Day 05, Rome Saturday, 16 April 2016

I woke up before the alarm so had my shower early. We went down to breakfast and had the same things as yesterday, only there was a surprise in Russell’s scrambled eggs – glass slivers. He put the eggs to the side of his plate after separating the two pieces of glass he found (thank God he didn’t swallow any) and I took a photo of them. I later let Giuseppe know so that he could speak with the kitchen staff.

When we went back up to our room we sorted out what we were taking with us and, with great excitement, went down to the coach. We all need to walk to the end of our smallish block to board the coach as the street is too narrow for Marco (our coach driver) to navigate.

When we got on the coach we had presents on our seats. Two different audio sets – one for use within the Vatican, and the other is issued to each person for the duration of the tour, to be used when we walk with the expert local guide.

The weather is a brisk 12 degrees and it is expected to warm up to a lovely 24 degrees with a breeze.

We were on our way when I realised that I could not take any photos. I couldn’t get it to register any info and I was missing sights along the way. With a minor heart attack, and a lot of swearing, I realised I had left my SD card in the computer the previous evening. I was really not impressed with myself.

Russ graciously offered me the use of his camera, but that didn’t seem fair that he should miss out and pay for my stupidity, so I declined. I fumed the rest of the way to the Vatican City and was prepared for a disappointing time.

However, Russ was speaking with a mum and her daughter, Heather, and Heather very kindly offered her spare memory card to me to use for the rest of the day. Blessing be upon her, she saved my day from disaster. I thanked her kindly and we loaded it into my camera.

Considering how early it is in the morning the place was packed already. We did get to by-pass the long queue waiting to go in the public entrance, and went to the front of the line to be dutifully scanned before we were granted entrance. We had to have our phones, our cameras, any jackets, and any backpacks scanned while we walked through the scanner by ourselves. Thankfully, we all passed successfully.

Marco was a font of information most of which I will not remember. I can remember things like there are 900 churches in Rome (just about one every few corners), lots of historical stuff about the practices of voting in a new pontiff and how it came about because of so much corruption, and how the popes in the past were very much interested in the position as it gave their families more power both politically and economically.

The present Pope works in the Pope’s quarters, but lives and sleeps in a separate part of the Vatican City, which employs over one thousand people to administer all parts of it. Some live in the city and many come to the city daily.

We passed through sections of the Museum with Marco providing a commentary along the way, and finally came to the Sistine Chapel. I think most people forget it is a church, and should be used for prayer. It is also a really small church – like 14 metres across and about 40 metres long. It was highly comical that we were all crammed into this little area and talking about the paintings of Michelangelo on the ceiling, and the amazing wallpaper on the walls, and with the papal police repeatedly having to thunder Silenzio! over the PA system, and then No Photos! No photos! Needless to say the sound diminished for at least thirty seconds before everyone starting talking again. You walk in the door at one end of the Chapel, and exit by the door at the other end, along with hundreds of other people.

By the time we had made it to the Chapel we were very tired of walking. It was nice to have five minutes sitting along the walls before getting up and letting someone else have a chance to rest their weary bodies.

We met up again with Marco and made our way outside the Sistine Chapel. We next wended our way through the copious mass of humanity who were also going to visit St Peter’s Basilica. There are five entrances to the Basilica. The common mob (excuse me, please) went into line at Door one. We made our way to Door two and entered the church. It is certainly an imposing structure, and the walls and ceilings, sculptures and artwork are incredible. Because it is such a tourist spot the pews have been removed and replaced with common plastic seating which somewhat spoils the ambience. Photos do not do it any justice. The altar area was off limits as they were preparing for a telecast of Sunday’s Mass (minus the Pope, of course) and the TV technicians and the choir were all practising. I found it impossible to get shots over the heads of all the people in front, and Marco asked Russ to lag at the back so we did not lose any of our group in the chaos.

It was time to find some lunch. We found a sidewalk restaurant after eating a muesli bar each, and were presently joined by two Americans from Milwaukee. They had a salad each and Russ and I had fresh pineapple. It was juicy, fresh and delicious. The sugar content went a long way to reviving us for the next part of the day.

We all met up again at 12 noon and started back to the coach. We were once again joined by Giuseppe, and Marco was coming with us to the Colosseum. This bit I did remember. Originally it was called Flavius’ Amphitheatre (him being the Caesar at the time it was built) but by the 13th century most people had forgotten it’s true name and were calling it the Colosseum because it was such a colossus structure.

Many of the myths we believe in were shattered during the next hour. Nero was long buried by the time of the gladiators, and he had nothing to do with Rome burning down as he wasn’t even present in the city at the time. The tunnels existed underneath the arena stage so the gladiators never came through the arches as has been depicted in many films. Sand had to be carried in by slaves between bouts of fights in order to cover the blood which seeped into the porous stone of the arena stage.

The reason the Colosseum is so unstable now is that the original structure was built to withstand earthquakes, and the stone walls and columns were joined by iron nails. Over time iron became a hot commodity and it was extracted from the walls and re-used. This caused the structure to become unstable, and it eventually started falling down.

Mussolini was responsible for much of its newer facade and it is evident to see the differences in the building. It could hold thousands of people when it was in operation. The Caesar of the time (can’t remember him) would watch from the balcony of his palace which overlooks the structure. He didn’t need to face the masses to oversee the action.

We were once again subjected to the scanning routine before we were able to enter the Colosseum. Russell graciously asked me to put his Swiss Army Knife into my backpack for scanning purposes (note the sarcasm). Which explains why I was stopped and asked about my knife and was expected to produce it for the inspection of the policeman – it’s that little grey haired lady syndrome again! I was expecting to have it confiscated, and couldn’t believe it when he allowed me to put it back in the backpack.

It is incredible to think that these structures are hundreds of years old and we are still able to walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans.

We got back onto the coach while it was trying to rain (didn’t last more than 20 drops) and started back to the hotel. We went past Circus Maximus which these days is a very large park like area several metres lower than the surrounding roadways. However, most of you will know it as the place where the gladiators had their chariot races as seen in Ben Hur. It is a large area.

Tonight is a walk around other sections of Rome but Russ and I have decided it will end far too late for us to be able to take part in the optional extra. If they would just go to the Trevi Fountain and a few other places in that area and then return it would have been good, but they are doing the dining again and will not be back to the hotel until after 9:00pm. As we have to have our suitcases outside our doors by 6:30am this means getting up about 5:45am, and we would never survive the rest of the day ahead.

Russ and I had tea at the little restaurant across the street – he had spaghetti marinara, and I had single portion lasagne baked in a ramekin. We enjoyed the meal immensely. Then I did some work on the photos for uploading before going nigh nighs.

Tomorrow we are off to see Pisa and to stay the night in Florence.

1 thought on “Day 05, Rome Saturday, 16 April 2016

  1. Jeannie

    your photos are spectacular. Love the Sistine Chapei. Keep the photos coming.

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