The next port was Civitavecchia which gave us access to Rome. I couldn’t have been more excited. Honestly, I didn’t think that was possible. But the more I thought of all the places I would have the chance to visit – well–
The next morning, I wolfed down breakfast and played the impatient waiting game until everyone else could get their crap together. This was one of the ports where we had things planned for–a tour and the places the tour would take us. The Coliseum, The Vatican – including St Peter’s Basilica, as well as lunch in Rome.
I. Was. Pumped!
As we drove through the streets, I realized how very little has changed. Aside from technology, most of the streets we travelled on were not paved with asphalt but with a kind of material that resembled cobblestones. It made for a very, very bumpy ride.
We were driven by where Julius Cesar was killed, shown the home of the current Roman leader, drove by one of the churches that is said hold one of the Holy Doors (porta Sancta). We were shown where Mussolini gave his speeches. We were also shown the historic theatre and was told of Nero and the burning of Rome. Historians believe that
Emperor Nero burned down a great portion of Rome so he could build his massive royal compound. He took up a great portion of the seven hills of Rome. Our guide, Piera, doesn’t believe that.
I still believe Nero was batshit crazy.
Finally, we arrived at the Coliseum aka Flavian Amphitheatre. Even as our tour bust drove alongside it my eyes burned with tears. I was in awe of this structure built around 70 to 80 AD that still stood as large as anything else. There is something remarkably humbling, standing in the shadows of this spectacular piece of history and walking along cobble stones that were laid during the reign of Emperor Flavian.
Piera explained the history behind it, that it was free to enter but people were all given tickets. Above the arches (entrances) are Roman numbers which she explained were on the tickets to tell people which gates to enter through to get to their seats. Seating was in kind of a caste system, of course. Inside, gladiators fought each other, animals fought animals–this was also a kind of a zoo as well. This was where people would see Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh my!
Around the coliseum, houses are standing where families live. Beneath all that are the sleeping quarters of the gladiators, the animals, the gladiators’ hospital etc. According to Piera, th
ere is an entire city beneath the current structures.
Also, the Coliseum was called the Flavian Amphitheatre but was called the Coliseum because there was a massive, golden (of course golden) statute of Nero outside it. It was called The Colossus. During the dark ages and the decline of the Roman empire, the statue was melted down to make weapons for the constant battles Rome had to face – from outside forces and the dueling wealthy families within to civil wars. It was a bad time for Rome.
Another thing I learned, the French had this habit of building an Arc de Triumph everywhere. There was one in Barcelona that I had a chance to visit but was too tired to go. And guess what? There’s one in Rome right outside the Coliseum!
We wandered through Rome, stopping in certain places on the way to learn about little
bits of history that had me enthralled. There are Egyptian towers in the City, including one in the Vatican. There are statutes and monuments everywhere and each and every one of them has a story.
There was something about walking amongst these things, some of them built before the coliseum which mean they were built WAY before modern technology. Yet they stand as they were built yesterday. I absorbed the feel of them, touching everything I could, dragging my fingers through the fountain waters, wishing in every one I could.
I drank from some of the statues as our guide told us the water was some of the cleanest in the world. She knew the different ones we could drink from and which we shouldn’t. She drank from each and every one of them as well to prove we could and since I drink a lot of water, it was a blessing for me.
I’d always seen the Trevi fountain in movies. People would throw their money in and make a wish. Though it wasn’t on our itinerary, Piera brought us to it, explaining the history behind it. Of course, it was very crowded but we made our way as far down as we could until I could get a coin and make my own wish. I shed a tear then, because that
was a dream in itself. Piera I noticed that at the top of them there were names and years. Piera explained the names were of religious leaders.
Point, there is a lot of religious symbols and monuments in Rome. At one point, even today, Popes held a lot of power and wealth in Rome. Most of the buildings and statues and churches etc were built by popes or were commissioned to be built by popes. Some of the buildings in the city were built from other buildings that were pillaged of their wealth and brought back to satisfy the need to build by the popes.
She told us stories of some of the wealthiest families back in the day living in Rome being the Pope and the Catholic church. We were even taken through the ‘ghettos’ of Rome where the powers that were at the time relegated the Jewish people, forcing them to live in not so pristine conditions. I realize hate has always been in fashion – I was extremely sad at that.
As I stood, staring at the fountain, I realized, a few hours in Rome just wouldn’t do it. I totally have to go back.
Next, one of my favorite part of each port – FOOD!
We were taken to this beautiful, authentic Roman restaurant where the owner attended to us personally. He is friends with the lady who put the tour together. He was a lovely man who made us laugh. Here I had freshly made mozzarella wrapped in Prosciutto.
Note – during this trip, I was advised to eat all the things! I ate all the things. I’d never had this before and was a little leery at first. But, I remember that when in Rome… Curious, I cut into the one sitting before me. I skipped the olives–I won’t eat that anywhere.
It was delicious. My mom and I ate an entire one by ourselves and then we started in on another one. We were also served fresh bread, keep in mind, everything was made on site. The bread was still warm and with homemade butter, I had to push the plate away from me and into the center of the table. Everything was so yummy.
Next, came the pasta. I was waiting for that moment. We were allowed have two types because we were tourists. We were given the chance to try two in one which was
amazing and I jumped at the chance.
It was a bit salty but good. Others in our group were complaining the pasta was hard. The thing is, we were in Rome and pasta is always cooked al dente. They don’t cook it within an inch of its life like we do here on this side of the world.
I enjoyed as much as I could then had to stop because of how salty it was. I was able to eat a little more of it than others because, as planned, I ordered a beer with my own. While the others ordered wine. I figured, I could have wine any time but my goal was to have a beer in every port.
We then rushed to The Vatican. What we didn’t know was that the day we were there was a public holiday. The lines at The Vatican was surprising. We would have had to get there at least at 7am to make much of a move. But we were taken into The Vatican and shown around the square. I drank from the water spout and marveled in the history around us. We couldn’t get into St. Peter’s Basilica because of the LONG line. My mom was disappointed and so was I. But I was just happy to be in that space.