The Eternal City, Rome. Founded in 753 BC, this was the center of civilization.
We arrived in Civitavecchia on our cruise ship. We were up early and were the first off the ship.
We took a cab and train into the city. The roundtrip train ticket was $14.00 per person and included an all day metro pass for Rome. We took the train to Roma San Pietro. This station is about a 5 minute walk from Vatican City.
We walked to Vatican City, the smallest country in the world. Walking through Saint Peter’s Square, we were immediately greeted by the granite Egyptian obelisk. The obelisk was carved in Egypt about 4500 years ago and has been moved on three occasions. It was placed here under the Papacy of Pope Sixtus X in 1586. Near the obelisk is a 17th century fountain built by Bernini.
As we walked towards the steps of the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica, off to the right, we saw the open windows of the papal apartments. These apartments used to be home to the Pope. When Pope Francis was elected Pope, he moved his residence to the more humble Vatican guesthouse.
Perhaps one of the most famous parts of the Basilica is the Papal Balcony. It is right above the center doorway. Above that is its enormous dome. The dome of the Basilica stands over 440 feet tall is the tallest dome in the world.
As you enter Saint Peter’s Basilica you will be greeted by Michelangelo’s Pieta. This marble sculpture was completed by Michelangelo in 1599 and is a depiction of Mary with Jesus after his crucifixion. The sculpture is behind bulletproof glass today as in 1972 someone tried to destroy the piece.
Walking up the nave of the Basilica we saw the imposing Baldachin. The Baldachin is a canopy over the main altar of the Basilica. It is made of bronze stands over the spot of St. Peter’s tomb. It too was designed by Bernini.
The Basilica also has a beautiful chapel of the Blessed Sacrament designed by Bernini.
If you have time, you can also tour the Vatican grotto underneath the Basilica. There you will find the tombs of many Popes including St. Peter and St. John Paul II.
We had a scheduled time for our visit to the Vatican Museums. It is recommended that you secure tickets ahead of time so that you do not have to make the long line for tickets once you arrive. It will save you plenty of time. The Vatican Museum holds thousands of beautiful art, artifacts, and many historical pieces from many different eras.
One of the stops in the visit is the Sistine Chapel. A true masterpiece, the Chapel features two of Michelangelo’s most famous works, the Sistine ceiling and the Last Judgement behind the altar. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take any pictures in this room, but take plenty of mental snapshots!
After a visit to the museum, we walked to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps were originally built to proved access for the Spanish embassy to have access to a nearby church. At the foot of the steps is the Piazza di Spagna with some very nice sculptures and fountains.
A short walk away is the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain was built in the 17th century on the location where the aqueducts that brought water into the city used to end. The fountain has been the site of many movies and according to legend, if you toss a coin into the fountain you will return to the City of Rome.
We made our way towards the Pantheon and found a cafe in the Piazza della Rotonda overlooking the Pantheon. It was a beautiful place to enjoy a meal while admiring the view. Built by the Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD, the Pantheon was an ancient marvel. Its open dome was the largest built at its time. The dome has a hole in the center to allow the light to enter. The building has been a Catholic church since 609AD.
From the Pantheon we walk down to the Gesu church. This church is the home to the Jesuits in Rome. The Jesuit Order is the same order of priests that Pope Francis is a part of. They were founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the year 1540. Priests in this order take vows of chastity obedience and poverty. The church has relics of St. Ignatius of Loyola and another famous member of the order, St. Francis Xavier.
A block away is the impressive monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first monarch of the united Italian Republic. The monument was completed in 1925. It is called the Altare della Patria. It is also the spot of Italy’s tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I.
We proceeded to walk down the Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Coliseum. The ten minute walk will take you past the Roman Forum. The Roman Forum was the center of the Roman government. You can enter the forum and walk through the streets of ancient Rome.
Standing tall at the end of the via is the Coliseum. Pillaged for materials, this marvel of the ancient world still stands today. A visit to the Coliseum is highly recommended. You should also purchase your tickets ahead of time. As the lines here are also long. Inside the Coliseum you’ll be able to see where people sat you see where the performances were held and you can see through where the floor once was and where the animals and prisoners were kept. It is an impressive structure.
After the visit, we found a gelateria that overlooked the Coliseum and had gelato before taking the train back to our cruise ship.