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Trip Report Rome and Eastern Mediterranean cruise: Fantastico!

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Hi all. Last month, we took a 7 day Eastern Mediterranean cruise. Before our cruise departed, we spent 3 wonderful days in Rome. Since we got back, I learned of two people from my area who are cruising the Eastern Med this month (one was on our exact cruise!) A mutual friend gave them my name, and I have been giving them feedback. I incorporated some of that feedback into a trip report.

Our trip started in: ROME

Campo de Fiori – we got to see this square in action several times throughout the course of the day becaise our apartment was located right off here. (This was a great location!) In the morning, there is food market, which is cleared out for the evening, when the square is a lively place surrounded by restaurants. At night, it is very active – we went out to get gelato before retiring and it was very festive.

Piazza Navona – another very large, very attractive and active square with Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain.

Pantheon – what an amazing structure with its open oculus. Raphael’s tomb is in here.

Trevi Fountain – every time we walked by, this area was always crowded with tourists. One time, we were walking the neighborhood not really sure where we were and came across it. Apparently, others did, too – as they saw this massive fountain, you could hear an audible chorus of “Ahhh” from the group walking next to us.

Spanish Steps – According to my son, these are “just steps”.

Piazza del Popolo – we walked around this large square. We were there in the afternoon, so the churches were closed. (From my last visit, I know they are worth a look).

Capuchin Catacombs in the Church Santa Maria Immacolata Concezione - Here there are five chapels containing the skeletons and bones of over 4,000 monks, artfully arranged, in patterns and designs. "Death closes the gates of time and opens those of eternity."

Trastevere – we spent an evening walking around this neighborhood – crossing the Tiber river and walking along some of the busier streets. The square where the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere is was lively at night.

Colosseum – what an amazing structure – we walked around both levels. My very best tip for visiting here – do not buy your ticket here! Your ticket is a combo ticket for the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. We arrived around 10:30 and purchased our tickets at the Forum, where the line was about 10 deep. (Tix can also be purchased at the Palatine Hill). Later, at the Colosseum, the line was very, very long – at the very least it had to be an hour wait.

Roman Forum – this is an extensive area, and we walked around the ruins, saw the House of the Vestal Virgins, and a small museum of finds from the site.

Villa Farnesina – we walked through this beautiful villa, viewing Raphael’s Galatea and the tromp l’oiel walls – covered with painted garlands and statuary. The one room featured a wall painted with huge columns overlooking an outdoor scene. It did look as if the room continued and you could peek over the balcony into a rural scene outside.

Palazzo Spada – they have a small art collection and an interesting optical illusion by Borromini. You look down what appears to be a long passageway lined with columns; a statue is at the end. But the perspective is not quite as it seems – an attendant walked down to the statue at the end, and you could then notice that the walkway was really quite short, and the statue not very big at all.

Castel Sant Angelo – we toured this castle, with its dungeons, walkways, and rooms with more illusionistic paintings – in one, you appeared to be looking at a stairwell with a person peering back at you. The view from the top was AMAZING – we could see the Pantheon, the Victor Emmanuel Monument (the “wedding cake”), and so many of the areas we had been exploring the past few days.

Churches:
San Giovanni in Laterano – this beautifully decorated building is the cathedral of Rome. Large statues of the Apostles line one façade of the cathedral; the frescoes here are beautiful.

Sant Ignazio di Loyola – Baroque church with a soaring trompe l’oiel ceiling by Andrea Pozzo. The architecture above opens to the sky with lots of whirling figures. Adjacent is a dome – but not a real one – it’s painted on. My older son, never thrilled with churches, called this one, “the real deal”.

Gesu – another beautifully decorated church with illusionistic ceiling.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva – Gothic church with a blue ceiling with stars. It’s a large church with a Michelangelo, which we missed b/c there a service so we could not explore.

Santa Maria in Trastevere – this old church may be the first Christian place of worship in Rome. It has interesting mosaics and is on a lively square in Trastevere.

San Luigi dei Francesi – This church has 3 paintings by Caravaggio – The Calling of St. Matthew, Martydom of St. Matthew and St. Matthew and the Angel . The Calling of St. Matthew is my favorite Caravaggio – photographic reproductions in art books do it no justice.

We stopped in several other churches, but do not recall their names. (There are a lot of churches in Rome!)

[You may think we skipped some pretty important sites of Rome, which we did on this trip. If you visit Rome, be sure to include the following, which I thought the boys would be less interested in:

Vatican/Sistine Chapel

Borghese Gallery – Bernini’s statues in here are among the most amazing pieces of art I have ever seen. It is quite an impressive collection of art – I especially liked the painting ceilings in the rooms on the upper floor.

Santa Maria della Vittoria – Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa is a remarkable piece of art – it’s not just the statue, but the “stage” Bernini created it around it.

Palazzo Barberini – a lavish palazzo and collection of art, with a whirling, detailed trompe l’oeil ceiling.]

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