Our European vacation is one of those city-a-day whirlwind tours that more seasoned travelers scoff at wrapped around a Medditeranean cruise. Although we arrived in Rome two days before our cruise departure, Monday was mostly just a recovery from the 15 hour flight and the time zone changes. With the transfer to the ship at 11:15 on Wednesday, we decided to take the Rome-in-a-Day Tour. I can’t say we weren’t warned … the Real Rome Tours described it as strenuous but worth the effort. It was indeed a stimulating, informative, mosly enjoyable forced march through the city. Our day began with a taxi ride to the Arch of Constantine to meet our tour group at 8:45, ride that our concierge said would take 15 minutes. Whether our concierge was wrong or the traffic particularly bad, the cab dropped us off several blocks from the Colloseum at 8:40 but with some scurrying we made it. From the Arch, our guide, Andre, led us to the Colloseum. If you ever make the trip, be sure to
prearrange a tour with skip the line tickets … we must have walked by hundred because we were with our tour group. Real Rome tour also keeps the groups to 12 or under and utilized headphones to listen to the guide which means you don’t have to fight for the front row at each stop. We spent almost an hour there, visiting sites on the lower and upper levels and learning about the building itself and the events that took place there. As many time as I’d seen pictures of the Colloseum, it’s impossible to appreciate its scale, which rivals modern stadiums, unless you are standing inside, and and the thought that it was built over 2000 years ago is mind-boggling. From the Colloseum we walked to the Roman Forum, then the Pantheon, finishing at te Piazza Navona where we had lunch within sight of the Fountain of the Four Rivers which played such a crucial part in the film, Angels and Demons.
After lunch we took a short taxi ride to the Vatican Museum. While the crowds at the Colloseum had been modest, the crowds at the Vatican were oppressive. It would take several days to do the galleries jusrtice but our guide, Andre, highlighted important pieces in each gallery. Since he was an art hsitory major, he provided an excellent description of the artist, the composition and the symbology of the works. The truth is by halfway trhough the afternoon, my focus was fading and I was saving what energy I had left for the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters Basilica and square. Since talking is supposedly not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, Andrea gave us an excellent overview of using illustrations of the frescos befire we entered. Michealangelo’s masterpiece is simply overwhelming and truthfully a bit hard to appreciate in a stifling room stuffed with mumbling tourists. Still, it is something I know my Mom would have loved to see and I like to think
she was there with me. Though I haven’t been a Catholic for many years, it still moves me to know I’m standing in the very room where the Cardinals conclave to elect the Pope. St. Peters is as more grand that all of the pictures I’ve ever seen and the choral music from a mass at one of the altars added to the sense of grandeur. Again, although I am no longer Catholic, I still enjoyed seeing the chimney from which the smoke tells of a newly elected Pope and the balcony from which a newly elected Pope greets the crowd.
And that was it, all we could see of Rome in one exhausting day. As a young man, the subject I hated most was history. My ancient history teacher, Mrs. Matthews, would probably be surprised to know how much I enjoyed my one day course in Roman history. Tomorrow morning we board the Norwegian Epic in Citvechia to begin our cruise with an overnight trip to Livorno … and a date with Florence and Pisa. If I ever catch up with this travelogue, I’ll tell you about it.