Roam, if you want to,Roam – The B52s
Roam around the world.
We had to be up at going-to-work time, that is 7.00am, as we needed to assemble at eight o’clock in the Cabaret Lounge for our full day excursion. As we went out onto our balcony, we could see that the Pursuit was heading slowly towards her berth in the port of Civitavecchia, our gateway to Rome, hence the play on words for the title of today’s blog. 🙂
We had been to Rome twice before, on the Seawing in May 1995 and on the Marco Polo in September 2001; it was hard to believe that the last time we visited was over 20 years ago. Tempus fugit.
As we ate our breakfast in the busy Windows Café, we looked out of the window at this bustling and lively port, where we could see ferries as well as other cruise ships, namely the Viking Mars that we’d seen the other day and the Marina, which I believe is an Oceania Cruise vessel. We’ve never actually explored Civitavecchia itself; we’ve always either gone further afield or simpy embarked the ship there, such as we did on the Queen Victoria in October 2018.
We disembarked the Pursuit and crossed a short distance to the line of waiting coaches; we were allocated #2. As we boarded, our names were ticked off a list and we were informed that we had to wear our masks at all times whilst on public transport. We therefore had to sit with our face coverings on for the 90 minutes ride into Rome, even though we’d all been together on the ship without face masks. Didn’t seem to make sense really. But then again, when in Rome… 😀 😀
We enjoyed looking out of the window at the passing scenery on the way. There was less traffic than what you would normally expect to see during the week, but there was still a lot. Our guide told us that we would be visting the Colosseum and would have free time to visit the famous Spanish Steps if we wanted, but we wouldn’t have time to go to the Vatican or the Trevi Fountain, as we had to be back at the ship for 4.00pm. Like London, all the famous landmarks are spread over a wide area, and it was impossible to see everything in one day. Many people were disappointed at this, as they had particularly wanted to see the Trevi Fountain. Trevor and I have visited both the fountain and the Vatican City on previous occasions, so we weren’t too disappointed, but we would understand why some people were. To be honest, the Pursuit was not due to sail until 8.00pm tonight, so we didn’t see why we had to be back for four; they could have given us another couple of hours. 🙁
For some of the sights we would just have to be content with viewing them from a distance through the windows of the coach. As we reached the periphery of the city, the first of these was the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.
A few minutes later, we passed the Castel Sant’Angelo, also known as Hadrian’s Mausoleum. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle, and is now a museum. The structure was once the tallest building in Rome.
We then passed the remains of The Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of the Angels and of the Martyrs) which is a church in built inside the ruined frigidarium of the Roman Baths of Diocletian in the Piazza della Repubblica. It was constructed in the 16th century following an original design by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Other architects and artists added to the church over the following centuries. During the Kingdom of Italy, the church was used for religious state functions. There were many statues and fountains outside.
One thing is for certain in Rome, you certainly get a history lesson, and our guide was extremely knowledgeable and interesting. 🙂
The next interesting building we passed was the Santa Maria Maggiore, (St. Mary Major), which is one of the four papal basilicas in Rome along with San Giovanni in Laterano, San Paolo Fuori Le Mura, and St. Peter’s Basilica. It is located on the Esquilino, one of seven hills of Rome. (A bit like County Durham, which is also built on seven hills). 🙂
There was so much to see and take in, our heads were swivelling left and right, as if we were watching a tennis match.
Shortly afterwards, the bus drove slowly past one of the most famous sights of all in Rome: the Colosseum. Despite the fact we’d been advised by our guide that the bus would be parking up here and we would have some free time before lunch, people were standing up in the coach and snapping away out of the windows; the end result being they had poor photos with reflections, distortions and obstructions (such as other people’s heads and waving cameras) in the way. 🙂
The bus dropped us off and we walked up a series of steps to get the best vantage point of the Colosseum. Construction of this epic building began in 68-70AD and was completed in 80AD and it is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built. It could hold up to 65,000 spectators and was mainly used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles including animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Roman mythology. Despite the common belief that the Christians were thrown to the lions in the Colosseum, this was in fact a myth perpetuated by Hollywood. 🙂
One of the things that was immediately evident when looking at the Colosseum was the large number of small holes you could see everywhere. Our guide explained that during the construction of the edifice, workers used iron clamps in between the heavy stones to secure them together without mortar. After the fall of Rome, this metal material of around 200 tons became highly valued, so the thousands of holes you see were made by workers pilfering the iron for use in other structures or for making ammunition. 🙂
Next to the Colosseum we could see a ruined building that was undergoing some restoration work; this was the remains of the Temple of Venus and Rome. This was another building constructed under Emperor Hadrian in 121AD, and ravaged by fire in 307AD, after which it was rebuilt with alterations under Emperor Maxentius.
As we stood there looking at these fascinating relics of ancient history, the sun beating down on us was very hot, and we kept being dragged into the present day by the odd hunger pang or need to stop for a sit down. Our guide must have been able to read minds, however, as she said we would now take a short walk to a restaurant, where we were booked in for a prodigal Italian lunch. 🙂
It was pleasant and cool in the restaurant, and we took our seats at long wooden tables, where place settings, wine glasses and bottles of red or white wine were already in place. Presently a waitress came along with a tray bearing chilled glasses of prosecco, and we all raised them and said “Cheers!”
The meal was delicious. We started with a crisp salad with lettuce, onions, peppers and plump juicy Italian tomatoes, dressed lightly in balsamic vinegar. Baskets of fresh bread accompanied the salad, which was followed by a delightful home-made lasagna in cheese sauce. Finally, if you still had room for it, dessert was a creamy concoction a bit like a crème brûlée. It was all washed down with chilled white wine and finished off with a cup of espresso. We certainly wouldn’t want a lot for dinner tonight! 🙂
After lunch our guide said we would now have a couple of hours of free time, and the bus would take us to the meeting point at the Piazza del Popolo, or the People’s Square, where we were told we had to be back for 2.30pm at the latest to ensure we were back at the ship for 4.00pm.
It was a large square and you walked through the ‘people’s portal ‘to get to the square with its twin domed churches and Egyptian obelisk in front. In my photos below, left is the Church of Santa Maria in Montesanto (built 1662–75) and right is the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (built 1675–79).
Looking at Google Maps, we saw that the Spanish Steps were not very far away and, as we hadn’t been there before, we decided that’s where we’d go. As we walked along the crowded streets, looking in the shop windows and at the pavement cafés doing a roaring trade, we bumped into Mark and Alfredo from the Pursuit, who had come in to Rome on the train from Civitavechia for the day. We passed pleasantries with them, said we’d see them later, and off we went to the Spanish Steps.
The Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, better known as the Spanish Steps, climb a steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church, at the top. There were 135 steps to climb in the baking sun and on top of that enormous lunch, so we just took our time, stopping frequently to look at the view and/or take photos. The Spanish Steps became more recognisable after the 1953 film Roman Holiday, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn which features a scene of them on the Spanish Steps. I haven’t seen that film; maybe now is the time to watch it. 🙂
We then decided we’d take a slow stroll back to the coach, stopping for a cold beer on the way. We found a pleasant bar with chairs and tables outside and ordered a 300ml beer each (we didn’t have time for a large one) and we sat there enjoying the refreshing, foamy taste.
Then it was back to the People’s Square and the waiting bus, where we had the 90 minute journey back to Civitavecchia. Due to our lunchtime wine or the beer (or both), many people enjoyed a snooze on the ride back to the ship.
We arrived back to the Azamara Pursuit at the planned hour of 4.00pm (which is 3.00pm back home). The time was important, and Trevor wasted no time in getting back to cabin 6062 as soon as possible, for the League One Playoff Final at Wembley stadium, in which our own team Sunderland AFC were playing Wycombe Wanderers for a promotion place to the Championship (that is, we were hoping to be promoted from the third tier in English football to the second tier). We had had so many near misses in recent years we didn’t dare to get our hopes up, and yet…
Despite the ship being in port and having Sky on our cabin TV, the reception was very poor and many times during the match we were frustrated by the “no signal” notification in the middle of the TV. However, results were what counted and Sunderland won 2-0. We’d done it!! We were up!! 🙂
We then got washed and changed and ready for dinner. We certainly didn’t want a large meal, so we just went down to the Discoveries, hoping for just a salad or something light. Of course, we had to wash it down with a glass of champagne each to celebrate Sunderland’s promotion. 🙂
Just before eight o’clock, we went out on deck to watch as the Pursuit put to sea once more, next stop Livorno.
We didn’t want to be late into the show lounge tonight, as the performance was called “A Night at the Opera” and very aptly featured tenor David Righeschi and mezzo-soprano Maria Salvini. The show was fantastic; it was played to a large backdrop of Italian landscapes and video-clips, and featured excerpts from Carmen, Turandot, the Marriage of Figaro and other famous arias and duets, including the beautiful Con te partiro and O mio babbino caro. Each singer also performed an emotional tribute to the music of the late, great Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who was famous for writing the film scores for the “Man with No Name” spaghetti western trilogy amongst other things.
Of course, no operatic performance was complete without a rendition of Nessun Dorma and the singers absolutely raised the roof. As soon as the last note faded, the entire audience in the Cabaret Lounge leapt to their feet and gave an enthusiastic standing ovation. Fabulous! Utterly fabulous!
What a brilliant day of art, culture, history and music we had experienced today. Whoever coined the phrase ‘travel broadens the mind’ certainly knew what they were talking about. 🙂
We finished the evening off by going up to the Living Room, but there were not many people up there at all; maybe, like us, they’d had a long and exciting day and were too tired. We therefore just enjoyed one drink, before going along to The Den for a nightcap; I also wanted a soft sofa to sit on so I could put my feet up, as the heat and the long time spent sitting on the coach had made my ankles and feet swell.
I therefore just enjoyed a Gimlet cocktail which I’d never had before, and which was strong! Then we went back to cabin 6062 around 11.30pm and fell asleep more or less immediately.