A Travellerspoint blog

Sailing Through History Part III- Rome and Vatican City

An Escorted tour of Vatican City and Historic Landmarks

The morning of our last day in Rome was somewhat hectic. We were up early to set our luggage out to be collected and transported to the cruise port in Civitavecchia, a one hour ride south from Rome. After another nice breakfast with our fellow cruise passengers at the Marriott, we all headed out on an escorted tour of the historic sights of Rome and Vatican City. Our first stop on the tour was in an area near the famous Roman Colosseum where we would continue from there on foot.

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Our Italian guide lead us to the nearby San Pietro in Vincoli, a minor basilica in Rome that houses St. Peter's chains and Michelangelo's famous Moses statue. The basilica was first built in the middle of the 5th century to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter while imprisoned in Jerusalem, given to Pope Leo I by Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III). This Basilica was somewhat small and intimate and there were services going on, so we took a few photos and moved on.

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From San Pietro in Vincoli we walked down the hill land across the street to the Colosseum. This impressive structure is well known around the world and I could not believe that I was actually standing in front of it. Occupying a site just east of the Roman Forum, its construction was started between 70 and 72 AD under the emperor Vespasian and was completed in 80 AD under Titus. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public events. I was surprised to see some scaffolding in place along one side. Apparently the structure was damaged over the years and there was a painstaking effort of repair going on. From the Colosseum we walked to the Arch of Constantine. Dedicated by the Roman Senate in AD 315, the tenth anniversary of the emperor's reign, the Arch of Constantine commemorates the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312 for sole control of the Roman Empire in the west. I stood under the Arch for a long time just taking in the size and craftsmanship of it. Thinking about the Arch's age and historical significance gave me Goosebumps! To see something that I had only read about in history books was amazing.

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Our next stop on the tour was the Forum. The Roman Forum was the political and economic centre of Rome during the Republic. It emerged as such in the 7th century BC and maintained this position well into the Imperial period, when it was reduced to a monumental area. It was mostly abandoned at the end of the 4th century.

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Vatican City was next on the agenda after we left the Forum. The crowds were already lining up outside the MUSEI VATICANI or the Vatican Museums. The benefit of being on an escorted tour is that we were able to bypass the crowd and go straight inside after our guide gave us our tickets. Each of us had transceivers with earphones so that we could listen to our guide without his having to raise his voice while we were inside. I had to catch my breath as we entered the museum complex because what I saw inside was just incredible. Everywhere you looked there was stunning works of art everywhere. The ceiling above the walkway was unbelievable. I did not know where to look first, there was so much to see. Our guide Peter was wonderful. He knew exactly how to direct our attention to significant works, while at the same time telling us the fascinating history of the Vatican.

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The Vatican Museums are among the greatest museums in the world, since they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the 16th century. The Sistine Chapel and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. Just outside the entrance to the Sistine Chapel, our guide Peter stopped before a chart showing the various scenes painted by Michelangelo and other famous artists. We would not be allowed to take photographs inside the Chapel and the crowds would be almost shoulder to shoulder. Peter gave us specific instructions on what to look for once we were inside because we would not be allowed to stay very long and the guards would make sure that there was minimal to no talking at all. We slowly entered the Sistine Chapel and once again I was surprised at the reality of something I had only read about. The chapel was relatively small with high ceilings that were covered with artwork as were the walls. I could just imagine Michelangelo lying on his back for many years painting that magnificent ceiling.

All too soon we were ushered out of the Chapel and we moved on to Saint Peter's Basilica. This great building is the center of Christianity. The opulence of the building's interior bears testimony to the wealth of the catholic church in the 16th century. The largest church in the world, the basilica's dome is also the world's largest. The interior includes 45 altars. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo, the papal altar by Bernini and the Throne of Saint Peter.

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We spent as much time as we could inside Saint Peter's Basilica before walking outside into Saint Peter's Square. Here was a scene I had watched for many years on television and once again I could not really believe that I was standing there seeing in for real. We walked around the square taking lots of video and photos before entering the gift shop and buying some gifts to take home. All in all it had been a most excellent day and pure nirvana for a history nut like me.

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Our time in Rome had all too quickly come to an end. It was time to board the bus that would take on to the cruise port where we would board the Emerald Princess later that day. There was still so much that I did not get to see! My only consolation was that I had thrown my coin into the Trevi Fountain, which meant I would one day return to Rome!

Next up: Sailing on the Emerald Princess and our first port of call, Monte Carlo.

To be continued......

Posted by Gerriv 15:24

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Comments

Gerri,

First of all, you are absolutely beautiful! Squeeee!

Secondly, you have just taken MY dream trip! I have planned for decades (since age 8) to get to Italy and Greece. I'm living vicariously through your trip and all I have to say is that once I become a best-selling author, I am heading to Italy and then to Greece with the quickness.

The photographs and details you provide in your blog are utterly breathtaking. I'm sitting and going, "These are real pictures. This is what it actually looks like. This is gorgeous!" Was everything within walking distance? That's what it appears to look like on TV, but we all know how the media exaggerates things.

I know you had a blast and I look forward to reading your next journey!

Pink

by Amaya Radjani

Thanks so much Amaya (Pink)! I have so much more to tell and many more photos. I will post the next chapter on Monte Carlo ASAP.

by Gerriv

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