Monday, April 8, 2019

Rome, Italy - The Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica And More




I'm not sure how long a Mediterranean cruise was on our bucket list.  What I do know is that the reason we wanted to go on this cruise was because we wanted to see Rome more than anywhere else in the world.  We dreamed about visiting the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling and St. Peter's Basilica to see the beautiful Pieta, another Michaelangelo masterpiece.   So we found a 12 day cruise that included Rome and as a bonus, Venice which was also high on our bucket list.  Seeing Europe on a cruise allowed us to visit many interesting places in one trip, but it didn't leave us much time to spend in each place.  Besides for visiting Vatican City, we wanted to see the Trevi Fountain and other famous sights that are in Rome and we only had a few precious hours to fit it all in.

Our cruise ship docked in Civitavecchia which was miles away from Rome.  We needed to find the quickest way to get to Rome from there and decided that we would book the excursion, Train Transfer By Roma Express.  This express train would get us to Rome in 50 minutes and it would also include a shuttle ride to the train station which would save us from having to find the station ourselves.  It would also include a guide who would give us tips and other information that would help us find our way around Rome.

One of the things we like about cruising, besides for having a variety of excursions available that are easy to book, is that you have the chance of meeting new people that have very interesting stories to tell.  On our 50 minute train ride to Rome we sat with a couple from St. Louis.  They told us about how they lived in a total of seven states and were currently looking for a new state to live in.  One state they wouldn't return to is California because of their experience of being at the San Francisco - Oakland World Series game during the terrible earthquake of '89.  They do not want to relive the feeling of terror they felt as the stadium swayed back and forth.  I didn't blame them for feeling a little nervous about living there again!

Once we got to Vatican City, we took off to find the hop on, hop off bus that would bring us to four of the most famous sights of Rome.   We thought that would be the easiest and fastest way to get to each sight.  We needed to get back to the Vatican Museum by 1:00, which is the time we reserved in advance online, to enter.  This meant we only had time to take a quick picture and get to the next sight as quick as we could.  It turned out to be easier for us not to use the hop on, hop off bus and just use our legs, and GPS (that we finally figured out how to use) to get us to where we needed to go.  Our advice is to just use the cheaper bus to get you to this area and back if you are pressed for time.



After being stuck in traffic for most of the bus ride, we hopped off when it neared Trevi Fountain and ran.



After taking a few quick pictures and throwing our euro into a dry fountain, it was having it's annual cleaning!, we took off running to the Spanish Steps.



From the Spanish Steps we walked 30 minutes, along with many other tourists, to get to the Colosseum.  If we had more time we would have liked to have gone inside.  We'll have to go back one day I guess!


We are not complaining about the walk to the Colosseum, though, because we actually got to view a section of the Imperial Forum on the way.



After the Colosseum, we wanted to see the Pantheon but we ran out of time.  We didn't want to try to get into the Vatican Museum with a ticket that was expired like we did at the Accademia Gallery in Florence the day before.

We got back to Vatican City, with a few minutes to spare, we headed into the plaza where the Vatican Museum was.  We ran around trying to find the way in.  We were having a hard time finding someone to ask for help.  We finally found someone and he pointed to where we had entered the plaza.  The entrance was down the long block we had just come from, and around the corner.  We jumped on line even though we had tickets already and searched for someone to help us find the express line.  Someone eventually approached us and told us to follow him and he would get us in.  After following him for a very short time, we became suspicious of where he was taking us so we ditched him when he wasn't looking.  We did finally find the express entrance and we were only a couple of minutes late when we did.

We are not art experts so couldn't appreciate most of what was in the museum, but the ceilings were so gorgeous and it was so much fun to enter a room of the building and look up to see if we would be treated to a beautiful sight.  It got us very excited to see the amazing Sistine Chapel ceiling.

The Rotunda Room 

The Maps Hall



We were not allowed to take pictures of Michaelangelo's masterpiece but it was a dream come true to see it.  I couldn't believe that we were really there looking at probably the most famous painting found on a ceiling in the entire world.  Especially the Creation Of Adam in the central panel.  This is what I think of, when I am thinking of the Sistine Chapel painting.  The hands of God and Adam reaching towards each other with their fingers almost touching.

We read in Rick Steve's Mediterranean Cruise Ports guide that we could go directly to St. Peter's Basilica from the Sistine Chapel so that was our plan.  We were to find a shortcut exit labeled "Exit for authorized guides and tour groups only."  We found this exit at the far-right corner of the chapel and it brought us out into St. Peter's square.

We passed the Holy Door as we made our way to the basilica.  This door is only open during a holy year which occurs every 25 years.  The last time the door was open was in 2000.  The door, covered by a brick wall inside the basilica, opens after the Pope strikes the wall with a silver hammer.


Then we entered our last stop of the day.  St. Peter's Basilica was the highlight of our day.  We saved the best for last, though we didn't know that it would be.   And we also didn't know how emotional it would be to see Michaelangelo's Pieta.  We have seen pictures of it, the mother, Mary, holding her lifeless son, Jesus, in her arms, but seeing it in person brought it to life and made it so real and so sad.  But after the sadness, was the joy of seeing it right in front of us!



We were in awe of this gorgeous basilica and loved every inch of it.



Something very interesting to check out in the basilica is Pope John XXIII's body laid out in a lighted glass tomb.  Some say that it is a sign of a miracle that his body was completely intact after being buried for 38 years.  Because of the amazing condition of the body, the authorities decided to put it in the church for all to enjoy.  Pope John XXIII himself performed a miracle when he cured an Italian man who had a stomach tumor.



On the way out of the basilica we, passed the Pope's guards.  We were lucky enough that we got there right in time to witness the changing of the guards.



We weren't quite sure where we were supposed to meet our tour guide so we made sure we left the basilica with time to spare.  When we got to where we thought we were supposed to be, we met a lovely older couple from Belfast, Ireland who were as confused as we were as to where we were meeting our group.  They just got back from walking to the sights that we took the bus to see.  We were very impressed.  We told them all about our plans to visit Ireland in a couple of months and they were very happy to let us know what we must see.  They told us about the many vacations and cruises they have taken since they retired.  They took a break, though, when they started feeling their age but realized how short life is when the healthy husband suddenly needed 7 stents put into his heart and this was the reason they were vacationing again and on this Mediterranean cruise.

An English couple approached us as we were talking to the Irish couple.  They were new cruise friends of the Irish couple.  We started a conversation about how a fellow cruiser was left in Pisa the day before.   The English couple told us about their first cruise, this was their second, when they went to Israel.  The ship they were on abruptly took off  2 hours early and left 4 people behind when fighting erupted in Jerusalem and the government told the ship to leave immediately.  I can't even imagine the stress the 4 people experienced that day.  I hope they got out of there ok.

We were almost the group of people our fellow passengers would be talking about that night. We were so involved in our conversation, and standing in the wrong spot, that we nearly missed our group leaving for the train station.

On the train ride back to the ship, we sat with a couple from Australia.  I immediately announced that I might fall asleep on them but then we started talking and we were having such a nice time with them that it would have been fine with us if the bus trip back was even longer than it was.  Having just retired from working as a pre-school assistant for the last 17 years, I was very jealous of the perks teachers are offered in Australia.  The husband and wife were both teachers and mid-way through a 4 month vacation.   I wondered how they could manage to leave their students for 4 months.  I know we were not allowed to take vacation during the school year at our pre-school.  They explained that in Australia, after 10 years, teachers can accumulate time off.  The husband had enough time to take 6 months off and she had 4.  When they started making plans for this hiatus, they booked the Mediterranean cruise first and then planned the rest of their European vacation around it.   We had a great time talking about their vacation and then we told them how Australia was on our bucket list. (Read about Australia and other places on our bucket list here.)  We had never met anyone from Australia before and it was great to have someone answer all our questions.  But I was very disappointed to learn that we would not see koalas running across anyone's lawn.  I had heard that or read that, somewhere, but I guess it was "fake news."  Also, we found out that we need to book a tour through the outback if we want to see any kangaroos.

They were so wonderful about answering all our questions and giving us ideas of what we might want to put on our Things To Do In Australia list.  A couple of days after our visit to Rome, Soko ran into the couple and they gave him this list they prepared for us.


You really can meet some of the nicest, most interesting, people on a cruise!





2 comments:

  1. Thanks for your lovely comment and for sharing your interesting trip to Rome,
    I wish to visit them some day..

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