Roman Holiday

The trip from the tiny country of San Marino to the sprawling and busy metropolis of Rome where we were meeting our good Brisbane friends Cathy and Peter, was surprisingly lovely.

The countryside was surprisingly lovely
We drove on an amazing elevated road

We drove through the snappily named “Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, Campigna” on an amazing roadway elevated above the forest floor. We hadn’t expected such spectacular views.

The views were spectacular
Hard to depict the lovely countryside with an iPhone photo!

On the recommendation of our son and daughter-in-law we headed for an excellent campsite called LGP Roma just five kilometres from the historic centre of Rome.

Arriving at our campsite

Early (at least for us) the next morning we hopped in a taxi to the lovely apartment in an elegant building that Cathy and Peter had rented – not far from the Presidential Palace in the Piazza Quirinale which sits on top of the highest of the seven hills of Rome.

Cathy and Peter’s apartment was in a very elegant building
There was a lift but it only held two people or their luggage. Not both.
Cathy tries out the lift
Audrey Hepburn “is this the elevator?” Gregory Peck “this is my room!”
The front door was a little large.
It even had a fountain on the corner of the building

Since the first part of the Quirinale Palace was completed in 1585, it has housed thirty popes, four kings of Italy and twelve presidents of the Italian Republic.

The Dioscuri Fountain and obelisk in Quirinale Plaza

We were fortunate to arrive in front of the palace just in time to witness the changing of the guard.

They’re changing the guard at Quirinale Palace

The views over Rome were fantastic and it was great to get our first glimpse of the famous dome of St Peter’s Basilica.

Our first glimpse of St Peter’s Basilica
Ooh the Carabinieri really fancy themselves!

Continuing our perambulation we found ourselves wandering through the bohemian neighbourhood of Monti and then looking down at the Imperial Fora – a series of public squares built between 46 BC and 113 AD.

Shabby chic in the suburb of Monti
Looking down on the remains of the Imperial fora
In Rome wherever you roam you come across archeological remains

These fora were restored by the dictator Mussolini as part of his campaign to evoke and emulate the past glories of Ancient Rome.

Mussolini restored the fora to demonstrate his power harking back to the glory days of Ancient Rome
Another forum
The ancient and modern – in the background the neoclassical Victor Emmanuel II National Monument – completed in 1935

After a quick stop for a late breakfast, we wandered along to arguably the most popular tourist site in the world – The Colosseum. It was heaving with visitors and we only had two days in Rome so we decided to book in for a “skip the line tour” the following day.

Heading for the Colosseum
So photogenic!
What an incredible place!

From the Colosseum we started walking towards the Vatican City as we had booked a tour for that afternoon.

Walking past the Temple of Venus and Rome

Everywhere we looked there was something spectacular to see. As I walked through the streets I realised why people rave about Rome.

The basilica Aemilia
Close up of the Victor Emmanuel II National Monument
Nuns still dress traditionally in Rome but they have more choice in shoes than in past times
The Castel Sant’Angelo and next to it the beautiful bridge of the same name
The Castel Sant’Angelo was commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian and was once the tallest building in Rome
There are statues everywhere in Rome
Arriving at the Vatican

We arrived in the Vatican and met our very energetic and enthusiastic guide who showered us with information before we were given the go ahead to enter the museum.

The old Front door (now the exit) to the Vatican museum
Our lovely guide

Bulging at the seams with people and art treasures the museum visit was not an enjoyable experience. I love to browse and take in the pieces of art that capture my attention but I felt rushed and claustrophobic with the huge crowds. We had literally no time at all to see the modern paintings although we could see that there were some amazing masterpieces in the gallery.

Posters of what we were going to see in the Sistine Chapel
Raphael’s fresco “The School of Athens” (“La Scuola di Atene”). The Vatican museum was bulging with art treasures – and people!
A quieter spot in the Vatican museum
Most of the time it was more like this!
So much to see
Michelangelo’s domed ceiling in the Vatican Museum
Wonderful floor mosaic with Athena in the centre in the Greek Cross Hall

We were shuffled into the Sistine Chapel which measures 41 × 13 metres (134 × 43 feet) along with what seemed like hundreds of people. Once inside you couldn’t help but be drawn in and amazed at the fabulous frescoes but it felt as spiritual as attending a boxing match.

No photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel so this one is from the Internet

Fortunately I was able to find a spot by the wall to perch on so I could gaze up at Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling but the push and shove of the crowd and a guard with a microphone constantly shushing the crowd in several languages was distracting and disconcerting.

The tour ended up in St Peter’s Basilica one of the largest Church buildings in the world. It was extremely awe inspiring and impressive but again, very crowded.

St Peter’s Basilica

Under the Basilica lies the Vatican Grottoes – a large underground graveyard where the tombs of 91 Popes are buried. The level below this is the Vatican Necropolis where the tomb of St Peter the Apostle lies.

Inside St Peter’s Basilica
The letters in this photo are over a metre high!

The highlight of the tour for me was seeing Michelangelo’s La Pietá which is completely breathtaking. It is hard to comprehend how such a superb sculpture (made from a single piece of marble) could have been crafted by a mere 24 year old.

The superb La Pietá by Michelangelo

After walking almost ten kilometres and the exhausting tour we were ready for dinner! We strolled slowly back into the centre of Rome where we enjoyed a relaxing meal and a few hard earned glasses of wine.

Before leaving the Vatican, we took a few minutes to admire the Swiss Guards who have been protecting the popes for 500 years

A lovely shot of St Peter’s Basilica at night

Additional photography supplied by Peter Hannigan (including the shot above) Thanks Peter!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

6 thoughts on “Roman Holiday”

  1. Amazing! Looks as though you packed a huge amount into your all-too-short visit. It reminded me so much of Mum, who loved Rome and knew all its little corners (especially those with Handel connections!). Glad you had such a great time.

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  2. 2 awesome days, I don’t think I have walked so far in two days in my life. Rome is one of those cities that it is hard to comprehend. So many histories in its life and so many ideas lost and found and lost and found, not to mention cement. Sports arenas to rival today’s technology……
    Best of all was discovering the many great places to eat in the non “tourist areas” balanced with the sub par service in the tourist areas. One of those cities that you can visit repeatedly and find new things to see, I suspect.

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