Our third stop (in a row!) was Civitavecchia, and while the train ride to Rome wasn't quite as far as the one from Liverno to Florence, we still felt we needed an early start. Stephen was off the boat like a shot, grabbing the first cab, and in no time we were waiting at the station for an early commuter train to Rome.
The desolate platform (with bleary-eyed locals slowly arriving over the twenty or so minutes we waited) save for one other party from the ship -- two ladies who'd been to Rome at least twice before, and had arranged a private tour this time -- contributed to this feeling that we were on The Amazing Race; particularly when we got talking with the ladies, and were comparing the detail and quality of our maps. [We kept running into them in places that were pretty far-flung from the ship as the cruise continued; they were forever "the Amazing Race couple" in our minds, and I'll be referring to them often in the coming posts. --JJ]
There was some confusion about which stop we needed for the Vatican, but before long we were standing outside Saint Peter's Square, a little deflated at the line before us. It seemed that everyone had these yellow cards -- issued by their tour guides, which was the first time that our policy of avoiding excursions gave me pause (unnecessarily, as it turned out) -- and the terribly winding snake ending at metal detectors. Luckily, just as despair threatened to overwhelm us, an American reporter (I believe), who'd been to the Vatican many, many times, noticed our plight, and pointed to an area well off to the side of all the lines and confusion. You can just walk right into the Square! I still don't know what those people were waiting for (possibly guiding tours of the museums), but that American truly saved our bacon that day, because the line inside Saint Peter's Square, for the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, was still very short at that hour.
The basilica was truly astounding; so much so that I almost lost my hat! I dropped it, gaping about, and were it not for a kind stranger pointing out the fact, who knows when I would've noticed it. [This is where pictures are sorely needed; soon! --JJ]
We decided to save the Sistine Chapel for our next visit, since we hadn't purchased tickets in advance and, therefore, faced a long line (and no getting around this one) by the time we'd finished in St. Peter's Basilica. Plus, time was a tickin'! On to the Spanish Steps!
On the way, we passed the impressive Castel Sant'Angelo and stopped for a snack to fortify us against the heat: what looked like fantastic pizza for Tea, Nancy and Stephen, and some candied fruit for me. (Yes, I would come to regret this.) The Steps were teeming with folks, like so many crows, and we joined in, snacking on roasted chestnuts, of all things.
Up next was Trevi Fountain; one minute you're walking through these narrow streets, then there are some statues beside you, and, presto! an enormous fountain. The pictures don't do it justice, in my opinion, because you don't feel how close and intimate it all is -- especially with all those people; so many people, and every one determined to get that picture, but in that good way that makes you feel truly alive and part of something bigger.
The Coliseum was next on our agenda, but we got turned about at Il Vittoriano, and ended up at the Theatre of Marcellus, which, I maintain, can look like the Coliseum from a distance when you're hot and tired. (O.K., maybe not, but we were really hot 'n' tired at this point -- walking Rome does that to you, incidentally; you've been warned!)
As we tried to snake our way around the Roman Forum, I lagged behind to snap a picture. As I ran to catch up, approaching a side street, in one of those last second glances, I noticed a scooter pull out from the line of cars beside me and put its signal on; I stopped up so quick that he did too, and the van behind him couldn't stop in time. The van driver was immediately out and checking on the scooter driver, who seemed to be O.K. I waited around for some time, but they ignored me, save to give me a look that would wither the healthiest May blooms when I attempted to say, "Mi dispiace."
Convinced that I wasn't needed, and certainly not wanted, I joined the group again, who, upon hearing the crash, were convinced I was done for. Then, suddenly, my head popped up amongst the parked cars. (I'd never been on the ground; their view had just been temporarily obstructed.) The best part was that we ended up backtracking around the forum anyway, and I got to take tons of pictures, all of which were better than that one that almost cost me dearly.
In the end, we made it to the Coliseum, but were so tired that we decided the outside was impressive enough. We paused for a breath, caught a cab to the train station, and were back on the ship with plenty of time to spare. What we didn't know was that the very next train to Civitavecchia (or the track itself, possibly) experienced catastrophic problems; we learned that many, many cruisers were stranded on the tracks for hours, missed the ship, and had to fly to our next stop, Santorini! [And our luck didn't end there! --JJ]
Up next: After two days at sea, beautiful Santorini, Greece -- yes, really, this time; somehow I forgot Rome, O.K.? -- with pictures... and donkeys!