Rome is an impossible city

by francine Hardaway on September 30, 2006

Rome is an impossible city to see in a day. We got off the ship at the port of Civitavecchia(means “old city”), a place growing so quickly that our tour guide told us there was an exit for busses that hadn’t even been there the previous week. The number of cruise ships that dock here for Rome has increased from 100 a year ten years ago to a thousand ships a year today. Someone finally figured out that the port needed to be expanded.

From Civitavecchia we were bussed into Rome — probably a little over an hour, and then a half hour through Rome to St. Peter’s Square, where we were dropped off with a map and told to try to walk to the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish steps, and a number of other sites, and then return to St. Peter’s to meet the guide, who would take us to the Basilica. This was called the “Taste of Rome” tour.

Our first taste of Rome was the restroom of the Hotel Columbus, just off St. Peter’s Square and one of the most beautiful old hotels I have ever seen. All dark wood and marble, rich with tradition and complete with Wi-fi for guests only.

Bummed out, we staggered into the Internet cafe for a fix, because the system on the ship had been down for a day (hardware problems) and a half.

And then we began to walk. I was quickly overwhelmed by the sense of history in Rome, from the acqueducts to the Tiber to the Vatican. We started walking toward the Fontana de Trevi, crossed the Tiber, and immediately took a fortuitous wrong turn. A fascinating hour of small shops, art galleries, alleys, churches, and cafes later, we figured out that we’d never make it to our destination on foot because we had no idea where we were going and had fallen in love with the town.

So we grabbed a cab and instructed him to drive us around to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps, and then back to the square, where we met the group for the tour of St. Peter’s.

Fruitless to talk about the beauty of this cathedral, the largest in the world. Amazing to think it ever got built, especially so long ago. It took 125 years from groundbreaking to the first Mass, and a succession of architects died working on it. I know you have seen pictures, but the baroque details can’t be represented in a photograph — and certainly not in words.

The Colosseum was next, and I passed on it. By this time I was still enamored of Rome, but tired of the forced march aspect of touring, so I opted to sit in a cafe and have some gelato. Turned out this cafe was right near a polytechnic institute, so when I went into the Librairie near the cafe to try to buy myself a book I found the entire O’Reilley series, and shelves of programming, Linux, and VOIP books. Roman techies!

By the time we got back to Civitavecchia, ten hours later, we were pretty exhausted. We decided we would come back and stay a week, in the Hotel Columbus, so we could be eligible to use it’s wi-fi :-)

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