Tour: Vatican Museums, St Peters & Coliseum (Adults Only)
This was going to be the longest day of them all, I had absolutely no illusions about that. It was also going to be the longest time I spent in a bus, as the drive from the port – Civitavecchia – and Rome was an hour and a half one way.. and that was with good traffic. In any case, it meant that I would have to get up early – somewhere around half past 6 in the morning, if I remember correctly. I grabbed breakfast at some time around 7am and loitered around on deck in the early morning sunshine, praying that the sun would prevail.
8am was the meeting time, and from there we headed down to the waiting bus where our Tour Escort presented herself – don’t ask me to remember her name, I purposefully forgot it because.. honestly.. she was awful. Terrible. Horrible. From the outset she treated us like children – and remember that this was an adult’s only tour – and at numerous points she actually swore when giving her commentary. She told us -TOLD US – we would be taking a ‘peepee break’, that we’d have 30 minutes once we got to the restroom complex, and that if we didn’t get back in time she would ‘kick our asses’. I wish I was kidding on this point, but I’m not. For the level of service I’ve become accustomed to with the Disney company, I certainly didn’t expect a sub-par employee like that..
Fortunately when we hit Rome itself we were gifted with an actual Tour Guide whose work and attitude was markedly better. We briefly toured some of the sights without stopping – the Circus Maximus, the pyramid which was actually a mausoleum at the edge of Rome’s walls, the Roman Forum, the ‘wedding cake’ also known as the Palazzo Venezia and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier – and finally we pulled up close to the coliseum and stepped into the cloying Rome heat to look up at one of the most famous monuments on earth..
I’d been to the Coliseum before, but last time I’d been here our visit to the Eternal city of Rome was somewhat ruined by the fact that my mother was pickpocketed and we ended up spending half the day in the Police Station as opposed to seeing the city. I wasn’t entirely interested in this part of the tour so I found myself tuning out and just looking at the sights instead of listening to the history. I’d heard it before – the burning of Christians, the gladiator fights, mechanisms for lifts in the coliseum, where the Emperor sat etc – so I took photos and enjoyed the sun. I couldn’t help but think that it would be so incredibly different when I got home, as in New Zealand it would be winter when I returned. An about face from the weather I’d had so far on the cruise, which was a shame. I love the sun!
Following the tour it was lunchtime – hurrah! The restaurant was only a couple of minutes walk from the coliseum itself, located in a quiet part of Rome – which was all the more surprising given its proximity to several key tourist locations. Just before we got to the restaurant itself, I found 20 Euro on the ground!! It seemed that the day was getting better as it went on..
Tucked away in a small street and underground in what seemed to have been a wine cellar at one point, the decor was one of those ‘classic meets modern’ affairs, and the food was.. disappointing. I chalked it up to the fact that Disney had been spoiling me and made the most of the glasses of champagne and wine that were included with the meal before we had to leave once more.
Sleepy and full we walked back to the bus, which was parked up a small hill. That hill, combined with my full stomach, felt like Baldwin St (the steepest st in the world, for those who aren’t in the know), but I managed to waddle up it and clamber into the bus. Then we were headed for the Vatican City and my 28th country!!
We parked beside the walls, took another short walk (a lot of walking on this tour!) and finally found ourselves in the line for the Vatican Museums. We’d been pre-warned about having to go through the security check, and it was much like going through airport security except we didn’t have to take off our shoes (thank goodness, the line was long enough already!!). Once through the guide collected us together, handed out tickets and took us up the stairs to where we inserted ourselves into what was supposed to be another line, except really it was just a mass of people all pushing and shoving to scan their tickets and get through the turnstiles. It. Was. Horrible. Mainly because I was stuck next to a man who smelled like old sweaty socks, but the crush of people would have been enough to make me uncomfortable.
Europeans have no concept of lines. I’ve become familiar with this since living in France and watching people at Disneyland Paris simply leap on the characters instead of lining up to greet them as they would in the States. It’s bad enough at DLP, but when you’re trying to buy something in a shop it’s even worse. The majority of the time they act as if they didn’t see you, and I’ve flat out heard some people say ‘she’s foreign, don’t worry about it’ when pushing in lines/groups/crowds. It’s like I have a massive neon sign over my head, I swear.
Anyway, tirade over, we managed to get through the mass of people, group up once more and head up the escalator and into the galleries. Everything was just.. amazing. I especially loved the Gallery of Maps (shown below) and the giant bronze ball in the same courtyard as the massive pinecone statue.
Then finally we found ourselves in another ‘line’ to get into the Sistine Chapel, where we weren’t allowed to take photos. I was pretty annoyed about that, to be honest. I mean.. it’s the Sistine Chapel, supposed to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, something most people would want to document. I uh.. yeah. I might have documented it a little bit.
Anyway, on with the tour! The Sistine Chapel done with, we moved on to St Peter’s Basilica. The first thing I could think of when I saw the interior was ‘seriously? this is a church?’ It’s huge. I mean HUGE. HUUUUUUUUGE. The roof just soars over your head and the artwork is insanely exquisite. My favourite piece was the Pieta, despite its’ being encased behind bulletproof glass (thanks to a psycho with a hammer a couple of years back), which is just.. stunning. The expression on Mary’s face as she holds the body of Jesus is almost heartbreaking. You can feel the emotion. My photo doesn’t do it justice, but here’s an idea of the statue if you’ve never seen it before:
The rest of the Basilica was breathtaking. We had a little bonus in seeing Jean Paul II’s tomb, which is located in the basilica at the moment due to his recent beatification. Right down the middle of the church were markers that gave the length of different churches such as Notre Dame, in order to compare them to the basilica itself.
Anyway, we made our way out of the basilica after much ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, then walked out to the center of the courtyard and we could see the roof of the Sistine chapel – where the smoke comes out when a pope is chosen. We had a couple of minutes to take more photos, get gelato and pizza, and then we waited on the bus to pick us up whilst being plagued by buskers and beggars alike. Common for large European cities, apparently.
The drive back to Civitavecchia was mostly spent counting hookers – 6 in total, if you’re interested – who were standing along the edge of the highway just outside of Rome. I took a small nap, but mostly I was looking forward to dinner and watching the Animator’s Palate light up that evening. We made it back to the boat uneventfully, I got ready for dinner and headed to the restaurant a little early, sat outside and read a book for a while.
Animator’s Palate, for those who don’t know, is a restaurant that starts out black and white and slowly colours itself in during your meal. It cost around 5 million USD alone, and it’s my favourite restaurant out of the 3 on board the Magic and the Wonder. That night was ‘show night’ and slowly the room came alive with videos and pictures around the walls, course by course.
Tonight’s fare included butternut squash soup, stir fry veggies and chocolate cake. Yummm.. makes me wish I was back on the boat! I followed it up with some quality comedy by Danny Buckler, who was truly the best comedian I saw on the ship. Highly recommended! Finally, I mosied on down to bed and hit the pillows. It’d been a long, long day and tomorrow would probably be no better!
Facebook Status: “Don’t mind me, just taking some illegal photos here….!”
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