We left Venice via Italy’s wonderful rail system (more on that later.) Our next destination was Rome. We had scheduled four nights there. We wanted to see some of the Eternal City’s many famous, iconic sights.
As usual. click on a photo to see it larger, then click your back button to return to the blog.
A taxi brought us from the train station to our destination in the thick of central Rome. We had reserved a small AirBnB apartment off this bustling shopping arcade.
The ancient monuments of the Roman Empire are magnificent, like the Colosseum.
The Colosseum is a marvel, a testament to the grandeur of Roman civilization. Built by slaves in only 8 years, it seated more than 50,000 people. It is a history book come to life.
Just behind the Colosseum, The Forum is a higgledy-piggledy clamor of ruins on the Palatine Hill. The remains of triumphal arches, numerous temples, and government buildings belie the area’s humble beginnings as a marketplace before 700 BC. Walking the streets of the Forum gives one a feel for this ancient city as it evolved and decayed over 1,000 years.
The Arch of Titus celebrated his victory over Jerusalem in the 1st century AD.
I couldn’t resist posing in front of the remnants of the monument to Castor and Pollux, the Gemini Twins, my astrological sign.
Our visits to several Rome landmarks were a bit disappointing. The Trevi Fountain was undergoing renovations.
The Spanish Steps were so packed with tourists and vendors and scammers that it was impossible to get a sense of why this is known as such a charming site.
Our guide to The Vatican Museums spoke with such a heavy accent, she was difficult to understand. Still, the museums’ artistic treasures are one of the great wonders of the world. Unfortunately, we discovered a system designed to squeeze the maximum amount of money out of the maximum number of tourists. We felt we would have done better not to have paid for a guided tour and to have had more leisure to examine the art on our own.
The Vatican is a grand complex of structures. Its museums are opulently designed and loaded with amazing art.
On the tour, we saw masterpiece after masterpiece, ancient and modern.
Toward the end of the tour are the works of the modern masters, such as this work by Salvador Dali. (Soft Monster in Angelic Landscape, 1977)
Once again I found myself drawn to the signatures of the artists. They take me to the moment when the artist, a real live person, declared the work complete and signed his or her name for all eternity to acknowledge.
Last stop on the tour is the Sistine Chapel. Our guide warned us that pictures are forbidden. Then she disappeared. We were on our own, in this magnificent room, in a sea of cows — I mean people — just like us.
By this time I had become proficient at surreptitious photography, so I defied the ban on photos. Michelangelo is not around to collect royalties on his work. It now belongs to humanity.
The exit from the Sistine Chapel dumps you onto St, Peters Square, the place where the Pope addresses the faithful.
From here, one can choose to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. And who wouldn’t?
After having visited some of Europe’s most magnificent cathedrals, St. Peter’s still managed to impress.
Once inside, follow the crowds to It is the first of four that he created in his lifetime and is thought to be the best.
Once you see it, you get it. The work transcends its setting. The context doesn’t matter. Its masterful presence is unquestionable. It is one of the best examples of cold stone brought to passionate life.
Back on St Peter’s Square, we watched the Swiss Guards do their thing, and then wandered back toward the Metro to get back to the apartment.
We’d “done” Rome. So glad we did! We’d seen some of the world’s most amazing treasures. The pictures in the history books had come to life. But there is really nothing there to draw us back again, that cannot be had elsewhere in Italy. Our next stop, Sorrento, on the Bay of Naples, was to be much more enjoyable.
From Rome, we took a train to Naples, from where we’d catch another train to Sorrento. Some of Italy’s trains are very fast. On this trip we reached 300 kilometers per hour (about 186 mph). That is NASCAR-class speed!
It was on Italy’s rail system that we made one of several costly mistakes on this trip. We were waiting on the correct platform, under the sign that said “Napoli,” our destination. A train, with “Napoli” printed on it, arrived five minutes earlier than the scheduled time of our train. We assumed it was our train and boarded. When we couldn’t find our reserved seats, we realized it was a different carrier’s non-stop to Naples! Before we could grab our bags and get off, it left the station. We had to pay another full fare, with no refund possible on our old tickets. So the lesson learned is, before you get on the train, make sure the train name and number match your tickets!
Still, we were on our way to spend a week in magical Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Stay tuned!