Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 6 - Rome: Hey baby!

Our ship left Livorno last night around 7:00 and arrived in Civitavecchia this morning around 6:30. Civitavecchia is the port city to reach Rome, which is about an hour and a half inland and where we headed today. Once again, R and S took a guided tour of the city while Carolina and I hopped the ship's chartered bus for a ride in and then toured Rome on our own.

The weather so far on our trip has been hot, which I like! However, Rome today was a balmy 34 degrees celcius. In full sun, it was even hotter -- a little too intense when shade was scarce. 

The bus dropped us off near St. Peter's Square. 


From there we grabbed some coffee at a coffee bar, complete with grumpy, hungover man in shades at the cash and man with the piercing blue eyes (as Carolina refered to him) behind the counter. Even Carolina, a diehard tea drinker, succumbed to the aroma of roasted coffee beans.




Now caffeinated, we made our way through the crowded streets to the Metro, getting another glimpse of St. Peter's Square through the columns as we passed by.  



Carolina, playing in the fountain.



Having successfully navigated Rome's Metro service, we emerged from the dark station, into blinding sunlight and crowds of people coming and going in front of us. As I stood there outside the entrance, blinking, trying to get my eyes to adjust and get myself oriented, I realized that the hulking shape in front of me was the Colosseum!

Wow! We only had about 5 1/2 hours in Rome, so our sightseeing list had to be trimmed to a few items, and in that moment I was so glad that the Colosseum had made the cut.  It is a phenomenal site -- a chunk of history right in the middle of modern-day Rome. 









The Colosseum was built in AD 72-80 -- the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire.

The Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public ceremonies such as executions and dramas based on Classical mythology. Over the centuries it has been partially damaged by earthquakes and stone-robbers, but is still an impressive sight.

















Nearby is the Arch of Constantine, from AD 315, which commemorates Constantine I's victory over his rival, emperor Maxentius.  The arch stands 21 m high, and is 25.9 m wide and 7.4 m deep. 

The arch is composed of three arches, and is divided by four marble columns of Corinthian order.  The arch is decorated with parts of older monuments. The details in the friezes show victory in battle and scenes of hunting and sacrificing.

Arch of Constantine

Detail of the Arch of Constatine



Next, with the Colosseum behind us, we wandered down a path to the Arch of Titus, on the edge of the Palatine Hill at the entrance to the Roman Forum.   The arch was erected in 81 AD to celebrate the sack of Jerusalem after the great Jewish revolt in 70 AD.

Arch of Titus
Close up of the Arch of Titus
We also saw an archeological dig in progress, just to the left of the Arch of Titus.

As we exited the Forum, a hulking gladiator called out to us, "Baby, hey baby, I am your dream, baby!".  The Fabio look-alike was hoping we'd pay to have our pictures taken with him in his gladiator costume, but we passed up the opportunity deciding instead to escape the crowds, and move on in the direction of the Pantheon and find some lunch. 

But our walk up the Via dei Fori Imperiali took longer than planned as we kept stopping to look at ancient ruins and "newer" monuments and architecture along the way. 



Carolina, caught snapping a shot of more ruins.








Eventually, we stopped for lunch -- delicious grilled paninis in a little trattoria somewhere off Via del Corso -- and then found our way to the Pantheon.  Another wow!

Emperor Hadrian designed the structure in AD 118-25.  During its lifetime it has been used as a pagan temple and the Christian church Santa Maria ad Martyres. Parts of it have been taken over the years, such as the gilded roof tiles and bronze ceiling panels.

Doorway into the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon. 
The walls are 6.2 m thick and include arches that help to distribute the weight.



Light from the oculus


 The dome is the widest masonry dome in Europe -- 43.3m high and wide. The oculus, the 8.3 m hole in the centre, provides light and structural support as the tension around its ring helps to hold the weight of the dome.







After the Pantheon, we wandered the streets, taking in the busy Rome atmosphere and finding Caffè Sant’Eustachio, which reportedly has the best cappuccino in Rome. I can't vouch for the cappuccino, but the espresso was divine.


Next stop was the Piazza Navona, with its three fountains and lined with palaces, churches and cafes.

Fontana del Moro sculpted by Giacomo della Porta (1575).



Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian.





Fountain of Neptune (1574) by Giacomo della Porta. 


Carolina stopped for a treat of gelato. While she was inside, I amused myself by reading the signs posted outside the caffe.



Sadly, our time in Rome was winding down, so we set off to meet our bus by St. Peter's Square, finding a quiet and shaded little road to wander along and then crossing a bridge flanked by statues over the Fiume Tevere.








Looking at St. Peter's

While I think I preferred my day in Florence overall, Rome held some incredible sights. I hope I get back to Rome someday to see more since we didn't even scratch the surface here today.

After another fabulous, albeit hot and tiring, day I headed poolside once on board the ship, but stopped to take a few shots of the ship's interior first.


















Dinner was delicious, again.  I chose escargots to start, followed by salad and duck à l’orange. Not sure how I'll go back to normal food!







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