Saturday, June 13, 2009

Rome, Italy

I can now tell everyone that I did Rome in 14 hours. It was a long day, and I cannot wait to get on the plane tomorrow to go home. The port docked in Civitavecchia early and we had a uniform exit waiting for our color to be called. We left the ship and gathered our luggage. Everyone was tired, but ready to see Rome. We had two vans and drivers waiting for us at the port. We got all of our luggage and everything and headed off to our apartment in Rome. The drivers were well dressed, very European chic, and drove 200 km on the highway, and weaving in and out of the traffic.

We arrived at the apartment and took several trips on the elevator to the third floor with all of the luggage. I found a tiny room off of the kitchen to possibly sleep in. We freshened up a bit, looked at a map of Rome, and headed out to do some sight seeing.

We purchased bus tickets and found a bus to the Coliseum. We arrived and I was in awe and excited about how massive and extreme it really was. We waited in a very long line to enter, but it was worth it. It was the most interesting piece of history Ive seen since Pompeii. It is a very eroded structure though, and it is hard to fully imagine the way it looked in all of its glory and what it stood for.

We saw brides standing outside in the streets in their gowns, horse carriages with brides and grooms, and even a coming out parade complete with transvestites and visible body parts. It was an interesting combination of Basilica architecture and a sexual event. None the less, it is the local flavor and was a nice understanding of the culture.

We had pizza at a local restaurant for lunch, and then went around the city to the Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica which I was very excited to see. Raphael's masterpiece and the center of attention just inside of St. Peter's Square. It is magnificent with all of the large statues of the popes, martyrs, and saints on the entry walls. The Sistine Chapel was closed for renovation so we did not get to experience it, but St. Peter's Basilica was definitely a humbling experience. I have seen photographs and learned about Bernini and the famous altar, but to go inside and see everything and the massive scale, detail, and triumph was breathtaking. I had studied the sculpture of Michaelangelo's Pieta, and for the first time laid eyes on it. There was a choir singing in the chapel and too many emotions and thoughts ran through my head, so all I could do was photograph the light shining into the structure from the dome and the windows in all of its magnificence.

When we left the basilica, we walked down to the tombs of the Popes. They are below the basilica and there are many tombs with the pope resting as a sculpture on top of them, then there are simple tombs like for John Paul, and then some which are entombed into the structure itself. Each one was unique, and there are several places left for future Popes. Everything was white except for the tomb of St. Peter, where relics and his body are supposedly kept.

Upon leaving the Vatican, the evening began to set in. We walked through the streets looking for more sites. We visited the exterior of the Parthenon, and had a dinner of pizza in the square just below. It was exciting to have dinner while sitting just several yards from one of the oldest structures in Rome.

We walked around all day long exploring, and did not get back to the apartment until nearly 01:00. We had just a few hours to get things together, get a shower and head to the airport for our 05:55 flight to Amsterdam.

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