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Chapter Seventeen

Day 43

Civitavecchio

We pulled up onto this parking area last night, along with around 15 other vans near to the port in Civitavecchio thinking it to be a small fishing village with a port from which ferries travel to Sardinia and Barcelona. Waking up and taking a walk around, this small ‘fishing village’ turned out to be quite a large town. The nearby port contained large ferries taking passengers to Barcalona and Sardinia, whilst a little further along there were fishing boats with huge buckets filled with nets, all neatly stacked and waiting for their next trip out. Fish restaurants were situated alongside the quay as well as what looked like a fish market that had been scrubbed sparkling clean. In the marina small boats bobbed in the clear waters and the local police had a boat that they were patrolling the harbour in. There were men dotted around hopefully waiting for a bite as they cast out their fishing rods, or maybe it was just an excuse to sit and enjoy the sunshine! Further along the waterfront there are cafes, hotels and the tourist information from where you can buy bus tickets to Rome along with entrance into the Vatican or the Coluseum and free buses run along for the port or the nearby shopping centre.

Once away from the front and into the town, it is quite busy and as we are in need of a further top-up on our internet card, we are glad to find a 3 shop, the two girls inside are so helpful and although our Italian is quite limited, their English is a bit better and we finnally manage to sort out what we need and how to do it, simple when you know how. That done we wander around the town for a while and then heading back towards the waterfront past a lovely church find ourselves at the holiday part of the town, small gift shops offer souveniers and holiday items. Cafes already have people enjoying a coffee outside, although at this time of year it is mostly local people rather than tourists, and in the main square of the beachfront is a huge statue of a sailor kissing his girl, people standing next to it makes you realise how big it is.

We head back towards the motorhome past the old town walls much of which have been cleaned and past the fishing boats and the large ferries. The parking here has been free and has felt quite safe. Heading out of the town we just follow the signs for Rome. The road follows the waterfront and is the old Via Aurelia which will take us directly to Rome without the need to go onto motorways. We pass through quite a few small holiday towns and villages on the way, all getting ready for the tourists who will soon be flocking here, and with the lovely scenery we can see why. This run makes for a lovely trip along the coast.

We arrive in Rome and still on the Via Aurelia come to the campsite ‘Camping Village Roma’ where we have stayed before and is very handy for getting in and out of the City. Booking in at reception we find our parking spot and sort ourseleves out. Tickets for the buses can be bought at the reception office, and they also offer a minibus to take people to and from the airport as they rent out chalet bunglaows. Two of our team are flying back to the UK in two days time so we book the minibus at the same time (7€ each) as buying our bus tickets (1€ for 90 minutes). After a wash and change of clothes we head off into Rome for an evening stroll. The bus,247, takes about 30 mins, there are quite a few stops but the terminal in Rome is close to the Vatican and from here we can walk through St.Peter’s square and stand in awe, along with the many others, of the Vatican buildings and statues all now lit up against the dark sky, it is so beautiful to see. We walk down the Via Della Conciliazione towards the Castel S.Angelo and then along the riverside. All the buildings and bridges are illuminated as well as many of the statues and we enjoy an ice cream or gelato, as we stroll along back to the bus terminus. We will be back in the morning.

Day 44

Rome

Catching the bus into the centre of Rome early gives us a chance to see as much as we can before two of our members head off back home in the morning. The day has started off sunny with clear blue skies and promises to be quite hot, as the day goes on. We take the 246 bus to Cornelia and then the 46 as far as the Piazza Venezia and the National Gallery. The piazza in front of the National Gallery is busy and there are lots of coaches and sightseeing buses around. Although the roads are busy and there are quite a few people around we are quite lucky that there are no queues for the Gallery, which is an absolutely amazing building. Guards are all around checking that visitors respect the building and climbing up the first set of steps we come to the sentries on guard at the ‘Altar of the Homeland ‘ with the bas-reliefs ‘Work’ and ‘Love of Homeland’,and in the centre the ‘Goddess Roma'(by the sculptor Zanelli). Below the Statue of the Goddess lies the body of the unknown soldier, buried on 4th November 1921 in a great ceremony that involved the whole country and in the presence of King Victor Emmanuel III. The Gallery is named ‘Il Vittoriano’ after King Victor Emmanuel II and the equestrian at the front of the building weighs 50 tons and is cast in bronze. On top of the right and left hand extremities of the portico are the huge statues of horses and chariots named ‘Quadriga of Liberty’ and ‘Quadriga of Unity’ (Zanelli). The amount and quality of the statues on the exterior of the building is amazing and can be viewed as an open air museum itself. Low down on the left hand side you wil find the ‘Fountain of the Adriatic’. A little further up are two sculptural groups of powerfully symbolistic inspiration’Strength’ and ‘Concord’. At the foot of the steps is a guilded bronze group depicting ‘Thought’with the Goddess Minerva helping a figure to her feet who symbolises the Italian people. Whereas another similarly guilded group depicts ‘Action’. There are also statues representing the different Regions of Italy on the 16 columns of the portico, standing over 5 metres high. The whole of the exterior contains many,many statues all with their own meaning and all awe -inspiring. The floor is marble and like the rest of the building is spotlessly clean. On entering the hallway is high and steps lead off to all the various levels. On the first floor we come to is the Sacarium of the Flags, set up to contain all the flags used during the battles for the unity and independence of Italy. Upstairs the gallery we entered was exclusively dedicated to the First World War and contained the gun-carriage used to carry the body of the unknown soldier. A large statue of a mounted general leading his men into battle is surrounded by pictures and historical mementos. In a glass case there is the Pen and Ink-well used to sign the Armistice at Villa Giusti on 3rd November 1918. A couple of days would be needed to take in all that there is to see in this wonderful and interesting building. You are able to go out onto the roof space and this gives amazing views over the city. There is also a lift that takes you even higher up but this was high enough for us to see across to the Coluseum and the roman ruins that are all around this area. We could also see the streets below filled with people, cars, buses and, of course, the many scooters darting in and out of the traffic. Along the sides are pictures of the city of Rome pointing out the buildings of interest so that you can pin-point where they are. We leave the Vittoriano reluctantly and head back out to the crowded and now quite hot streets, and walk up the Via dei Fori Imperiali towards the Coloseum. We are starting to get a little hungry now so we stop off and have a bite to eat in a small cafe on the Via Cavour. Pancetta in a soft bread Roman style so we were told and a glass of red wine to accompany it, it was delicious. Feeling better we headed off again and soon were outside the Coloseum, true name ‘The Flavian Amphitheatre’. Building began in 72 A.D by Vespasian and was completed by his son Titus in 80 A.D. The Colosseum had the same function as a modern stadium and the spectacles shown were with the intention of cultivating the war-like spirit that had made Romans the conquerors of the world. Professional Gladiators fought to the death here and wild animals were brought in to make things more interesting. The Colosseum is elliptical in shape and is 187 metres at its longest end and 155 metres at the shortest. The height of the external ring is 50 metres and it held around 60,000 spectators. The Emperors seat was in the centre and the rest of the podum, called the ‘Suggestum’, was occupied by senators and members of the court. Over large periods of history the colosseum fell into neglect and has been used as a cemetery, a fortress and a quarry for building materials, it has also been damaged by earthquakes. The Colosseum is nonetheless a spectacular building and even after so many centuries remains a pride to Rome and a marvel to visitors from all over the world.

In this area there are many historical ruins to see. The ‘Trajan’s Markets’ is a semi-circular, three storey structure which has been very well preserved and above which is a large, vaulted hall. ‘The Forum of Julius Caesar’ the first of the so-called Imperial Fora built with the spoils of the victory of the Gallic wars. A piazza surrounded by porticos and at the centre the Temple of Venus. ‘The Forum of Augustus’ after the assassination of Caesar, and the death of Brutus and Cassius the two conspiritors, Agustus took a vow to build a new temple and dedicate it to Mars who was the Father of the Roman people and God of War. He kept his promise and built the Temple of Mars Ultor in the centre of the new Forum and it was inaugurated in 2 B.C. There is also the huge Arch of Constantine, erected by the senate to commemorate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius.

After walking around the Roman remians and imagining how life would have been back then we head of to see something quite different Trevi Fountain, we want to throw our coins in to ensure that we will one day return to Rome, as legend has it that if a forgeiner tosses a coin into the fountain it ensures his return to Rome. Off the Via Corso the Via delle Muratte leads up to the small square that contains the jewel of 18th century architecture, the Trevi Fountain. Built against a large building and rocks water gushes out from the many statues set around the fountain. The square is absolutely packed full of people eager to see this beautiful fountain and it is quite difficult to take your photos with the crowds. Next we walk to the Piazza dei Spagna and the famous Spanish Steps with the Church of the Trinit’dei Monti at the top and the Fountain of the broken boat at the bottom. Again there are crowds of people here and as the day is so hot there are a few children splashing their hands in the cool, clear water.
We take a visit to the nearby Basilica of SS.Ambrose and Charles, it is recessed in from Via del Corso and it’s facade is one of the most majestic in Rome. The Basilica is divided into three naves with side altars. On the vault in the central aisle is the fresco of ‘The fall of the Angels’ by Giacinto Brandi from 1677. The wonderful Cupola, measuring 72 metres, confirms its reputation as one of the most impressive in Rome. The interior holds many beautiful paintings and statues which are not to be missed when visiting Rome. Throughout the last twenty years the Basilica has undergone much restoration works and it was enrolled into the international foundation ‘World Monument Watch of New York’ in 1996? who placd the Basilica into the top 100 most damaged monuments which were in urgent need of restoration. Today the Basilica is greatly renewed in all of its principal parts.

All this walking and visiting the beautiful monuments of Rome has left us in dire need of ‘Coffee’ and a need to rest our weary legs for a few minutes so off we head to look for somewhere to do just this before we carry on our way but as so often happens we get talking to other people around us and learn of even more places to visit that we have not even thought of, I think we will need to be here for a least a couple of years to cover everything! wouldn’t that be lovely.

The sun is starting to fade and there is still so much to see and do so off we go again and cross over the river by the Sant’Angelo Bridge (once named Ponte Elio), built by Emperor Hadrian in 130A.D. together with the mausoleum which is now the Castel Sant’Angelo.The fortress was created by Hadrian as his Tomb. The fortress was formerly huge and at one time had six towers it was transformed into a castle in the 10th century. In 1277 it was occupied by Pope Nicholas III who joined it to the vatican by the famous ‘passetto’ which is a passageway that runs along the top of the wall that encircles the Vatican, from this time it remained in the control of the popes and became the official palace, fortress and prison. The name Castel Sant’Angelo comes from an old legend dating back to 590 when a solemn procession led by St.Gregory implored the Virgin Mary to put an end to the plague which was devastating the city, an Angel is said to have appeared in the sky and landed on the mausoleum holding his sword. A chapel was built in his honour and then later a statue and the building was renamed. It is certainly an imposing building and receives many visitors every year. Outside the Castle there are always people milling about and there are market stalls and street entertainers, while we were passing by a couple were playing music and dancing which drew quite a crowd.

With the sun now starting to set in the sky we walked up towards St.Peters square. The many gift shops along the way kept us busy as we just had to inspect the inside of most of them just to see what they had. Carrying our bags of goods in one hand and an ice cream in the other we watched as the chairs were being set out for the mass on Sunday. There is no way to just walk through this lovely square and it seems to hold on to you as there is so much to look at and the atmosphere to soak in. We suddenly realised that we were not sure of the time of the mass tomorrow, a priest walked past us and headed off across the square surely he will know the time I quickly ran after him and trying out my very best Italian inquired about the time of the mass in the morning,9.30am after thanking him he asked if I had tickets for the seated area as I didn’t know anything about tickets I old him no and he said to go and ask the Swiss Guard if there were any available. Thanking him again I hurried back towards the Vatican buildings and told all this to the Italian policeman who was guarding the entrance. I was ushered through and had to pass through the X-ray machines ( similar to those at the airports) and then explained all this again to the bodyguards at the foot of the stairs. Finally reaching the Swiss Guards I was happy to hear that he spoke excellent English and after explaining the situation was rewarded with tickets. Thanking the Swiss Guard profusely I came skipping out to the other waving the tickets they couldn’t believe that I had got them and at such short notice too, sooooo looking forward to Sunday, shame that two of the party will have left by then, bad timing!

We ambled through the streets towards the bus terminal and were lucky enough to find a bus there waiting for us. Getting back to the camp site late in the evening and no one wanting to cook we ordered some pizzas from the site restaurant and sat outside with a bottle of wine to accompany the pizzas, a perfect way to end the day.

Day 45

Having to wake up early today as two of our party are leaving and flying back to England this morning. There is a bus which will pick them up from outside the site office at 7.30am and take them straight to the airport which is very handy. We have had a few worrying moments over these tickets though, they were booked a few weeks ago for today and only two days ago when booking in on line we found out the Ryan Air had cancelled the flight. Staff we spoke to on the phone were not very helpful but we finally found out that the tickets had been transferred to another flight half an hour later but flying into a different airport, with not even a e-mail to let us know we find this very poor service. Transport had to be sorted out for the other side but several phone calls later it was all done and hopefully everything will go well and they will actually arrive in England somewhere. After they had left it was very quiet and those left behind quite missed them but at least it will give us a chance to catch up on cleaning up a bit and getting the van sorted out again. The cleaning up which we thought would be done by dinner time took till tea time! but at least it is all sparkling again and there is still time left to sit down and relax for the evening. So not much to talk about today, an early night as we are up early again tomorrow.

Day 46

Palm Sunday

Getting up early again today as we have to catch two buses or a bus and a train into the city, the 247 does not run on a Sunday. Taking the 246 to Cornelia and then the underground train to the city centre (near to the Vatican) we arrive along with many others and make our way towards St.Peters square. Along the way there are people giving out olive branches of varying sizes to be blessed at the begining of the mass by the pope. There is a very lively and happy atmosphere in the city streets as we walk along in the morning sunshine. Having arrived early gave us enough time to get into the square and find seats near to the front of the second section from where we will have a good view of the Pope as he does the blessing from a section set up just behind us and we will also have a good view up to the altar at the front. The rows of seats start to fill up quickly as the time goes on. We are surrounded by people who have travelled here from all parts of the world and we listen to the different languages and accents around us, everyone seems to be excited and it is a lovely atmosphere to be part of.

Along the passageways there are Swiss Guards in their brightly coloured uniforms and helmets and there are also smartly suited bodyguards checking that the crowds are moving and getting to their seats. At the top of the steps leading up to the altar the seats set out for the cardinals and dignitaries and people taking part in today’s mass are beging to fill up as well and all around cameras are flashing. In the next row to us there is a group of nuns holding enormous fresh palms that they have been handed, holding them up hides them from view altogether.
Suddenly a hush falls over the crowds followed by excited cries that the Pope has come out, he is taken in his car to the centre of the crowds where the altar has been set up for the blessing of the palms. At the blessing palms and olive branches are held aloft, these will be treasured for a long time to come by those who are here. After the blessing is completed the Pope is taken back up to the high altar and people strain to get a close glimpse of him. The mass is beautiful, and being here in the open air it seems even more special. When we came in we received booklets written out especially for todays mass and this makes it better for following everything that is going on. The music and the hymns are beautiful and huge screens ensure that everyone gets a good view of all that is going on.

At the end of the mass the Pope again gets into his open car and travels along the passageways left clear to wave to the people. Being at the front of the second section we get a wonderful view of him as he passes by and even get a great close-up photo of him which I will treasure. Around us people shout out ‘Papa, Papa’ as he passes by and push forward to get a better view of him. Then it is all over and although we have been here for about 3 to 4 hours it seems to have gone over in a flash. We sit a while along with many others while the main body of the crowds disperse before making our way out of the seated area so that people can start on the tidying up.

After standing about for a while we decide to go for lunch and stroll through the streets of Rome before making our minds up on where to have our lunch. We stop off at a small restaurant on the Via degli Scipioni called ‘La Caravella’, with outside seating that offers a good deal of starter, main course, desert and a drink. The service was very good and friendly and the meal was delicious. We spend a good long while over our meal and sit and people watch while we finish our drinks.

The afternoon is spent strolling around Rome just soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the sunshine before taking the bus back to the camp site. We take the first bus to Cornelia and walk across the road to catch the second bus to the camp site. The bus stop is crowded with people and when the bus arrives everyone surges forward to get on we get seperated and one of us is carried onto the bus with the crowd and as he does so feels something slipping out of his pocket but with so many people he can do nothing.

Getting off the bus and telling us what has happened we discover that the two cases with his glasses in have been taken but his wallet was in the other pocket and he had his hand in this pocket so at least that is safe, but it does make us feel that this has put a stain on what was otherwise a perfect day. Pickpockets are often at work on the buses in Rome unfortunately and this is something to be aware of, especially when there are crowds of people there it makes it easier for them to operate.

Day 47

We decide to take a quick run into the city centre before we leave and go in on the motorscooter instead of taking the bus. There are a few little presents we want to buy before leaving, although we will be coming back again next weekend for Easter. We park near to the Vatican and make our way to the Vatican post office to send a couple of cards from here with the vatican stamp on them. Next we go and ask the Swiss guards if there is any chance that we may be able to have tickets for seats at the Easter Sunday mass and are totally delighted to be told that we can. So looking forward to that! Next the shops, we have to dodge the many street sellers trying to push their wares on us, we are getting quite good at this now, we make our purchases at the shops and have an ice cream before leaving and heading back to the campsite again. We are sure that we are on the right road but no we have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line and end up somewhat lost but not to worry we just keep looking for the Via Aurelia and finnally find our way back safely. Leaving on the motorway to begin with and then changing to the side roads, we start heading towards Naples. The day is a little overcast but still pleasantly warm as we pass by towns and villages and through the countryside which changes in appearance as we travel further south. There are already quite a few crops growing in fields and gardens and the wisteria is in full bloom along with large lillies growing wild along the side of the roads. With our ‘prolonged’ trip into Rome earlier on we are quite late now and don’t want to get too close to Naples before we stop for the night so we hop back onto the motorway and after topping up with diesel we spend the night on the services which is well lit and busy with it being open 24 hours, so we feel quite safe here.

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