Posted by: jility | October 12, 2011

All Roads Lead to Roma

Yesterday was an incredibly long day. The tour was ten hours and my feet were killing me when we got back to the ship last night. I loved seeing the Leaning Tower but was disappointed in most of the tour. I expected bolts of lightening and fireworks but all I got was gas. There were a couple of major explosions and some minor aftershocks but no fireworks.

Today’s tour was a bit shorter; only NINE AND A HALF HOURS! We got up at 5, took showers and rode the elevator to the 15th deck for breakfast at 6. The sun was still hidden but slowly showed itself by the time were finished eating. It gets light late and dark early here.

The bus pulled away from the dock around 8 for the trip to Rome. There were 40 busses, each holding 40 people! That was just from OUR ship! There were 6 other cruise ships in the Port of Civitavecchia (about an hour and a half from Rome) so you can imagine just how many tourists were in Rome! The cruise ships make up a small percentage of the crowds in Rome and the Vatican.

Our tour guide for this trip was Maria Louder (or something like that). She was an attractive and very petite young woman with a thick Italian accent. Every word ended in “a” whether it had an “a” or not. For instance, road, was roda (with a heavy accent on the short a). Here is a typical sentence, “Firsta, hm, we go toa de squara anda wea meeta ina fiftenna minutesa hm anda watch outta for de traffica hm. It isa badda oha Mama Mia It’sa Bada hm.” It was very entertaining listening to her sing song melodic explanation of what we were seeing and what we would be seeing.

Like most of the people in this area, our tour guides and bus drivers have been tiny. They have tiny hands, tiny feet, tiny features and tiny bodies. Most woman barely make 5 feet and the men are tall if they reach 5’7”! They told us how tiny some of the early Italians were and I have to think if they think they were that small, those ancestors must have been about 3 feet at the most! No wonder all their statues and buildings are huge! There was some major compensating going on there for sure!

The countryside was quite different than Tuscany. It was more rolling farmland with grapes and olive trees as opposed to not much but the metal shacks and projects we saw in Tuscany. I expected the reverse to be true. It was a beautiful foggy morning. The temperature was about 70 and the humidity very high but it was comfortable and seemed familiar, like an old shoe. The soil going to Rome was much redder than that in Tuscany where it was brown, hardpan clay that had clumps the size of bowling balls after the first plow. The villas in the Tuscany Region were mustard color; some yellow and some dijon. In Roma, the soil was very red, not unlike Georgia clay, so the stucco houses took on that same reddish cast.

“Getta ready fora taka da picture hm,” Maria instructed as we approached some ancient ruins in Rome. The next thing we hear is a loud THUD then some tumbling and finally screaming, “STOP THE BUS! STOP THE BUS!” one of the bossier women insisted. I honestly thought we had hit somebody! Thankfully, we hadn’t. Some dumb ass woman had stood up to let her husband take photos of the Roman baths and, when Franco, our driver, went around a corner too fast, down she went! Evidently she was fine with only a bruised ego to show for it.

Some Ancient Dude’s Palace

Rome is SPECTACULAR! It felt like home! Although I have no Italian blood in my veins, there was something very comforting about the climate and the architecture. I would love to spend more time there. I remembered some of the history from school but I hated ancient history then (it meant nothing to me) so I never paid much attention. Now that I have actually seen this place with my own eyes, I wish I had paid more attention! Maria Louder told us stories about chariot races and gladiators and communal bath houses (boy those early Roman men enjoyed each other’s company ;)) and emperors and popes and a greedy dictator and roads and walls and so much more!

The Bloody Colosseum and Archway

The traffic in Rome is horrendous. I am sure it is because “all roads lead to Rome.”

With all the traffic, it is no wonder many people drive Smart Cars!

Another common mode of transportation

After our bus tour of the city, we went to a local place for lunch. Being vegan, we ordered a special meal. We often get a lot better food than what the regular folks get! This was no exception. We had an incredible plate of pasta with marinara sauce, followed by a lovely dish containing roasted eggplant, potatoes and salad. I swear, after eating the fresh tomato sauce here in Italy, I will never open another can or jar again! It is perfect and I am spoiled rotten now (well, we all know I have been spoiled rotten my entire life).

What a beautiful restaurant this was!

The second course of our amazing lunch!

We went through the museums at Saint Peter’s Basilica and marveled at the sculptures and frescos and marble floors and painted ceilings. The size of St. Peter’s is mind boggling! It is over 600 feet long and God only knows how wide! There are many churches within the enormous church and rotundas so high they make the people walking around up inside them look like ants.

Amazing Saint Pete’s

More than 600 feet long!

We slowly made our way through the tens of thousands of people visiting the Vatican. And when I say slowly, I mean SLOWLY! Now, if you think I am slow, FORGET IT! Some of these nearly dead cruisers make me look like Usaine Bolt! Some of these poor folks can barely move, yet they signed up for a level 2 difficult walking tour. Level one means you better be somewhat fit and level two means you have to be upright. Level three and they wheel you around. Why these people thought they could do this tour is beyond me! We spent more time waiting on their slow asses than sight seeing! We nearly missed our appointment time to enter the Vatican because they nearly croaked walking up a VERY short and NOT very steep hill. If I hadn’t been so pissed, being the caring and empathetic (or is it just pathetic?) person I am, I might have felt sorry for them.

This is NOT a painting! It is a mosaic!!!

I got to be amused (I love being amused!) when we entered the Vatican and went through security. Ernie, the Ernie half of our Bert (aka Jane)and Ernie team, was asking if he should send his money though the security machine or keep it on him. With nobody giving him a definitive answer in a timely manner, he made an executive decision and through all his Euro coins on the conveyor belt along with some keys or some other metal jingly things. I couldn’t wait to watch him try to collect them at the other end! I was not disappointed! He looked like Lucille Ball in the famous chocolate factory skit. He tried as hard as he could to pick up each coin and the other things before they rode off the conveyor belt. I stood watching in anticipation of a good time as they neared the end of the belt. Ernie swiped at them frantically but he just wasn’t fast enough and pretty soon coin after coin dropped to the floor under the table.

I started to laugh and called him a dumb ass (a term reserved not only for other idiots but for myself as well). Ernie smiled and shrugged and we walked over to the tour guide. He told her what had happened and she was aghast! that he had just left several Euros (equivalent to about 5 bucks), lying on the floor under the conveyer belt (I think she too wanted to call him a dumb ass but she didn’t know him well enough). She handed Ernie her rose on a stick (it helps the lemmings find her in a crowd) and marched off towards the security table to retrieve his money. Ernie protested loudly, and, it seemed to me, with much embarrassment but the guide continued on and didn’t return until she had saved all of his sunken treasure. I got a good laugh at somebody else’s expense (it just doesn’t get any better than that!). My day was complete!

Holding the guide’s flag while she retrieves his dough

What  DAY! I LOVED ROMA! IT WAS ALL I HAD HOPED FOR AND WAY WAY MORE! I was blown away by the experience (and I am NOT referring to gas!). There were plenty of fireworks on this tour!

Tomorrow it’s Pompeii and Napoli and then to a small town (I love those!) on the other side of the “boot.” Ain’t life grand!

I could get used to this place!


  1. Helen and Gang, Thanks for the vacation to Italy! I sort of feel like I’ve been there. Great descriptions and HUMOR!

  2. Helen,

    Great post! Brings back a lot of memories! I did a tour of all of Italy (by ground, not ship) in 1995, and it was awesome! Sounds like you’re seeing a lot of the same places, and your pictures are really great! I have a whole collage of all the pictures from that trip. At least, being on a ship, you don’t have to pack & unpack every night, but I think we got to places faster because we weren’t so far away as a port.

  3. Helen, so enjoy reading of your travels. I’m too lazy to write so you never know I always am reading Jility. Dan and I have been toying with traveling to Italy. After reading your blog I think the deal is sealed. Glad you and Sir Cussalot are having such a great time. Keep posting. Vicki,,your old Mcdougall tablemate.

  4. Helen, wonderful to hear about your trip. I lived in Italy for 6 months and loved every minute of it. Be sure and try some pastries!

  5. Hi Guys,

    I’m glad you’re having a good time, and enjoying the experience !


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