Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
Friday June 12 to Monday June 15, 2009

Four days in the Eternal City to start our vacation

Our flight approach into Rome on the morning of June 12 took us over Civitavecchia, so we got a very clear view of the port we’d be sailing from on the June 15. We did get to see some of Rome as well as the plane descended towards Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci di Fiumicino. It was starting to feel very good.

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    Clearing customs was a lengthy process for non-Europeans. A number of flights had arrived around the same time, and it was very crowded heading towards the few customs officials handling non-Europeans. Rather than lines of people, it was more of a crowd of people funnelling into lines at the point near the officials. It was a bit frustrating, but in reality it didn’t really take too long or waste any additional time - we still had to wait for our luggage to arrive on the carousel.

    With all bags in hand, we headed quickly out of the airport to an efficient taxi stand. It was a flat fee ride to Rome, which was about a 35 km trip. We did get to experience the aggressive nature of Roman driving on this trip - was amazing how close cars got to each other, with the lane markings for 3 cars that didn’t really mean JUST 3 cars. We both noticed at times through the taxi ride that we were holding our breaths now and then...as if to make the taxi a bit skinnier. Our route took us past the Vatican so we could see the walled city-state, then across Fiume Teverve (the Tiber River) before adeptly navigating our way to right outside our hotel on Via Flaminia. We had arrived; time for our vacation to begin . . .

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  • Friday June 12, 2009

    Arrival at River Palace Hotel and first day of touring around Rome

    For our time in Rome we had booked accommodation at The River Palace Hotel. The choice of the hotel was a combination of location and looks of a quaint European hotel. Checking into the hotel, the concierge acknowledged that our room had been prepaid but mentioned that there were some upgrade rooms available at a cost of either €20 or €40 per night. She gave us the rundown on the differences. It basically came down to room size and bathroom amenities. Linda was interested in one of the upgrade options because it included a bath, knowing that she'd be restricted to showering once on the cruise ship. Looking at her computer, the concierge said that if we were willing to do the €40 a night upgrade, then they'd put us in the suite for the first night and then move us to the appropriate class room for the remaining two nights. The suite had been booked for the remainder of our time in Rome. Initially we weren't too interested in moving rooms, but the concierge kept mentioning that it would be a treat, and offered to have someone show us the suite plus the other rooms before we decided. We decided to go for it, knowing all we needed to do the following day was leave our luggage in the suite when we left for our day of touring and the staff would move it all to our other room before we returned back to the hotel.

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      The concierge also shared some good information such as good places to eat and how long it would take to walk to different locations within the city. From the ground floor of the hotel we took a ride in a rather small elevator to the first floor (meaning the first elevated floor, as it is designated in Europe) then walked along a meandering hallway to another elevator. We thought the first elevator was small. Yikes. This one was positively tiny. If one had any problems with claustrophobia, this was definitely an elevator to avoid. Our suite was on the 8th floor, and once on that floor it was just a short walk from the elevator. Entering the suite, the bell hop showed us the amenities of the suite. We both thought “hmmm, this will do”. The suite opened into the sitting area, flanked on one side by the bedroom and the other side by the bathroom. The colour scheme and dècor was rather gaudy, but it fit. The bathroom was huge, with a large corner tub/jacuzzi. The treat was yet to come. From the sitting area and the bedroom there were glass doors leading to the suite's terrace. The terrace ran the full length of the suite with a sitting area complete with couch, chairs and coffee table plus an area with a table that could be used for meals. At the south end of the terrace we had a fabulous view of Rome. Piazza del Popolo was immediately south of the hotel, and the myriad of the city's trademark domes lay south of that. We only had to lean our head slightly over the flower adorned railing to look west to see the Vatican. The entire terrace was covered with an awning to provide welcome shade while sitting outside. This will do, indeed.

      We cleaned up and unpacked a little bit then headed out to do some sightseeing. It was a beautiful day. First stop was Piazza del Popolo where a work crew was setting up a large stage at the east end of the piazza for a concert. At the west end there were a number of tents already set up for hospitality and events to support the concert. At the at the centre of the piazza, unobstructed by the concert setup, was a large obelisk known as obelisco Flaminio. This obelisk is the second oldest in Rome, originally from Heliopolis, Egypt during the reign of Ramses II. It was brought to Rome in 10 BC by Augustus. Once in Rome, it was originally erected in the Circus Maximus and then moved to its current location in 1589. Four lion fountains at the base of the obelisk were added between 1816 and 1820 when the entire piazza was renovated into its current configuration. At the south end of the piazza sits the twin churches of Santa Maria in Montesanto (built 1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (built 1675-79). The facade of the latter was obscured by scaffolding. Between the two churches sits Via del Corso, the main route that we would use to walk south of Piazza del Popolo throughout our time in Rome.

      Our next stop was at Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, better known in English as the Spanish Steps, located at Piazza di Spagna. These famous steps (all 138 of them) head up to Piazza Trinità dei Monti and its church Trinità dei Monti. These steps are reported to be the longest and widest staircase in Europe. That notwithstanding, they were certainly pretty - and popular. Just as popular at the base of the steps was Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat), built between 1627 and 1629. At the top of the steps we purchased some well needed cold drinks from one of the street vendors and then we perused the stalls of the vendors selling street art. A few more steps up from there was the entrance to Trinità dei Monti. Outside of the church was another obelisk called Obelisco Sallustiano; a 1st century BC smaller Roman copy of the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo. We took a look around inside the church then ventured back out to the street vendors, finally deciding on a coloured print to purchase from one of them. From there we went back down the busy staircase to to look at the column at the south end of Piazza di Spagna. Erected in 1856 to commemorate the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception. At the top of the column is a statue of the Virgin Mary, and the base has statues of Moses, David, Isaiah and Ezekiel.

      We wandered westward at this point, enjoying the small streets along the way to Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina. In search of ancient artifacts, you ask? Well, no - we set off in search of the Nespresso Boutique! Since December 2008 we had been enjoying their espresso, and wanted to see the shop here in Rome. It was interesting to find very different (and cool) espresso machines here in this boutique. We wondered if those models will ever make it to North America. The piazza itself was very nice and we even found Rome Baptist Church there - operating in both English and Italian. On their weekly schedule were “Il Corso Alpha” in Italian and “Celebrate Recovery” in English, very much like our own Bramalea Baptist Church back in Brampton. Our next stop on our meandering tour was the Pantheon, located in Piazza della Rotonda. Our path there, like most other routes we took, was not entirely direct - a building, a monument, a street, whatever would catch our attention and our route would deviate. We always did end up where we were intending to go, though. Eventually. The Pantheon is a compelling structure to look at. Originally built and dedicated by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome, it was rebuilt twice after fires destroyed it in 80 AD and 110 AD. The latter rebuild was done by Hadrian. It is the oldest large-scale domed building in Rome. The diameter and the height at the centre of the building are the same - an impressive 43.3 metres. The oculus at the centre of the domed roof looks quite small when viewed from the floor of the Pantheon - and yet it is an opening 8.7 metres in diameter. The oculus and the large doors at the front provide the only light inside the building. When it rains, the water that comes through the oculus is drained below the floor. The Pantheon was consecrated as a Catholic church in the 7th century, and renamed Santa Maria ad Martyres. One of the tombs located here is that of the great Renaissance artist Raphael.

      By this point in the day we were feeling hungry and getting tired. We had both slept a bit of the overnight flight from Toronto, but we knew we weren’t going to be able to make this a late night. In search of a restaurant for dinner, we walked to Piazza Navona - a 15th century city square built in the style of an ancient Roman circus. At its centre sits a hugh fountain called Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) - built in 1651. At either end of the piazza are two smaller fountains, and the building facade on the west side is dominated by the church Sant'Agnese in Agone. Between the fountains the space was covered by street performers, artists, vendors and tourists. It was a busy place. The perimeter of the piazza had many restaurants. We did a lap around the piazza and finally settled on a seafood restaurant near the north end. This turned out to be a good choice. We ate at Enoteca la Bevitoria, sitting outside next to each other to both get a view of the piazza as we ate. The sun was dipping in the sky and it was pleasantly warm. This wasn’t elegant dining, but it was good food in a pleasant atmosphere. For this meal Linda selected grilled calamari, and it was fresh and wonderfully prepared. For Gary, his choice was grilled Mediterranean sea bass. Our server expertly and quickly filleted the bass in front of us, transferring it in two pieces to the dinner plate with ease. The seafood at this restaurant was terrific. Relaxing as we ate, we felt the tiredness more. After our main courses, we declined dessert - opting to get moving again. One thing we learnt here and had to remember when dining in Rome - the bill would not come unless you asked for it. There was no rush.

      We headed westward after dinner, figuring to visit Fontana di Trevi before returning to the hotel. On the way we passed through Piazza Colonna. At the centre of the piazza stands the Column of Marcus Aurelius, a beautifully carved marble column modelled on Trajan’s Column and built in honour of the Roman emperor - completed in 193 AD. It is just under 42 meters tall (including the base). About 3 metres of the base have been below ground level since a restoration in 1589. At the time of that restoration, a bronze statue of the apostle Paul was placed at the top. It was crowded at Fontana di Trevi when we arrived. The fountain (completed in 1762) is beautiful, and is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. It was built at the end of an ancient Roman aqueduct that brought fresh water to the city from its source 13 km away. Many of the people there were tossing coins into the fountain for “ensured return to Rome”. According to the BBC, €3000 is tossed into the fountain every day and collected each night with the money funding a local supermarket to feed Rome’s needy. Their report also pointed out the efforts of people to steal the money - from the city workers cleaning out the fountain each night to one man who had successfully stolen from the fountain for 34 years before being caught. We left the fountain on our way back to our hotel, stopping at one of Rome’s MANY Gelaterias. The gelato was very good, and a great way to end our day as we strolled back up Via del Corsa towards The River Palace Hotel. Our first day in Rome was done.

  • Saturday June 13, 2009

    The Vatican, Castel Sant'Angelo and some night touring of Rome

    Our second day started at 8am with breakfast at the hotel, it was included in the price of our accommodation. The breakfast area was fairly small, with most of the tables in set up in rows to maximize the seating capacity. It was a buffet breakfast that was quite good and the staff were very pleasant. After breakfast we went back up to the suite to enjoy the view one last time. Before leaving Canada we had purchased tickets for the Vatican Museum for noon on this day. Someone Linda worked with had done this on a trip to Rome, and said it made it such that you could bypass the long lineup to get in. Good tip. The additional cost was only €4 for each ticket and the only draw back is you must plan the time you wanted to go to the museum ahead of the trip. The reservations are valid for a specific day and time. In hindsight we would have booked an earlier time in the day.

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      We packed up our luggage and left it in the suite before we left the hotel at 10:30am. It was another beautiful day in Rome. We first walked south to the Piazza del Popolo and the setup for the concert was still in full swing. We didn’t stay in piazza, exiting through the west of it to head over the Tiber River. We walked along Via Cola di Rienzo to get to the Vatican. There was some great shopping along this route, and we weren’t in any hurry to get to the Vatican because of our ticket time. For the cruise we had packed clothes for the formal evenings and Gary had carried an extra jacket on the voyage to Rome. Looking at the very nice men’s clothing shops, Gary now lamented this - thinking he could have done very nicely selecting his cruise formal wear in Rome! Even with our shopping stroll/walk to the Vatican, we arrived at the entrance to the museum at 11:15am, 45 minutes ahead of our reservation time. The lineup to purchase tickets was already long, with no shade for those standing in line. There was a spot for those with reservations to go, so we went and asked if we could go in earlier than our scheduled time. We didn’t get much of a reply - the fellow just waved us in. The line to purchase tickets went inside the building, and we were very glad at this point that we were bypassing all of that - and also glad that the time on the reservation wasn’t as rigid as we first thought. The entrance was up one flight of stairs, and we did have to surrender the printout we had from the online purchase in exchange for actual tickets, but there was no real delay in that. The extra €8 seemed a bargain at this point. Our tour of the Vatican Museum started in the courtyard Cortile della Pigna, the more common name of Cortile del Belvedere - the name change in honour of the huge bronze pigna (pine cone) located under a massive niche in the Belvedere Palace at one end of the courtyard. In the centre of the courtyard sits a giant revolving bronze orb called Sfera Con Sfera (Sphere Within Sphere). It was created in 1990 by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro and is 4 metres in diameter. It is strangely compelling to look at.

      We ventured inside and began our trek around the Vatican Museum. It is hard to describe in a few words, there is just so much to see inside. It would take many visits to truly absorb all of the art and artifacts found within the Vatican Museum. It is an amazing collection. From Cortile della Pigna there are signs to show the direction to Cappella Sistina, but what one embarks on is a long meandering tour through so much art before finally reaching Capella Sistina near the end. On the way it is very easy to overlook something significant - a lot of the pieces of art are unmarked and the amount of art inside is staggeringly large. It was handy that there were so many tour groups, both large and small, throughout the museum - one just had to listen here and there to pick up some valuable information. In hindsight, a good Vatican Museum tour book would have been a useful purchase before entering - there were many to choose from. The four Raphael Rooms were certainly a highlight of our tour of the Vatican Musuem. These four rooms are filled with Raphael’s lavish frescoes that he started in 1508 and worked on until his death in 1520. The room he first completed was the Room of the Segnatura, with his first completed fresco for this commission being “The Dispute over the Holy Sacrament” - depicting the triumph of spiritual truth. His fresco “The School of Athens” is on the opposite wall - depicting the debate on the search for truth between the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Rapahel included portraits of his contemporaries including Leonardo da Vinci (as Plato) and Michelangelo, as well as himself. It is difficult to select other highlights - so much was amazing.

      Perhaps another highlight for us would be the Gallery of Tapestries. Unfortunately it was hard to get good photographs in this room because it was dark and camera flashes were not permitted. The Flemish tapestries in this gallery were created between 1523 and 1534 based on drawings from Raphael’s students. The tapestries had amazing detail. Next to the Gallery of Tapestries was the Gallery of Maps. This room (like so many others) was impressive. The name comes from the 40 maps frescoed to the walls between 1580 and 1585, and the ceiling is beautifully frescoed. That is something about the Vatican Museum, it is important to always look up. The ceilings alone in the rooms are incredible. One ceiling of particular interest was in Salla Rotonda (Rotunda Room), built in the late 18th century and modelled on the roof in the Pantheon. In the centre of the Rotunda Room, directly below the oculus, sits an impressive bath taken from Nero’s Golden House in the 2nd century AD. One big difference, though, in this room is that the oculus at the centre of the domed ceiling is not open to the outside - the Vatican copy has its own small glass dome covering it - letting in the light but not the rain.

      The ultimate destination of the Vatican Museum tour is the Capella Sistina (Sistine Chapel). It is a sight to behold. The only unfortunate thing for us, though, was on this Saturday in June the chapel was incredibly crowded. It was difficult to move around. The first thing that struck us was the size of the chapel - it is quite large at 40.93 metres long, 13.41 metres wide and 20.70 metres high. There are references that suggest that the proportions of this chapel were intended to be reminiscent of the temple built by Solomon as recorded in 1 Kings 6:2-3 and 2 Chronicles 3:3-4. Between 1477 and 1480, the original chapel on this site (named Cappella Magna) was restored for Pope Sixtus IV (for whom the present chapel is now named). The wall frescos were painted between 1481 and 1482. The famous ceiling and upper wall frescoes were painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. Between 1536 and 1541, Michelangelo further painted the “Last Judgement” on the West wall (known as the altar wall) - covering over two frescoes painted by Perugino during the original 1481-1482 decoration. Something that stood out to us in the Sistine Chapel were two frescoes on the East wall (known as the entrance wall - although we came in the chapel from the other end) that are so different in style to all of the other frescoes within the chapel. They seemed a bit out of place to us. These two frescoes, it turned out, are replacement frescoes - painted in the late 1500s (by Hendrik van den Broeck and Matteo da Lecce) with the same subject matter as the original ones (painted by Ghirlandaio and Signorelli) that were destroyed in 1522 when the entrance door frame collapsed. We stayed in the Sistine Chapel for quite a while, mostly looking up at the magnificent ceiling. There were a few more rooms for us to walk through after exiting the chapel until we reached an impressively decorated spiral staircase/ramp that would lead us down to the exit of the Vatican Museum.

      If you have not been to the Vatican Museum, you should add it to your list of things to do - it really is something to experience.

      From the Vatican Museum we walked to Piazza San Pietro (St Peter’s Square). We looked at the lineup to get into the Basilica, but didn't really consider going inside - we had done a tour of Basilica Papale di San Pietro (St Peters Basillica) on our previous trip to Rome in 2006. We looked around the piazza some to take in the beauty and splendor of it, then decided to find a spot for a late lunch. Not far from the Vatican on Via Borga Pio we found Pizzeria Il Mozzicone. We had passed a number of other restaurants that looked far too touristy (is that a word?) on the way there, but this one caught our attention. We sat outside under a large awning and had a fabulous pizza lunch. It turned out to be a great choice. We were entertained throughout our lunch by a husband and wife musical act that was quite good - playing all the classic easy to identify Italian tunes for tips. This is something you have to get used to eating in Rome, we were finding out. We could have sat there all afternoon, it was a beautiful day and we were relaxing after our tour of the Vatican. We didn’t, though - we finished lunch and then set off for our next destination of Castel Sant'Angelo. Castel Sant'Angelo has been many things since the construction of it was completed in 139 AD. The building was originally commissioned by Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Accordingly, it was know as Mausoleum of Hadrian until 270 AD when it was converted into a military fortress. The current named was given to the building in 590 AD. Legend has it that an angel appeared on the top of the fortress and miraculously ended a plague that had infested Rome. The bronze statue of Archangel Michael that is at the top of the castle now is from the 18th century. It replaced the original 1536 marble version done by Rafaello (an apprentice of Michelangelo) to commemorate the 590 AD miracle. The original statue is still in Castel Sant'Angelo - it is in an open courtyard within the castle. In 1277, the Pasetto di Borgo was constructed - an elevated passage that links Castel Sant'Angelo to the Vatican. Incidentally, this is the passage that features prominently in Dan Brown's novel “Angels & Demons”. Gary had read the book last year and we went to see the movie adaptation just prior to our trip to Rome. We toured around Castel Sant’Angelo, and really enjoyed the view from the top terrace. After Castel Sant'Angelo we wandered north along the Tiber River, first taking in an outside market then finding a place to get another gelato to “ease the heat”. Gelato was becoming a fav part of the Rome experience. After this we headed further north then back over the Tiber on Ponte Margherita on our way the hotel.

      Things were getting closer to the concert event at Piazza del Popolo as we passed through it. The crowd was growing quite large and the atmosphere seemed festive. We didn’t stay too long, our destination was back to the hotel to clean up and rest a bit before heading out for dinner. We had to collect a new key card from the reception at the hotel - for our new room. The new room was on the 4th floor. As promised, our luggage was in place in the new room. It was a bit of a step down from our suite, but it was still a nice room. What we missed the most was the terrace and the lovely view. One thing for sure - we had plenty of space and looking at the floor plan, a “standard” room would have been quite small.

      For dinner this evening we had decided to go to Campo dei Fiori. Fresh and slightly rested, we headed south from the hotel and Piazza del Popolo was in full swing. On stage at the time was some sort of game show with people that we think were pulled from the audience. Was hard to follow the Italian being spoken, but everyone seemed to be having a good time. before we left the piazza a young woman came on stage to do a bit of dancing and fire eating. It was early evening, and this for sure had the looks of one of the opening acts. We strolled south of the piazza and even did a bit of shopping on the way to dinner - most of the shops were still open in hope to the catch eye of the many tourist strolling by. Gary found a nice pair of cufflinks along the way. Before heading to Campo dei Fiori, we ventured slightly further south to see Largo di Torre Argentina, a square that had four Republican Roman temples (the oldest dating back to the 4th century BC) as well as the minimal remains of Pompey's Theatre (completed in 55 BC). Most of the theatre complex is under the present day roads or destroyed, but what makes this area significant is that Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC on the steps of Pompey’s Theatre. Once we reached Campo dei Fiori, we settled on Saby’s Restaurant & Pizzeria for dinner. We started our meal with a fabulously tasty mixed plate appetizer, then Gary went for grilled shrimp while Linda opted for grilled calamari one more time. The meal and the experience was good, but Linda thought the calamari at Enoteca la Bevitoria the night before was better. Still a good choice for dinner, though.

      After dinner we watched one of the street performers playing with fire. It looked very cool in the night sky. From there we decided to take a route back to the hotel that would take us past the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps for some night time photos. When we reached the Pantheon, we also made up our mind that our dinner the following night would have to be in Piazza della Rotonda - under the stars and in front of the Pantheon. The Trevi Fountain looked great at night. Both Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps had no shortage of people - mostly everyone was sitting, relaxing and enjoying the very pleasant Roman evening. Passing through Piazza del Popolo one more time, with this time a comedian on stage. We didn’t have a clue what he was saying, but the now large crowd assembled thought he was very funny. All we can tell you for sure was that he was very animated. We returned to our hotel just after 11 pm, and decided to review some of our photos and check emails. The hotel had wireless internet that we could access with our netbook, but it could only be accessed from the main floor. We collected the netbook from the room the headed back down to the lounge. It was a good way to end our day - looking at the day’s photos and catching up with things at home. It was a full and enjoyable day.

  • Sunday June 14, 2009

    The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum and dinner outside the Pantheon

    Our day started with another 8am breakfast at the hotel. This time we were fortunate enough to get one of the few separate tables for two. We left the hotel at about 8:45am - our plan for today was to visit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the surrounding area. It was interesting as we passed through Piazza del Popolo that the big setup for the previous evening's show was now being dismantled. All of the effort was for just one night. We had yet to see the piazza in its entirety, but we now figured that we should be able to see it fully later in the day. We walked down Via del Corsa, stopping briefly at Piazza Colonna to once again look and photograph the Column of Marcus Aurelius - this time in much better light.

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      Our route took us to Piazza Venezia. To the west of the piazza is the Palazzo Venezia. We had seen this building the last time we had been in Rome (in 2006), but it was partly obscured then by construction barriers so we didn't include a picture of it on our web pages for that trip. No barriers blocking the view this time. Just as we wrote about it on our previous visit, this is a plain but interesting building - it was built between 1455 and 1470 as a papal residence, but later became the headquarters of fascism under Benito Mussolini. Across the Piazza Venezia, we looked briefly at the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II (Monument of Victor Emmanuel II) then set off to make our way to the Colosseum. One other big difference between this visit and our previous trip was we did not need to dodge Roman traffic. It was a Sunday and many of the roads were closed to vehicular traffic - which made it great for walking around. We approached the Colosseum from Via dei Fori Imperiali, basically walking down the middle of the road. To the left we could see Forum Traiani (Trajan's Forum) and to the right we could see Forum Julium (Forum of Caesar). We didn’t to look at them, we’d do that later - our plan was to get to the Colosseum as early as possible. There were quite a number of people outside the Colosseum as we arrived. Getting closer, it turned out that many of them were tour guides trying to get people signed up to join them on a tour of the Colosseum. It was like running a gauntlet to get past them, but that we did. We joined the line-up to purchase tickets, and it didn’t take too long to get inside - even though the Colosseum staff near the start of the line were telling people that quickest way in was to join a tour. That seemed to be a bit of a racket to us.

      Once inside the Colosseum, we made our way up to the upper observation level. Is is quite something to overlook the whole theatre. The arena floor is gone (except for a modern day partial floor), so the remains of what was under the arena floor is clearly visible. This area is known as the hypogeum - a two level network of cages and tunnels below the arena floor where the gladiators and animals were kept prior to the battles. There were eighty shafts to provide access to the arena floor. The caged animals and scenery would have been raised to the arena floor by means of ancient elevators. It is estimated that approximately half a million people and over a million animals were killed in the gladiatorial games of the Colosseum. The games were arranged by individuals rather than the state - mostly as a sign of a person or family’s power and status in Rome. Trajan was reported to have held contests that lasted a total of 123 days in which 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators were killed in celebration of his Dacian conquest in 107 AD. Hard to truly fathom the scale of death in name of entertainment. Before we left the upper level we took a look inside the gift shop. This was something we had not done on our previous trip here. We did buy some t-shirts and bookmarks as well as small copper Roman helmet and a plaster Corinthian column top to use as a stand for the helmet. There is a story behind this (isn’t there always?): On our last cruise, we had seen many Greek helmets of all sizes for sale in Athens. Gary liked the small ones, and wanted to buy one before leaving Athens. We saw them over and over - some better than others, and in the end we left Athens without one. We never saw them again on that cruise and Gary regretted not purchasing one as a keepsake. The shopping consultant on that cruise had a saying that we heard often on the cruise - “see it, like it, buy it” and in that case it would have been good advice to follow. So, three years later we are in the Colosseum in Rome and we spot a classic Roman helmet in the display case. It wasn’t Greek and we were going to Greece on the cruise, but why take chances a second time? See it, like it, buy it. Helmet one was in the bag. After the gift shop we went down to tour the arena floor level of the Colosseum, then head out.

      By this time there was a great many more people waiting to purchase tickets. We had timed it well. What we didn’t do well with was locating the entrance to the Forum Romanum (Roman Forum). From the Colosseum we took a look at Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) and then headed along Via Sacra towards Arco di Tito (Arch of Titus). We first passed the remains of the columns of the Colonnade of the Temple of Venus and Rome. This huge temple was built by Hadrian in 121 AD, best viewed earlier from the Colosseum to get a sense if its size (you can see that in one of our photos). Things had changed since we were last in Rome, and now a gate was positioned just south of the Arch of Titus - an ‘exit’ gate for the Forum. On our previous trip this was free and open to walk in either direction. We walked along a path up Palatine Hill that we thought we thought would get us to the closest entrance, only to find our we had reached a dead end. Us and a bunch of other people, by the way. A sign would have been useful. We retraced our steps back to the Arco di Costantino and then saw a sign pointing west to the entrance at Palantino (Palantine Hill). Our ticket to the Colosseum included entrance to Palantino and Forum Romanum, and once we reached the entrance there was no more delay. Had there been a very long wait at the Colosseum, this would have been a much better starting point to get tickets.

      Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome, it is also the most central one. We had not been to this site on our previous trip, and interestingly, some of the more significant archaeological finds in Palatine Hill have been made since we were in Rome in 2006. The inception of Rome itself has been traced back to this location, with evidence of city life dating back to 1000 BC. From the entrance we walked up the approximate 40 metre high hill on a path that took us past the remains of the Palace of Septimius Severus. He was Roman Emperor between 193 and 211 AD and prior to that he had been a successful Roman general. His palace was an extension of the original palace and it extends beyond the hillside, so the southern most part had large arch supports down to the lower ground. From there we walked to the Stadium. This was built at the time of the original palace between 69 and 96 AD. The Stadium was also known as the Hippodrome of Domitian. From our second photo page from this day you can see the Stadium with the remains of the Imperial palace in the background. We walked around the site, there were so many interesting things to see - such as traces of the 9th century BC village, known as Huts of Romulus. We lined up for a while to see the House of Augustus. There is only a small portion of the house that is accessible, the rest must be viewed from observation points outside the house. The House of Augustus has only been on display since March 2008, with only four of its rooms restored at a cost of €2million. Some of the more interesting frescoes were hard to see through plexiglass and no lighting, but they are trying to protect the work from 30 BC when the house was built. Gary did get one photograph of a partial wall and arched roof fresco before being barked at “no flash”. There is a plan to spend an additional €12million to complete the restoration of this house. This is the reason for the changes in the area. When we were last in Rome, entrance to the Forum Romanum was free, but to fund the ongoing restorations throughout Rome one now has to buy a combined ticket to enter the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill. Once we were finished looking around Palatine Hill, we made our way to the eastern side to look down over the Forum Romanum. The vantage point provides a terrific view of the Forum. Slightly odd looking in this setting were eight modern bright white marble structures. We had seen some of them as we had looked out towards the Forum from the Colosseum earlier in the day. They were placed there for the summer and are the work of Jimenez Deredia, a Costa Rican artist based in Italy. This was the first time an exhibit of modern art has been placed in the Forum. Directly below us was the remains of the House of the Vestals. The last version of this house was built after the previous house was destroyed in the fire of Rome in 64 AD. In its day, six priestesses (the only female order in Rome) would live in this house for 30 years in charge of keeping alive the sacred fire in the nearby Temple of Vesta as well as safeguarding religious objects deemed to be extremely important. It was considered to be a great honour. Only girls between the ages of 6 and 10 from free parents could enter this order. As a Vestal, they took a vow of chastity, and if they broke that vow then they were buried alive. The man in question would have been flogged to death. This is reported to have occurred a total of 10 times in Roman history. Once the Vestals completed their 30 years of service they were free to marry. Our vantage point on Palatine Hill also gave us our only clear view of the remains of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, built in the early 4th century. Even though it is so big, the view from the Forum level is mostly blocked by the trees. The area was obviously in modern day use because there were many rows of seats set up in front of a large screen under the centre of the three large arches.

      From Palatine Hill we followed a path down to the Forum Romanum, and spent quite a while wandering around the ruins of the Forum. We first walked to the southeast extent of the Forum, to look at the Arco di Tito (Arch of Titus). Emperor Domitian had this arch built in 81 AD to honour Titus as well as his father Vespasian. This triumphal arch commemorates the 70 AD victory that took four years to earn after the Jews in Jerusalem rebelled against the Roman rule and oppression. The reliefs inside the arch show Roman soldiers carrying off objects from the Temple in Jerusalem. Walking northwestward along Via Sacra, we passed the round Temple of Romulus. Scholars don’t seem to agree on the true origins of this temple, but most likely it was built by Emperor Maxentius in honour of his son Romulus who died in 307 AD. They do agree that the large bronze doors shown in the photo on the left are original. From 527 AD it was consecrated as part of the basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano. Close by is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, built in 141 AD. The portico of this temple was incorporated into the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. The good condition of the original temple is credited to the transformation of it as part of the church between the 7th and 8th century. The inscription on the facade was placed by emperor Antoninus Pius in dedication to his wife Faustina. His name was added to the inscription after his death. Next to this temple/church are the remains of the Basilica Aemilia, where not much remains of the 100 metres by 30 metres structure built originally in 179 AD. The location was originally an area for butcher shops and bankers, dating back to 5th and 4th century BC respectively.

      Across from these ruins sits the Temple of Julius Caesar, a comparatively modest structure erected by Augustus on the spot where Caesar’s body was cremated after being murdered in 44 BC. We walked further north in the Forum to take a look at Curia Julia, a restored 3rd century building built over the ruins of Rome’s original Senate Hall. Inside we found a statue of Titus as well as some busts of Vespasian and Titus. There were also some reliefs from the original senate house. The inside of the building itself was rather plain except for the tiled floor - there were fragments marble on the walls, but otherwise it was bare brick. Back outside, we took a look at the Arch of Septimius Severus. This arch was built in 203 AD to celebrate ten years of his reign and in commemoration of his victories in Parthia. This arch is in much better shape than the Arch of Titus, and was the artistic model for the Arch of Constantine some 112 years later. Something that doesn’t stand out in the Forum is the Rostra, or at least the reconstruction and partial remains of it right next to the arch. Originally built in 4th century BC, this is where orators spoke. Shakespeare placed Mark Anthony here for the famous “Friends, Romans, Countrymen...” address. That probably never actually took place, but cool none the less. Among the events that did take place here was the gruesome public showing of Cicero’s hands and feet - cut off and nailed to the Rostra after he had been put to death. That was at the instructions of the aforementioned Anthony. The northwest end of the Forum Romanum contains the remains of many ancient temples. It would have been incredible to see these structures in their former glory. Even as they are now, the remains are still impressive. The most prominent of these ruins is that of the Temple of Saturn. The current remains date back to 42 BC - making it the last of the series of rebuilt temples dedicated to Saturn, with the first temple being placed in the same location in 497 BC. Near the Temple of Saturn sits the remains of the Temple of Vespasian and Titus. Titus started this temple in 79 AD after his father Vespasian died. After Titus’ death, the temple was completed in 87 AD by his brother Domitian, who then dedicated it to both Vespasian and Titus. Also nearby, a single column (known as the Column of Phocas) is notable for a single reason: it is the youngest of all of the monuments found in the Forum Romanum. It was built in 608 AD in honour of the Byzantine emperor after he had made a visit to Rome. We looked around the remains at this end of the Forum, heading back south past the sparse remains of Basilica Julia to see the Temple of Castor and Pollux. What remains is from the last two rebuilds, completed by Metellus in 117 BC and then by Tiberius in 6 BC. The original temple dates back to 484 BC. For our final look at the forum, We walked up the steps at the northeast end of the forum to stand a look from the end of the Tabularium. To gain access to the Tabularium, we would have had to gone into the Capitoline Museum. That would have given us probably a better vantage point to view the forum, but we opted to pass on the museum at this point in our day. The Tabularium was constructed in 78 BC and was where the official records of ancient Rome were kept. This is also where most city officials would have had their offices. Near this location we could also look down over the adjacent Forum Julium (Forum of Caesar). Leaving the Forum, we did pass by the front of the museum as well as the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II to make our way towards Forum Trainai (Trajan’s Forum). Trajan’s is the last constructed of all of the Imperial Forums (finished in 112 AD). Trajan funded the building of this forum with the spoils from his victory over the Dacians (the region he conquered is roughly present day Romania and Moldova). A column commemorating Trajan’s conquest (aptly known as Trajan’s Column) is at the north end of the forum. This is the column on which the Column of Marcus Aurelius was patterned/copied. Trajan’s Column is 38.4 metres tall including the base and is 3.7 metres in diameter. The spiral relief on the column depicts the victory in the Dacian wars. In 1587, a bronze statue of the apostle Peter was added to top of the column. As we mentioned in our Rome Day 1 write up, a bronze statue of the apostle Paul was added to the Column of Marcus Aurelius two years later. We looked along Trajan’s Forum, and could view Trajan’s Market to the east of it. Some of this Forum is now under Via dei Fori Imperiali.

      Across that street from Trajan’s Forum we walked to Forum Julium (Forum of Caesar). Julius Caesar started the construction of this Forum in 46 BC, 2 years prior to his assassination. It was originally planned as an extension to Forum Romanum, but the use of this Forum evolved for Caesar. He would have the senate meet him here to do business at the temple he had constructed in honour of himself. As you can imagine, this didn't go over so well with the senators. The rest, as they say, is history. The Forum was completed after Caesar’s death and the last rebuild of it took place in 95 AD under the reign of Domitian and a bit of restoration by Trajan after he had completed his own Forum. The most striking element of the Forum Julium ruins is that of the Temple of Venus Genetrix. What stands today is 3 of the original 8 columns of the temple that Caesar had built in 46 BC. Caesar basically started the cult worship of Venus Genetrix - the goddess of motherhood and domesticity.

      By this point in the day we were hot, tired and hungry. It was already past 3:00 pm - too late for a big lunch, so we set off in search of something light. Easier said than done, as it turned out. The street vendors all had plenty of sandwiches and such on their carts, but they all looked like they had enjoyed their full day in the Roman sun and heat. We made our way back north to the hotel, looking for something to eat along the way. We settled on a small place on Via del Corsa - they sold pizza by the slice, priced by weight. We both decided on a slice of tomato and mozzarella pizza - it looked the best of the bunch. The food here had probably been out a while, too. What surprised us was that all of the pizza here was served cold. It was okay. The cold drinks were very welcome indeed, though. Not counting the breakfasts at the hotel, this was only indoor meal we had while in Rome. After the cold pizza we went back to our hotel. We were surprised to find that the work crews were still busy at the dismantling the show stage at Piazza del Popolo, but for the first time since we were in Rome we could see the Pincio on east side of the piazza. We made it back to the River Palace Hotel at about 4:30 pm to clean up and rest a bit before dinner. It had been a great day touring ruins - but it was a hot, tiring and a somewhat dusty day. Back at the hotel was also good opportunity to review and backup the day’s photographs. Just in case of a problem, we made sure that we had two copies of each of the digital files.

      We had decided the evening before that we were going to head to Piazza della Rotonda for dinner this evening. We set off from the hotel at about 7:00 pm. Once at the piazza, we looked around to see which of the restaurants we’d try for this night. it was still daylight when we arrived and the piazza was festive. Street performers were all over the piazza, many people watching them and enjoying the view and the very fine early evening weather. For our dinner spot we settled on Ristorante Di Rienzo, a restaurant located in the northwest corner of the piazza. It looked the best to us. We weren’t disappointed. The presentation in this restaurant was the best we had experienced in Rome, and the food was lovely. Linda started with a beautiful appetizer of ham and melon followed by a very nice beef dish. Gary stuck with the seafood, starting with some wonderful oysters followed by a mixed grilled fish main course. This dinner was excellent, and with the view of the Pantheon and the activity in the piazza it was an extremely enjoyable evening. One of the best street performers was a young man playing the violin. We’d have to say he was the best we had seen while in Rome. Something that we also noticed while here as the sun was setting was a huge number of birds around the Pantheon. They moved very quickly and made quite a loud chirping sound. We asked our server Salvatore what they were and, surprisingly, he didn’t know. He did ask around, and the owner of the restaurant gave us the name “Gabion”. We looked it up after we got back home - they were European Starlings. No idea where the fellow in the restaurant got the name Gabion from. After finishing dinner with a nice dessert complete with espresso and limoncello we took one more stroll around the piazza and then walked to Piazza Navona for a night time view of that area. It was about 11:00 pm when we returned to the hotel - time to check email and call Matt & Michael to see how things were going back home. Our third and final full day in Rome was done. Terrific day.

      Tomorrow we would head to the cruise ship...

  • Monday June 15, 2009

    Borghese Gardens, Spanish Steps and boarding Celebrity Solstice

    Our final morning in Rome started early so we could get packed up ready to leave. Once we were all ready, we made it down to breakfast around 8:45am. After breakfast, we decided to take one last walk in Rome before needing to get to another hotel in Rome to pick up the Celebrity transfer to the cruise ship. Like every other day we had in Rome, it was a beautifully sunny day with a temperature of 30°C - not hard to take, just hard to leave.

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      Our first stop on our walk was near the entrance of the Borghese Gardens. We didn't really have time to delve too far into the gardens, that would have to wait for another trip to Rome. We had learnt that there was so much to see in Rome - it required more time or more visits to “see it all”. We then decided to walk south. When we reached Piazza del Popola we finally saw the piazza in its entirety - the stage setup was completely gone. It is a large piazza and it was nice to see it completely. We ventured southward, deciding to walk one last time to the Spanish Steps. We opted to walk down the smaller road Via del Babuino. Our timing was fairly limited; our plan was to check out of the hotel at 11:30am, but we did have time to enjoy a nice walk on this beautiful morning. We had mixed emotions - being excited about what lay ahead on the cruise, but not really wanting to leave Rome at this point. We had plenty of things we still wanted to see in this city. Another trip here sometime? Might just have to do that. As planned, we checked out of the hotel at 11:30 am. As we were checking out we ordered a taxi to take us the St Peter’s Crowne Plaza hotel, and the taxi arrived within a few minutes of that. The taxi took us past the Vatican to get to the hotel, and we got to see how difficult it was to drive in this area. A few days earlier we had walked this route, and it was much easier to walk than drive close to the Vatican Museum. The police at the intersections would hold up traffic to allow the throng of people get to across the street. Our taxi driver freely shared his displeasure at this. He said it was much better before they started posting police here. Better for the taxis, that is. We drove quite a bit further west after passing the Vatican - it wasn’t that close at all. We had both thought that we would not have been happy with being at a hotel in this location for a stay in Rome. It was certainly too far from the historic part of Rome. The other thing we noticed was this was like any other big American style hotel. It could have been in any city, it had no real character. From our perspective, a hotel for Rome needed to be close to the action and should have some character. We certainly had both in the River Palace Hotel.

      We were greeted by Celebrity staff at the Crowne Plaza as soon as our bags were removed from the taxi - they would have seen the distinctive Celebrity luggage tags that we were required to put on our bags. The bags were taken to a large room on the main floor of the hotel and we followed to check in with another one of the Celebrity representatives. With the number of bags and people we could see already, it was clear why a hotel like this had been chosen for the transfer - it required a big hotel to pull off this kind of operation without causing a disruption to the normal hotel operation. Our bags were checked-in and we were given vouchers for our bus transfer to the ship. We had some time to wait before our bus would leave so we went to one of the lounges at the hotel to get a coffee and relax until our bus was called. A number of other people were also waiting in the lounge for the transfer to the ship, and the conversations were animated. Some had stayed at the hotel a part of a pre-cruise package with Celebrity. From where we were sitting we could see the large front entrance of the hotel. It was a pleasant enough wait. While there, we saw two of our three bags get loaded onto a bus. Seemed odd to us that they didn't try to keep sets of bags together. When the time came for us to get on our bus we saw our third bag being loaded onto our bus. The other bus had already left, but at least we knew all were heading to the ship. The bus ride to the cruise ship terminal at Civitavecchia took just under one hour. The Celebrity representative onboard played tour guide along the way, giving us information as we travelled. She also gave us some forms to complete - declarations of health to sign in a Swine Flu world. Anyone showing symptoms was required to have a medical screening once on the ship.

      The Port of Civitavecchia is large, and has been in operation for quite a while. Trajan first established the port here in 108 AD. Entering the port area, we passed the historic port and fort. We arrived at the cruise ship terminal at about 3:00pm. The terminal “building” is a large prefabricated structure with a very temporary look to it. The port certainly had the look of a work in progress - some of the access roads and parking lot looked brand new, and one would think that a real cruise ship terminal building will appear some time. Well, would certainly hope so at least. As we had done on our previous cruise, we had gone for “Concierge Class”, and with that we did not need to join the long line to wait to check in. We only had to wait a very short time to get to the first available agent. We had prepared all of our paperwork online before leaving home, so the check in process was very quick. One big difference this time, though, was that our passports were kept in exchange for very non-official looking scraps of paper with our names printed on them. And those, we were told, not to lose. This only affected non-European passports and we were told we would have ours returned after the cruise ship had left Turkey.

      With our combination “identification/ship access/room access/pay for everything on board” cards (otherwise know as a Sea Pass cards) in hand we then made a very short walk from the terminal building to the ship. Our photographs were taken the first time our sea pass cards were inserted into a reader at the gangway. Just like at an airport, our carry on luggage was x-rayed and we had to pass through the metal detector doorway. With the security requirements out of the way we were welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne. There was a bit of a wait to get in one of the four elevators, so that gave us plenty of time to enjoy the bubbly before we headed up. We entered the ship on Deck 2 and our room was on Deck 9 - also known the Panorama Deck. The central elevators on this ship face inward and had a lot of glass, providing nice view of the ship as we travelled up. That view also showed us that the four elevators on the other side had hardly anyone in them. On Deck 2, a few more steps would have gotten us on an elevator sooner. That was something to remember. Our first impression of the ship was that certainly that Celebrity Solstice was beautiful. Having been launched in November 2008 it was also very new. With the elevator announcing that we had reached Deck 9, we set off in search of our room. Our room was 9287, located port-side aft - what does that mean? near the back of the ship on the left side if you are facing the front of the ship. We could see two of our bags as we walked rearward, and as we reached our room we were greeted by our cabin attendant Jose. He helped us get our bags inside and then showed us a few things about the room. We knew from the deck plans we had seen online that the rooms alternate in orientation and Linda had figured our room would have the bed rather than the couch closer to the balcony doors. She was right. We were pleased with the room, it was spacious enough and well laid out. This was going to do quite nicely. Next to the couch was a small coffee table, with a bottle of champagne chilling. The sun was beaming though the balcony doors - the port-side this time was looking out to the open sea. It the days of modern technology, ships can dock at a port on either side, and here in Civitavecchia the choice had been starboard side.

      It was already near 4:00 pm at this point and we were feeling a bit hungry having missed lunch with the timing on the transfer arrangements. We decided to head up to the Oceanview Cafe on Deck 14 to grab a bite. The setup in the Oceanview Cafe on Celebrity Solstice was very nice, much better than we remembered from the similar casual dining spot on our previous cruise. We did a lap around the buffet food stations to get feel for what was available and then we made our choices and found a spot to enjoy our rather late lunch. Rather than head straight back to our room after lunch we decided to take a bit of a tour of the ship. It was an enjoyable stroll around the ship, both outside on the upper decks and inside on the decks with the majority of the ship’s amenities. One thing we were very interested to see was the real grass on the open aft area of Deck 15 - called the Lawn Club. Celebrity boasts that this is the only ship with real grass. At the time of our sailing this was correct, but the claim now holds true for the Solstice class of ship - two as of the summer of 2009, with new ships scheduled to bring the total to five by 2012. Hopefully you will get a sense of the ship from some of our photos, but you can take it from us that this ship is very nice. Our third and final bag was waiting outside our room after we had concluded our quick tour of the ship. We unpacked some of the clothing until just before 4:30pm when a mandatory “Emergency and Lifeboat Drill” was conducted. Our task was to proceed with our life jackets on (couldn’t just take them - had to be wearing them) to our “Muster Station”. For us the Muster Station was D1, identified as where the specialty restaurants were located aft on Deck 5. When we arrived the signs identified D1 as being in the restaurant BLU. Our names were checked off a list as we entered the restaurant and we were told to have a seat. Touch of an odd site to see all sorts of people wearing life jackets sitting at the tables in a nice restaurant. When whoever was in charge thought everyone was assembled they showed a video in the restaurant, as the must have been doing in every other Muster Station. When the video was done, an announcement ended the drill for the passengers, although the crew had more to do to complete their end of the drill. It was a more efficient drill than we had experienced 3 years ago. We now were in compliance of the S.O.L.A.S. (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations. Phew. It was then back to our room to finish the unpacking and to sample the champagne still on ice in our room. If you are going to unpack, not a bad way to do it.

      To mark the moment that Celebrity Solstice set sail from Civitavecchia, we went to the Lido Deck (Deck 14, although there was no Deck 13). From here we could look at over railing towards the port while listening Headlines, one of the musical acts onboard. The atmosphere was festive, with a great sense of anticipation of the cruise ahead of us. The scheduled departure time was 6:00pm but it was more like 6:30pm when the ship finally moved away from the port.

      We had the late seating for dinner, which was our preference. We also had a table number, but with know idea what sort of a table that would be until we go to the restaurant. We had requested a table for 2, but that didn’t mean that was what we’d get. The Grand Epernay Dining Room is the main restaurant on the Celebrity Solstice, located aft and spanning Decks 3 & 4. Our table was located port-side on Deck 3. We found that our table was a table for two, but the table next to it was so close it might as well have been a table for 4. Shortly after we arrived, another couple were seated at the table next to us. We both had the same table number, so it likely was a table for 4 that had just been slightly separated. Introductions in order; we were seated next to Barbara and Jack from Atlanta. They were probably in their late 30s and neither came from Atlanta - Jack grew up in Florida and Barbara from New York. Our server treated the table like it was for 4 and while he was in earnest to do a good job, he had the serving style akin to any local East Side Mario's. Similarly, our sommelier was a nice enough fellow, but he too lacked the style and experience that we were hoping to get on this cruise. The main dining room staff on our previous Celebrity cruise had certainly been a few cuts above. For our main course for dinner we both selected pheasant. We were a bit concerned at this point; the pheasant was dry. The rest of the meal had been good, and the sauce that accompanied the pheasant was quite nice. The bird was just overdone. Our concern was whether this would be the standard for meals for this cruise. Thankfully, that later turned out not to be so...but that would be getting ahead of the story, wouldn't it? We didn't know that on this night.

      After dinner we decided to take in the show at the Solstice Theatre at 10:45pm. An interesting thing here on this ship was that the spelling used was not American, so it was Theatre rather than Theater as we had seen on Celebrity Millennium in 2006. The show was a variety show that was quite entertaining. One of the musical acts was an a cappella band named SoulD Out that was the best of the bunch. Our last stop for the evening before returning to our room was the Martini Bar on Deck 4. This was a busy spot - with most people opting to sit or stand around the oval bar. The bartenders provided some entertainment by throwing the bottles and shakers around (and occasionally dropping them), We found a nice spot to enjoy a late night drink. Very pleasant. Our first day onboard ended fairly late...made later by the fact that the ship's clocks were to be changed through the night - going ahead one hour as we sailed towards Greece.

Rome Image Gallery

View from the terrace of our first room in Rome
View from the terrace of our first room in Rome
Porta del Popolo, the north entrance of Piazza del Popolo
Porta del Popolo, the north entrance of Piazza del Popolo
The twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli & Santa Maria in Montesanto
The twin churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli & Santa Maria in Montesanto
Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps)
Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti (Spanish Steps)
The Pantheon (now Santa Maria ad Martyres) in Piazza della Rotonda
The Pantheon (now Santa Maria ad Martyres) in Piazza della Rotonda
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)
Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain)
Sfera Con Sfera (Sphere Within Sphere) in Cortile della Pigna, Vatican Museum
Sfera Con Sfera (Sphere Within Sphere) in Cortile della Pigna, Vatican Museum
Centre section of the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) ceiling painted by Michelangelo
Centre section of the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) ceiling painted by Michelangelo
Ancient obelisk of Ramset II (13 century BC) at the centre of the piazza
Ancient obelisk of Ramset II (13 century BC) at the centre of the piazza
Looking towards the Vatican from Castel Sant'Angelo
Looking towards the Vatican from Castel Sant'Angelo
The Pantheon against the backdrop of the clear Roman night
The Pantheon against the backdrop of the clear Roman night
The Trevi Fountain at night
The Trevi Fountain at night
Inside the Colosseo (Colosseum) - originally known as Amphitheatrum Flavium
Inside the Colosseo (Colosseum) - originally known as Amphitheatrum Flavium
Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) from the Colosseum
Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine) from the Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Colosseum
The Colosseum viewed from Via Sacra
The Colosseum viewed from Via Sacra
The view over the Roman Forum looking towards the Coliseum from Palatine Hill
The view over the Roman Forum looking towards the Coliseum from Palatine Hill
Trajan's Forum with Trajan's Market in the background
Trajan's Forum with Trajan's Market in the background
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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.

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