With the cannonizations this week, Rome has been on my mind as well as part of a few Twitter chats like “When In Rome”. I’ve also posted many photos already on Instagram but thought a post was a good trip down memory lane.
Rome in a day can’t be done properly in my mind, however, I was going to give it my best shot on my return to the Eternal City. Traveling on a Mediterranean cruise, Civitavecchia (the Rome stop) was one of the ports we would visit. What they (the cruise ship people) neglect to tell you is that “Rome” is not that close to the ship port of Civitavecchia, in fact, it was over an hour away by local train. The local train takes you to Rome’s Central Terminal. Royal Caribbean had their own train cars for a cost (of course) that take you into the city in about an hour with the final stop in walking distance from the Vatican. For this visit, I decided to do the cruise option (which I rarely do anymore) and booked with the excursion desk. It cost a bit more but I liked not having to think about it other than the return time. Italian trains, central stations and such are often a headache for me, so the extra cost was worth it.
The train cars were a good mix of people – my car was a lively bunch which made for fun conversations – college sports, Alaska, politics and, of course, travel. I would meet a mother/daughter from Alaska (mom worked for Alaska Airlines) who adopted me and I happily joined them on their first visit to the city. The train station is a short walk to the Vatican which was a good starting point.
Their plan for the day was Vatican City and then the HOHO bus (I’ve never knew it was called the HOHO – Hop On/Hop Off). While not normally a fan of the HOHO as I like to walk every chance I can (exercise off the dessert of course), I adopted the whole “when in Rome” quite literally. The HOHO bus (about $30) worked quite well for our visit and we were able to tick off a few major sites:
Vatican City – Vatican City is it’s own country (for those counting countries) and the square is much smaller than it appears on television. It’s an interesting mix of people in the city – lots of religious sisters, brothers, priests, Swiss guards in their colorful outfits, tourists, pilgrims and Italians to say the least. You could just sit with a coffee and people watch all day. We knew due to the lines/crowds that the Sistine Chapel was off limits. We easily queued up for the HOHO bus which ran frequently (every 20-30 minutes).
Views of Rome – the bus does the loop of the city in about 1 1/2 hours depending on traffic with seven stops. The blend of the ancient city with today’s modern vibrant shopping, restaurants and people make it such a unique landscape to be sitting on the top of the open bus. Rome is just a cool city to visually explore – the photos just don’t capture that feeling you have of being in Rome.
Roman Colosseum (exterior view from top of bus as we didn’t visit) – it’s just super cool to visit in my geeky way.
Spanish Steps – the steps lead you from the fountain at the bottom to the church on top with a good view of the shops, restaurants and tourists below. Just like Philadelphia’s famous “Rocky Steps”, you just have to climb these steps bottom to top (“when in Rome, remember?”).
Trevi Fountain – turn here, there and here again, the fountain is a bit of a maze to find. But once you see the sea god Oceanus riding his shell pulled by two horses, you will definitely be impressed. The detail is incredible as your eyes wander to take it all in. Once there make sure to throw your coin to ensure your return to Rome. Twenty years ago, I threw in Lira (no longer a currency) and it must have amounted to pennies hence why it took so longer to return in my mind. This time, I threw in a two Euro coin, hoping to ensure a quicker return (let’s see if pay to play works!)
After our quick visit, we found a local cafe to enjoy a leisurely Italian lunch before our train back to the ship. Sharing bread and wine, my new Alaska friends and I had a great end to our visit to Rome. I wouldn’t see them for the rest of the cruise – it was a one day experience, one of many I’ve had traveling solo. Getting adopted by other travelers is such a rich way to explore a city and it made my return to Rome so much more than I anticipated. When In Rome….just go with it.