Day 5: Rome wasn’t built–or seen–in a day

(Written on 10/17)

A day at sea, on our way to Mykonos, Greece. A chance to get caught up; the last couple of days have been crazy-busy, and I’ve been too tired at the end of them to write. Last night I slept probably ten hours, so I have both time and energy to work on jotting down our adventures.

Warm and humid today; the library is almost a sauna. Well, it could be because I just climbed six flights of stairs (16 steps per flight–I counted them) to get here. I’m getting to be a pro at stair-climbing–there’s been nothing BUT stairs lately.  When I get home, I think I’ll drive out to Astoria and go up the Column–only 164 steps there. Piece of cake…ha ha.

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Okay, time to gather my memories and set them on paper.

10/15

Where were we again? Oh yes–Rome. How could I forget? Eh, it’s not really a case of forgetting, really; it’s just so much stuff in so little time.

Early in the morning, we got into the port of Civitavecchia–which is a mouthful to say correctly. I just referred to it as Chimichanga–not out loud, of course. Italian is an interesting language–the “c” is a “ch” sound, while “ch” is a “k” sound. So very confusing.

Today we did the tour entitled “Rome On Your Own”, since Paul had been there a couple of years ago. We doubted that much had changed in a city that ancient…

Oh–gotta back up a bit. The ship was late getting into the harbor because of the traffic, so a short day was already beginning to be just that much shorter. It looked like the O’Hare Airport of the water world out there–I don’t think I would have liked to be in charge of the logistics operations.

Everyone going on shore excursions were supposed to meet in the Starlight Theater, as before, at 8:00am. When we got there–and not late (Paul doesn’t do “late”)–the place was already packed. People still straggled in a half-hour or so later. There was a cruise staff member on the stage who was announcing the excursions and where to line up to go ashore–she had to say the same thing over and over because people still came up to her to ask questions.

Humans are such thick-headed creatures…I admire folks who have the patience to deal with us. It’s gotta be like herding cats. She kept up being nice throughout, instead of bopping people over the head with her clipboard like I would be tempted to do. Kudos to her and her kind!

We finally got sorted and onto our bus, which rattled off down the road through Civitavecchia and on the way to Rome. We had an onboard tour guide (just for the bus part), and she cheerily told us a lot of history behind what we were driving through. All of which I’ve forgotten, of course. Although I have learned to live on one teeny cup of coffee, it’s not preferable–and it doesn’t work perfectly.

So–I refer to Wikipedia again:

The modern city was built over a pre-existing Etruscan settlement.

The harbour was constructed by the Emperor Trajan at the beginning of the 2nd century. The first occurrence of the name Centum Cellae is from a letter by Pliny the Younger(AD 107). The origin of the name is disputed: it has been suggested that it could refer to the centum (“hundred”) halls of the villa of the emperor.

In the early Middle Ages,[citation needed] Centumcellae was a Byzantine stronghold. Raided by the Saracens in 828, it was later acquired by the Papal States.

The place became a free port under Pope Innocent XII in 1696 and by the modern era was the main port of Rome. The French occupied it in 1849. On 16 April 1859 the Rome and Civitavecchia Rail Road was opened for service. The Papal troops opened the gates of the fortress to the Italian general Nino Bixio in 1870.

During World War II, Allied bombings severely damaged Civitavecchia, and caused civilian casualties.

The massive Forte Michelangelo was first commissioned from Donato Bramante by Pope Julius II, to defend the port of Rome. The upper part of the “maschio” tower, however, was designed by Michelangelo, whose name is generally applied to the fortress.

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And also next to the town is the location of the cruise ship docks. All major cruise lines start and end their cruises at this location, and others stop for shore excursion days that allow guests to see Rome and Vatican sights, which are ninety minutes away.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about Chimichanga…errr…

Moving right along–

(Oh, hey, they finally kicked on the air conditioning in the library. I can breathe again!)

The weather was as glorious as Pisa’s was nasty–temps were perfectly warm and the day was dry. Lots of scattered clouds–it was lovely.

We passed through the walled entry into the “Old Town” part of Rome, and after that it was just one jaw-dropping view after another. Yep–there is nothing to compare in the US–man-made, anyway.

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The bus let us off, and once again we were accosted by street vendors. It’s a good thing I’ve developed a penchant for ignoring people (it’s been a lifetime habit). Actually, if anyone got too forceful (which they didn’t–why waste your breath on one person when there are a thousand others coming at you), I would have not taken it well. I’m not one to put up with that sort of thing, much to Paul’s amused embarrassment. I proved that on a trip to Disneyland a few years ago–but that’s another story.

Paul and I headed for the Metro station, which was close to the Colosseum. Of course, with something that big so close by, I was not about to just hurry through. That camera worked overtime, I can tell you!

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IMG_20151015_1605062_rewind  Besides–who can hurry over these things???

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, most of my day was spent trying to keep up with my long-legged hubby. I’ve spent close to thirty years seeing the scenery from behind him. (He walks a 14-minute mile when he’s not even trying, while I’m lucky to do a 17-minute mile without getting winded. You see the difference…) He works at keeping his pace slowed, but I was especially not too fast this trip, considering the lump on the bottom of my foot. He really does deserve a medal for his patience. The only annoyance is – and he knows this – he forgets to look back to see if I’m still with him. I can’t hear him and he can’t hear me when we’re walking in this configuration, so when I stop to take a picture, he hasn’t heard that that is what I’m going to do. Fortunately for me, he is tall and I can see him in a crowd. He does stop on occasion, but when he has a destination in mind it’s “jenny-bar’the-door”, full speed ahead.

Okay–enough whingeing.

To continue:  the Metro station he remembered seeing (and using) seemed blocked by a renovation project, so we meandered through a few side streets to find the next one. This is perfectly fine with us–it’s one of the things we most enjoy about being in a foreign place. (There have been some less-than-comfortable adventures–Martinique springs to mind–but most have been great.)

We got to a Metro gopher hole and went down, figured out (sort of) where we were going, and hopped a train. We got off that one and onto another, ending up at sort-of where we wanted to be.

You gotta love a decent underground system. There isn’t a huge one in Rome, due to the substrate not being really cooperative. But it works well, and tons of people use it. You really have to not mind being closed in by other bodies to ride it though.

(I wrote this long before we hit Venice. That made Rome look like the wide plains of Wyoming by comparison.)

Where we came up wasn’t exactly where Paul was expecting, but it was close–we hoped. Off we went.

Man, there was no end of fountains and architecture and interesting doorways.

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We didn’t stop to tourist-gaze at too many, because our short stay in Rome was not near enough time to see everything. And we had definite things we wanted to see.

I found it fascinating that the streets were lined with orange trees. It’s not often that you’ll see fruit trees along major city streets. It looks like they keep the fallen fruit cleaned up fairly well, but I’d hate to be parked there and have an orange fall on my windshield.

Just as my feet were about to go on strike for shorter hours and a slower pace, we got to our destination: Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, or Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, which included a museum and an ossuary.

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Pictures, history, blahblahblah–I was eager to get to the reason we were there–the ossuary.

Honestly, words cannot describe. Neither could our cameras–picture-taking was not allowed. So–stock photos from Wiki:

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And, for your edification, a little Wiki-info:

The crypt is located just under the church. Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who was a member of the Capuchin order, in 1631 ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars exhumed and transferred from the friary Via dei Lucchesi to the crypt. The bones were arranged along the walls, and the friars began to bury their own dead here, as well as the bodies of poor Romans, whose tomb was under the floor of the present Mass chapel. Here the Capuchins would come to pray and reflect each evening before retiring for the night.

The crypt, or ossuary, now contains the remains of 4,000 friars buried between 1500 and 1870, during which time the Roman Catholic Church permitted burial in and under churches. The underground crypt is divided into five chapels, lit only by dim natural light seeping in through cracks, and small fluorescent lamps. The crypt walls are decorated with the remains in elaborate fashion, making this crypt a macabre work of art. Some of the skeletons are intact and draped with Franciscan habits, but for the most part, individual bones are used to create elaborate ornamental designs.

It wasn’t as “dark-cave-windy-passages” as I thought it would be. A short, straight walk past five niche-rooms filled with skeletal remains, graves, and what can only be described as “bone art”, It was simply incredible. One motif stays with me, simply because I concentrated on remembering it. On the ceiling between each room was a skull surrounded by pelvis bones, which made me think of a winged head–or a cherub that got way too close to Hell. I couldn’t even begin to draw it–perhaps I will ask my daughter to attempt it.

After the ossuary, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. I’m told that it’s a fantastic sight:

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However, this was another “next time” visit. It was closed off and drained for renovation. Well, another thing not everyone gets to see…

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Likewise the Spanish Steps–our next stop.

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Not everyone gets to see them devoid of people, as densely packed as pigeons on a rooftop. These were also closed for renovation. An excellent chance for decent, tourist-free pictures.

With little time left, we scurried back to the Underground. A short time later we came up at the Vatican. well, close anyway.

Nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of St. Peter’s Basilica–and the huge space in front of it. Pictures don’t do it justice–although we did our best. Much like the Grand Canyon, its vastness is lost in the camera’s lens.

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I did a 360-degree video of it, but WordPress doesn’t do videos. Honestly, I think I should upgrade one of these days.

We wandered for a short while, cameras snapping away. The languages of every place in the world washed over us like waves, which made me consider how much more alike all humanity is than what makes us different. Babel may have divided us, but our likes and dislikes, the way we move and react, our gestures and basic ways of comporting ourselves prove just how similar we are. I’m thinking that a place like St. Peter’s Basilica is much more conducive to international unity than the United Nations Plaza or any other politically-based center.

We looked at the line to get into the Basilica itself, and almost gave up on the idea (see last picture). But we decided too chance it anyway, and came out glad that we did. The line moved along quite fast, the only bog-down being at security. We had no trouble getting through, but other folks did.

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Oh my–the vastness of the interior! Niched walls and columns filled with huge statuary soar to frescoed ceilings, and side rooms with gold-leaf and Pope-filled altars (well, their reproductions, anyway) line the main area. People crowded in and wandered round-eyed through the place. I would have loved to stop off and pray in spots, but time was of the essence. I said a few quick prayers on the run instead.

I was a bit annoyed – no, very annoyed – at the people who selfied and had their friends take pictures of them pretending to hold up statues and such. To me, that’s plain disrespectful of others’ feelings of the sanctity of this space. I wouldn’t do that in a temple or mosque.

(I’ve had to shift my writing camp to the Game Room on the ship–it was way too hot in the library. Sweating bullets.)

All too soon we had to consider getting back to the bus. But first–a side trip to the public loo.

No locks on the (folding vinyl) doors. Also–something I found common throughout the rest of the trip–no toilet seats. Why? There was the ceramic bowl, and bolt holes to put in seats–but no seat. Were they afraid we’d steal them? I simply don’t get it.

On the way back to the bus, we noticed that the street hawkers pretty much left us alone. Their prey was still streaming into the area in droves–why try to glean from old stock?

We never did get into the Colosseum, and had only a brief look-see at the ruins of Palatine Hill.

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You canNOT do Rome justice in six brief hours. It would be tough trying to see it all in six days. Yep, two years from now we’ll definitely be back.

The trip back to the ship was just that–a bus ride. I finished a book I was reading on my phone, and Paul got in a nap. The only thing dramatic was when we got back to the marina–the water was getting rough out there, and once in awhile it would slosh over the sea wall. Once it about swamped a car that was driving past.

We had dinner, roamed the ship for a bit, then went to our room.

Tonight’s towel critter:

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Hard to tell, perhaps–it’s a snake.

 

 

 

 

 

There wasn’t a lot to choose from on the only English-language channel on the TV, so zonking out early seemed to be the only option. Believe me, we were happy to do just that.

Tomorrow – Naples and Herculaneum

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