Saturday, November 14, 2009

Roaming Rome

11th October 2009- Civitavecchia, Italy

In the early hours we navigated to the east of the Island of Ponza and continued our track parallel to the Italian coast through the eastern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Shortly after sunrise the ship turned to the northeast to approach the breakwater. We embarked the harbour Pilot at 06:03. On entering the harbour the ship was turned 180 degrees at rest before berthing port side alongside.

A quick breakfast then hustle on down to catch the bus for "Rome on Your Own." We had a tour guide on the bus to point out interesting sites passed by the bus. She had a thick accent (yep, Italian---Surprise!) and was a bit hard to understand at times. I didn't realize it would be so far from the port to Rome. Apparently there was a closer port at one time, Ostia, but it became unusable due to silt and sediment. Emperor Trajan built Civitavecchia as a new port, guarded by a renaissance fort completed by Michelangelo in 1557. The bus route passed through more modern parts of Rome before arriving at our drop off just outside of St. Peter's Square.

Our guide told us the time to report back and the
place to assemble for the return trip. She also warned us to be aware of our belongings and to watch out for "pickapockets-uh" and "gypsies-uh." Had never been warned about gypsies before. How do ya know one if ya see one? Do they wear costumes or badges or something? Anyway, I considered myself warned.

We were told that the Basilica at St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel would not be open until later in the day because there were ceremonies cannonizing five new saints. OK, so no standing in line to see something of which there are pictures in books. A bit disappointing, but Onward! There was an abundance of statuary everywhere...must have been sculptors everywhere. A priest gave me a rosary, and I saw the Pope on a large screen delivering a speech. No idea what he said or why he appeared to be green in the picture I took of the screen.

I wonder how far stone had to be hauled for all of this construction and sculpture. I heard that sometimes materials were "borrowed" from older buildings to construct new ones, and that some structures were significantly modified over the years. One such structure was the Castel Sant'Angelo, built as a tomb for the Emperor Hadrian and later fortified as part of the walls of the city. Loved the Archangel Michael at the top!

Next stop... the Pantheon, built in the first century. How in the world did they build these structures with no equipment? My simple little house would have been a trial without a tractor and power tools.
It was actually smaller than I expected it to be--not too sure where the expectation came from. Yet one would think a "Temple to All the Gods" would have to be big for lots of gods to be included. On to the Forum, which really wasn't too very far away.

No funny things happened on the way to the Forum.... (get the allusion?) However, on the way to the Colosseum, I could swear I heard Native American flute music. There were some street performers along the thoroughfare, including (drum roll, please) Fancy Dancers!

Suddenly it seemed as though I were back in Oklahoma. Didn't expect them in Roma, Italia.

The remains of the Colosseum were really awesome. Many obvious steps were taken to preserve the structure and prevent its further degeneration. Too many tourist dollars at stake to allow it to crumble, aside from the historical significance.

And how in the world does one sculpt something so massive as this?
Can you see the size of the people at the base of this horse and rider? Amazing!
Wow! I can't even imagine translating a model into a sculpture of that size. We went to the Forum Museum where displays explained the process of restoration--interesting. Time for lunch. Lots of street vendors, but nowhere to sit. Mike suggested we get off the main thoroughfare to find somewhere to sit down and eat. Lead on, Macduff! As previously mentioned, I must attach myself to someone with a chance of getting me back to where I need to be when I need to be there. We found a little place with sidewalk seating, well, practically in the road, but seemingly well patronized. Janet seemed less than impressed with her sandwich, but my chicken salad looked tasty. No dressing? Hey, I'm American! Where's the fat?

We taxi'd back towards St. Peter's and Hadrian's Tomb.
Lots of activity back at St. Peter's. There was a parade with drums and piping and flag tossing guys performing. I turned to see people in bright yellow T-shirts leading burros, followed by similarly clad folks on horseback. There were Bavarian looking girls too.

I suppose all of this was not necessarily the usual thing, but it must have been tied in to the beatification of five new saints. Maybe these groups of costumed people were from the home regions of these new saints. I don't know.

We got back on the bus, where a guide continued to give us information about the city in heavily accented English. She kept stressing that one needed at least a week in Rome to do the city justice. I'm sure that's true, but one must also take what she gets. It's life: roll with what you've got! She was explaining the significance of the colors on the uniforms of the Vatican Swiss guards. The uniforms were designed by Michelangelo.

"Yellow is for the sun-uh; blue is for the sky-uh; red-uh is for the bloooood-uh."

"What is bluedah?" came from beside me.

Um, I believe that's "blood."

Arrivederci, Roma!

With confirmation of all passengers and crew onboard, we struck our gangways at 18:45, and our local Pilot boarded seaside at 19:03. Shortly after we let go all our lines and maneuvered off our berth and exited Civitavecchia harbour en-route to Livorno.

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