Piazza Venezia. Kind of interesting that as we were heading towards the central region of ancient imperial Rome we passed by the austere red brick building of Palazzo Venezia, the headquarters of fascism under Benito Mussolini. It was, prior to that, a papal residence - built between 1455 and 1470. We had to dodge Roman traffic to get across the Piazza to take a closer look at the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II (Monument of Victor Emmanuel II). From there we walked past the ruins of the first Imperial Fora (Imperial Forum) - Forum Julium (also called Forum Caesaris). It was started by Julius Caesar in 54 BC and completed by Caesar Augustus in 46 BC.
Our route then took us to the Forum Romanum (The Roman Forum) - the economic and political centre of ancient Rome. The Forum is located in a valley between two hills - Palatine and Capitoline. We approached the Forum from the north, near Capitoline Hill. At first we overlooked the Forum from near the San Giuseppe dei Falegnami church then took steps down to the Forum level. Once in the valley itself we were basically traveling in reverse the triumphal route of returning Roman Legions after their successful conquering campaigns along the Via Sacra.
One of the temple ruins of particular note at the northwest end of the Forum is that of the remains of the Temple of Saturn. It has the oldest surviving foundation in the Forum - dated between 501 BC and 498 BC. It has been rebuilt twice after fires destroyed it, and the pediment bears the inscription:
SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS INCENDIO CONSVMPTVM RESTITVIT
(The Senate and People of Rome restored what fire had consumed)
You get the idea that Romans were proud of their resiliency. The first part of that SENATVS POPVLVSQVE ROMANVS (The Senate and People of Rome) - abbreviated SPQR is known throughout ancient Rome - on the standards of the Roman legions. Today it is on the city’s coat of arms, on many city building and is even on the manhole covers.
We walked southeast, under the Arch of Septimus Severus - erected in 203 AD to commemorate his victories over the Parthians in two campaigns. The day was hot, beautifully sunny with not a cloud in sight. We searched for shade anywhere we could - it was too hot to stand in the sun for long. Uncomfortably hot - it had to have been over 40°C. There was so much to see along our walk - too much to write details of everything - but we slowly made our way past all of the sites. It was fascinating.
Moving southeast along the Via Sacra, we passed under another triumphal arch - the Arch of Titus, built in 81 AD to commemorate Titus’ victory over the Jews in 70 AD. The reliefs on this arch were particularly vivid - prominently showing the removal of the spoils from Jerusalem. South of that arch along the Via Sacra we saw a team of two Gipsy pickpockets standing off to the side looking for their next mark. They were young women, one with a baby in a pouch on her front. The one without the baby had some newspaper in hand...intending to use that to cover their attempts at theft. Easy to spot if you know what to look for - with a little help from Bob Arno.
We took a slight turn to the right at this point to walk past the Arch of Constantine, which was dedicated in 315 AD - making it the newest of all the triumphal arches. This arch had a fence around it, so it was not possible to walk through it. At this point in the walk the Amphitheatrum Flavium (better known as the Colosseum) was clearly visible. We crossed the street and had our first close-up views of the exterior.
The Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre built in the Roman Empire - capable of seating 50,000 spectators in the days of the gladiatorial combats. It was constructed between 72 AD and 80 AD. It is an impressive sight today, and incredible to imagine how it must have looked in ancient Roman times. We went inside the Colosseum to look around. Isabella and Lisa were on the same tour as us, and Gary and Lisa went up to the higher level while Linda and Isabelle stayed on the main level. It was amazing to walk around the amphitheatre and imagine the spectacle. We left the Colosseum and boarded our bus to be taken to lunch at a local restaurant. This tour included lunch, rather than us being on our own to find a place to eat. The lunch was very ordinary - pasta and veal followed by tiramisu for dessert. Certainly not the food standard we had come to expect on this trip. The restaurant was well air-conditioned, so that was a welcome relief from the hot sunny Roman day.
For the afternoon we went to Basilica di San Pietro (Saint Peter’s Basilica). We approached the Basilica from the east, exiting the bus and walking along Via Della Conciliazione to reach Piazza San Pietro (Saint Peter's Square). The “square” is actually elliptical in shape edged on the north and south side by curved Colonnades - adorned with 140 statues of Saints. In the centre of the “square” stands an obelisk brought from Egypt to Rome in 37 BC by the infamous Emperor Caligula. Either side of the obelisk stands two fountains - they at least looked refreshing on this very hot day.
The entire piazza is quite beautiful. As we moved closer to the basilica we passed by a large statue of Saint Paul - and from here we joined the line to enter Saint Peter’s Basilica. We had been given information on the ship that the line-up to get into the basilica could be very long, but that was not our experience - we did not need to wait long to enter. Something interesting in the line - we had to pass by dress-code guards - young good looking men in designer jeans checking out to make sure all knees and female shoulders are covered. They have the right to refuse anyone entry. Oh-so surprisingly, cute young females seem to be exempt from the restrictions!
Once inside Saint Peter’s Basilica, the sheer size of it is staggering - it is huge. Our guide gave us some frames of references to help appreciate the size. As an example, he told us to look at lettering that went all around the basilica - it looked high up, but was hard to fathom the scale considering the fairly small letters that we were looking at were 2.5 metres tall. One other thing to consider, this basilica is twice the size of Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. Standing under Michelangelo's famous dome provided us an amazing view - the sunlight steaming in as you can see from our photo above. Unlike many other historical sites, we were allowed to take photographs inside Saint Peter’s - the reason? no paintings in the basilica to damage with camera flashes. The numerous huge and beautiful works of art around the basilica are actually all mosaics - only noticeable when you look very closely at them. Would be hard to imagine just how much time and effort went into each one. One other interesting thing about Saint Peter’s: much of the marble used in the construction came from another famous building in Rome - the Amphitheatrum Flavium, or Colosseum. Leaving the interior of Saint Peter’s Basilica we passed by the Arch of the Bells Entrance - complete with Swiss Guards in their rather colourful uniforms. We now walked along the south side of the piazza, past Saint Paul’s matching statue of Saint Peter. Stopping roughly at the mid-point of the piazza we looked back towards the basilica. Off to the northwest of the facade we could see the roof of the Sistine Chapel, then looking over the north Colonnade we could see the Papal Apartment. Saint Peter’s Basilica was absolutely worth the visit - incredibly beautiful.
We had a bit of time before we would meet our bus to take us back to Millennium, so we went to some shops across the street from Saint Peter’s and purchased some souvenirs and much needed water. Our bus collected us on Via Della Conciliazione and we made our way back to Civitavecchia. The trip was pretty much uneventful until we were just a few kilometres from the port - our bus was making a right turn on a small traffic circle when we felt the bus lurch forward as it came to a stop. Then no movement at all. From our vantage point in the bus we could see that the bus was blocking part of the traffic circle. Our driver and guide went to the back of the bus just as they had done early in the morning - but this time to no avail. Neither of us speak Italian, but it was unlikely that the blocked motorists were expressing words of encouragement to our driver! Traffic was blocked in a few directions - although people were trying to drive anywhere possible to get by. Our guide was on her mobile phone, the driver on his - but our bus, though, just wasn’t moving. The bus was getting very warm inside without the air-conditioning running, so we all left the bus to find a place in the shade to stand. Our guide announced that another bus had been dispatched from the ship to collect us. About 30 minutes later our rescue bus arrived (to applause, of course) and we made our way back to the ship - with the total delay being about one hour.
We made it back onboard Millennium within 15 minutes of the “all aboard” time. The ship was scheduled to depart at 7:00pm, but we actually left at 7:15pm, right after the departure of Queen Elizabeth 2. There is a story that goes with that, but you’ll have to read the Livorno page to get the details!
We had originally planned to see the show this evening before dinner - it was the Celebrity Singers & Dancers, but out late arrival to the ship took that possibility away. We relaxed and prepared for dinner, well, we slipped in a trip to Cova Cafe Milano for coffee and to the Emporium for a bit of shopping before dinner, too. The dress code for dinner this evening was casual and it was another great dinner experience, with our servers interested in our impression of our dinner the previous evening in the RMS Olympic. This was an amazing day - Rome is incredible, and certainly needs more time than we had to explore and enjoy. So much to see and do. There is no doubt we will return to Rome.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.