Mediterranean Sea – Rome

On our third stop on our Mediterranean Cruise, the cruise ship docked at Civitavecchia which is 70 miles away from Rome by bus.  Once in Rome half of our group would visit the Colosseum,

Roman Colosseum
Roman Colosseum

and half would visit the Vatican. We chose the Vatican.

St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican

What was so surprising about our visit to Rome is how much the city and the Vatican has changed since 1997 when I was last there with a youth (teens) group. Although it might have been possible to get advance tickets with an admission time stamped on it, we were not aware of it.

Old Roman Buildings
Old Roman Buildings
Our Vatican Entrance Ticket
Our Vatican Entrance Ticket

It was nice to see that this time we could take advantage of some good, modern technology to make things go smoother.  Thousands of people were expected to come to hear the Pope speak in St. Peter’s Square on the day we arrived as he does almost every Wednesday. We, however, were given time-stamped passes that were purchased ahead of time which allowed us to skip the line.  We merely entered through a side entrance to the Vatican at our appointed time and followed our excellent Vatican guide. Another upgrade is the interactive board available to guides to give a preview of what we will be seeing in the various galleries as well as the Sistine Chapel. In the following picture, I am photographing over the shoulders of visitors as our guide explains our tour and merely touches the board to point out highlights of the Sistine Chapel.

Photography was not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, same as last time.

 

Our Roman Guide and the Interactive Board
Our Vatican Guide shows the Sistine Chapel on the Interactive Board

We listened to her via an audio earpiece as we learned about the Vatican.  A not-so-positive new addition to the Vatican visit this time were the booths selling trinkets in almost all of the galleries.

Wonderful artwork lined the walls of each of the galleries leading to the Sistine Chapel. Frescoes and wall art were on every surface and we were allowed to photograph anywhere.

Wall Frescos in the Vatican
Wall Frescoes in the Vatican

Foot traffic through the Vatican flows at a pretty good pace. It is difficult to slow down and  take your time to admire all the ancient art.  The same goes for the modern museum of Christian Art in the Vatican – slow down to take it all in or go when it is less crowded. Not an option for us on this tour.

Statuary in the Vatican Galleries
Statuary in the Vatican Galleries

Flat wall paintings which were painted to look like 3-dimensional raised woodwork.

Flat Wall Art which Looks Three-dimensional
Flat Wall Art which Looks Three-dimensional

The spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum was a work of art in itself.

The spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum
The spiral staircase at the Vatican Museum

Unfortunately, because of the crowds and time constraints, we were not able to visit the St. Peter’s Basilica or St. Peter’s Square.

After a walk to a wonderful Roman lunch, we passed by this street scene.

Twin Pinocchio Statues at a Roman Restaurant
Twin Pinocchio Statues at a Roman Restaurant

We continued our tour to the Spanish Steps. According to Wikipedia, the Spanish Steps are a set of steps in Rome climbing a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. The stairway of 135 steps linked the Bourbon Spanish Embassy, and the Trinità dei Monti church that was under the patronage of the Bourbon kings of France, both located above, to the Holy See in Palazzo Monaldeschi located below. The stairway was designed by architects Sanctis and Specchi.

Spanish Steps
Spanish Steps, Looking up to the Trinita dei Monti Church on Top

Movie buffs might remember Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck at the Spanish Steps in the movie Roman Holiday, 1953. I think she is eating an ice cream cone there. Also, the Steps were a prominent feature in the film, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” starring Matt Damon in the title role.  Below: The view from the top of the Spanish Steps shows a typical mid-day street scene in Rome. The Spanish Steps is the widest staircase in Europe.

Roman Street Scene - View from the Spanish Steps
Roman Street Scene – View from the Spanish Steps

Modern Day Frescoes – Prada Ads are paintings on the side of buildings.

Modern Day Frescoes - Prada Advertisement
Modern Day Frescoes – Prada Advertisement

The Trevi Fountain is huge marble sculpture of mermen, seahorses, and cascading pools all surrounding the sea god Neptune. But the marble works are not that old, compared to the rest of Rome. In 1732, Pope Clement XII held a competition to find an architect to design a new fountain for the aqueduct that had been pumping fresh water into Rome since 19 B.C. The design was awarded to Nicola Salvi, but The Trevi Fountain was completed in 1762 by the architect Giovanni Pannini.

The Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain
Statue of Neptune, Trevi Fountain
Statue of Neptune, Trevi Fountain

Tourists also visit the Trevi Fountain to toss a coin. Tradition says that if you toss a coin into the Trevi, then you will be assured a return trip to the Eternal City.

Next up – Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento, Italy