Day 7: Rome and The Vatican

We woke up this morning docked in the port of Civitavecchia. This is not Rome; Rome is over an hour’s drive away. If you had decided to make your own plans, you were either going to pay over 500 Euros round trip for a taxi or jumping on the train for about 75 Euros. Fortunately, we had a tour booked with the cruise line and didn’t have to worry about any of that.

We left this morning  on our bus around 9AM and made our way to Rome. Our tour started with a drive around the city, which was nice up until we were supposed to go by the Colosseum. Apparently there was some sort of protest or strike going on, and several streets were blocked off by the police. Despite our driver’s best efforts, we weren’t able to get access to the Colosseum area, so he decided to wait until the end of the day and try again.

We were dropped off in the Piazza del Popolo (the People’s Plaza) where we were given an hour and a half of free time to explore Rome. We followed our guide to the Spanish Steps and the fountain at the Piazza di Trevi, but from there we struck out on our own. We grabbed some pizza at a local restaurant (the Italians’ obsession with pizza seems equivalent to the Americans’ obsession with burgers) and then made our own way to the Pantheon and the Piazza Venezia to take some photos.

After that, we made our way straight back up the Via del Corso to meet with our tour guide back at Piazza del Popolo to reboard the bus and head to the Vatican. Our entire group made it back on time, save for two people. We waited around for them for another twenty minutes, but our tour guide eventually decided to give up on them and head to the Vatican to keep on schedule. Just as our bus was about to pull away from the curb, the final two people came running up just in the nick of time to join us for the last part of our tour. Talk about a lucky break!

We were dropped off at the Vatican where we were handed over to our Vatican guide, Christine, who took us through the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. All of the artwork was simply gorgeous. I especially enjoyed seeing the various maps of Italy painted on the walls, as well as the enormous tapestries that hung from the walls. I have to say that for some reason I expected the Sistine Chapel to be larger, but the paintings inside were just as magnificent as I was led to believe.

What completely blew me away was St. Peter’s Basilica. The whole thing is on such a massive scale, and the frescos and sculptures appear just flawless. I think I was able to get some really good photos from interesting angles here with such a wide open interior, and I’m looking forward to taking a proper look at them back home. The whole trip was amazing, and the only thing I really hated about it was the crowds.

Rome itself is already crowded, but the Vatican itself is practically intolerable. They really need to do some sort of timed tours where they control the amount of people let in at once and force them along a single path. Allowing everyone in at any time and having it set up where multiple paths converge on single, small choke points makes for some very uncomfortable situations. There were several times where I thought someone would end up falling down stairs or getting crushed in a crowd, but fortunately I didn’t see anyone get hurt.

Once were we done in St. Peter’s, we exited into the square and had a few minutes to visit the souvenir shop. Our gifts purchased, we then boarded our bus for the last time. We made our way back to the Colosseum area, and thankfully the crowds had dispersed so we could get our photos. With that taken care of our driver got back on the A12 to head back to port, and 90% of us immediately fell asleep, having been on our feet for almost eight hours.

When we got back to our room, we opened our complementary bottle of wine and relaxed a bit before heading to dinner. Our dinner tonight was back in the main dining room, where we were seated with Barry and Kris, a wonderful couple from the UK who are enjoying cruising in their retirement. We had a lovely conversation with them over dinner, and apparently they are as big of fans of American TV drama as we are, so we had lots to talk about. We also brought each other up to speed on our respective political climates, which was quite an enlightening conversation.

Tomorrow we will be docking in Livorno, which is the closest port to Florence, but we won’t be visiting that city. Instead, we will be heading into Tuscany to visit a winery where we will go to the local market to select some ingredients, make our own lunch, and sample some wines from the vineyard in the process. It will be a nice, relaxing respite after such a full day today.

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