As we drove into the huge city, I was once again surprised by the aridness of the land near the sea. I saw large cacti and short, stout olive trees. Right next to the port, there were ruins - parts of an old fortress, whose walls were meant to keep out invaders arriving by sea.
Once in Rome, we drove past several key buildings:
|Piazza Venezia - at the hub of central Rome, the buildings were once the embassy of the Republic of Venice in Rome.|
|Armed sentries at the site of Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier|
First up: the Trevi Fountain. This impressively large fountain (86 ft high by 161 ft wide) was built in 1762 by Pietro Bracci. It was work commissioned by Pope Urban VIII to be both beautiful and bring fresh water into the city. It was carved from travertine stone, which was quarried nearby. As you can see, they are restoring the fountain, but it will be glorious when they finish.
|The papal seal is seen at the top.|
|It's the largest baroque fountain in the city, and the most well-known fountain in the world. King Neptune's tritons guard the waters of Rome.|
|We were given free time near the fountain, and Chris and I admired the ancient columns facing the fountain.|
Next we walked along the narrow cobblestone streets a few blocks, and as we came out around a cafe, we saw this:
The Pantheon. Finished sometime around 126 AD, this is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in the world. It is also the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. It was built as a temple to the many gods that Romans believed in at the time, and has since had christian modifications.
|The large, heavy looking doors into the Pantheon.|
|The area just below the oculus is roped off because rains make the floor slippery. The marble work is beautiful.|
The pantheon serves as a tomb for painters Raphael and Carracci, composer Corelli, and 2 Kings of Italy.
|The Fontana del Pantheon, featuring an egyptian obelisk. Built in 1575. Intended to bring fresh water into the city. Ancient plumbing!|
We walked on from the Pantheon a few blocks, and entered into another square: Piazza Navona. The first thing we noticed in this plaza was the church: Sant'Agnese in Agone. It was named for Saint Agnes, an early christian, who was martyred in the square.
Inside, the church is breathtaking. We were not allowed to take photos inside, but I found these online:
After looking inside the apse, we admired the fountain outside:
|The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of four rivers)|
We boarded the bus again and traveled to a local restaurant, Papa Rex. We ate lunch as a group, and were served salad, lasagna, a dessert and of course wine.
The day was beginning to get hot, with a forecasted high of 90 degrees. I was beginning to lose energy, so recently recovered from my pneumonia. But there was no way I was going to miss our next stop: the Coliseum.
Construction on the Coliseum was completed in 80 AD. The amphitheater could hold around 65-70,000 spectators, who would watch gladitorial contests, executions, battle reenactments, and plays based of greek mythology. It was badly damaged from earthquakes and stone robbers, who used those stones to build other major buildings in Rome.
|It feels like being a part of history to visit here.|
|Restoration work continues on the exterior.|
|A view of the "hypogeum" or underground network of tunnels and cages.|
|I loved this view: the sun coming through the arches. In the lower right hand, you can see a roman numeral LII over the arched doorway. Ancient entrance markers, so you could find your seat!|
|The structure is made from travertine stones (set without mortar to allow fluidity during earthquakes) and bricks.|
Our last stop of the day was the Vatican. We were bussed to a large underground parking garage, and when we emerged to the surface, we were standing in St. Peter's Square. It was so neat to see the square, where people come to hear the pope speak on Easter and Christmas Eve, and where people wait anxiously for the voting of a new pope. The square was designed and built by Bernini.
|Chairs were set up near the Basilica, as the pope had spoke recently.|
|The famous colonnades and statues of the saints lining the top.|
We waited briefly in line for security, then walked into St. Peter's Basilica. The church is amazing. It remains one of the two largest churches in the world, able to accommodate 20,000 worshipers. It is the burial place for its namesake: the apostle Peter. Many popes have also been interred here.
|There are three notable doors entering the basilica, each ornately carved with depictions of important papal happenings. This one is the "Holy Door", which is only opened on Jubilee years.|
|The main apse, with the throne of St. Peter. The stained glass has the dove of the Holy Spirit in the middle.|
|Inside the central dome: a creation by the great Michelangelo. The bronze altar is St. Peter's Baldachin, by Bernini. It stands above St. Peter's tomb.|
|Everything was ornate and gilded and a masterpiece.|
|One of the many beautiful tile mosaics. Looks like a painting, but it's tile.|
|Vatican guard at the ready.|
|A magnificent church.|
Thoroughly impressed, we walked out to the square again and found some gelato. We earned it! From start to finish, the tour lasted 10 hours. And we spent most of it on our feet. After getting back to the ship, we ate dinner in the main dining room and then went straight to bed!
P.S. We've learned on this cruise that the Aussies like baked beans served on their scrambled eggs in the morning. There were a surprising number of Austrailians and New Zealanders on the cruise. Chris tried the beans, and said it was good!