3 December – Roma

I’ve been to Rome several times. Never for long, always in a bit of a rush to get on with this or that. Today was different. When on a guided tour, there are few personal decisions to be made. One is a captive. I was captivated. We had an outstanding guide. And this does make an enormous difference. Our excursion to Rome was 10 and a half hours! Every second was fantastic. “Following the lollipop” interludes were adequately dispersed with “scamper around on ones own” moments of freedom. The balance between the two created a day unforgettable for all the right reasons.

So where to begin. As we drove along in our bus, our guide nearly caused everyone to dislocate their necks with the fast paced “look to your left look to your right now left now up there now right……  ” At the speed of  fast paced tennis match it was dizzying! Monuments everywhere. Our first stop was the amphitheater – the colosseum! Many of you might be like me and think of it as a dark coloured building. Well it’s been cleaned so now shines almost as white as when those Romans built the thing (in just 80 years)! Glorious. The area was swarming with armed soldiers, mounted police, armoured police vehicles, regular police vehicles. A pick pocket’s nightmare. Of course all this security wasn’t to make sure tourists who keep money in their unbuttoned back pockets don’t get robbed….. Security in Europe’s major centres at the moment is quite tight. 

Back on the bus it was more head swivels as we drove a bit further. Then a walk past more monuments large and small to the Spanish Steps – being renovated. Then to Trevi  Fountain – freshly renovated. The selfie stick brigade there were an absolute menace! More of those damn things to be seen then the fountain which was presumably hiding being the sticks and the predominantly Asian and American tourists waving them around!  Hear me scream! Patience….. Yes I did manage a couple of headless stick- less pictures.

Next we continued walking to the Pantheon. This is one of my favourite places in Rome. Built as a great Roman Pagan temple, it still has a lovely hole at the apex of its beautiful dome through which the sun continues to shine at appropriate angles during various important times of the year. Of course those early Roman Christians removed their pagan gods and goddesses and inserted statues of the newly fashionable Christian saints and martyrs, but they could not replace the pure beauty of the building. It is one of the most complete ancient structures still standing anywhere.

Then we walked on to beautiful Piazza Navona. A square of three elaborate fountains and surrounded by very expensive lunchtime restaurants. Now our guide told us that if we left the square, prices would drop. But seriously. Who could resist eating with this as a back drop? Not dad and I and clearly not most of the others on the tour!

So Kathy – this is for you. Remember our 30.00 euro each fish dinner on Crete? Well dad and I went one better. 35.00 euro each for lunch at Ristorante 4 Fiumi on Piazza Navona in Roma! So worth every euro! And Kathy will be curious about what we ate. Dad – a mushroom sauce on linguini. He liked it but was underwhelmed. Me – yummy – oh so perfect peso linguini. Pine nut from the pines of Roma even. And the pleasant waiter was happy to show me how to eat it the Italian way. Which of course I did. We shared a small bottle of good dry Italian red wine. Tiramisu for dessert which was almost expensive as the main course. And for me a fine cappuccino. This all took about 90 minutes. We were outside with a warm patio heater keeping things cozy! Our view was the glorious central square fountain. I’ll send a picture next blog. A special lunch!

Next – what was next? Oh yes……We reconvened at the assigned time and place then a continued walking to where the bus awaited. Everyone scrambled aboard. We crossed the Tiber and drove into the depths of a mountain to disembark in an underground garage. We took several flights of elevators down and down and emerged at street level right outside St Peters. Square. Magic? Brilliant tourist management!

And we were set loose again to do as we wished. Dad and I hightailed for the line up to go through the metal detectors and security screening to get into the Basilica. The line went quickly despite being quite long. I guess nothing like the length of the lines and waits during the summer months. Gross though – while waiting in line we spied Mr  Hot Dog and he was his disgusting  self. He was wearing a very ratty T-shirt backwards because he’d obviously spilled a good portion of his lunch down the front – which was now spread across his back. He was also wearing shorts. Shorts are not allowed in the basilica. What an embarrassment. Other Americans in the line with us were cringing with national shame.

Soon we were entering St Peters. It is impressive!  Again – no crowds so we had a vey pleasant stroll around. Went into the crypt to see where all those dead popes hang out as they await resurrection. Pleasant diggs. All newly renovated. Of course just inside the main doors, there’s Michelangelo’s captivating Pieta. She’s such a lovely statue and he was just 25 when he created her. Remarkable. She sits behind bullet proof glass because, a few years ago, some idiot damaged her with a hammer (I think)….. Why are people like this? Needless to say hammers and scissors, knives and other sharp objects are disallowed these days! Cameras complete with selfie sticks are permitted but word is out that the selfie stick phenomenon may end soon within St Peter’s. Please God make it so!

Now in front of the basilica is the enormous Piazza San Pieter surrounded by all those towering marble saints up upon their grand pillars. We’ve all seen the area lit up at night – either in person or on TV or postcards. As dad and I emerged from the basilica dusk was falling. Almost time for the place to light up. In front of each saint is a light. Looking  up from below those lights look exactly like each one has a selfie stick at his feet! This is the absolute truth! Have the saints of St Peter’s fallen into the sin of narcissism? Perhaps in this case it is acceptable. 

One last note about the piazza. An enormous manger scene was being set up. Really very well done. It will be delightful when it’s complete. Of more interest though is that right beside the manger a very tall Christmas tree has been erected and was being decorated. I gather that the Roman Catholic Church has resisted the placement of this most wonderfully Pagan of symbols so close to its most holly of holly places for some years. They’ve very finally caved. They stole Christmas from the Pegans and now the Pegans have an enormous Christmas tree in place of pride outside St Peters. I like it. Merry Christmas everyone – everywhere!

And that was a wrap on our day in Rome. Weary tourists one and all we climbed back on our bus and headed back to port. It  was a very quiet ride except for several snores from sleeping Viking warriors. But there’s one more thing…..as we got off the bus at the ship we heard a lot of singing and music from within and there was half the crew to greet us and welcome us home – victorious – with glasses of cold champaign!  How nice was that!

Pictures will follow ………

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