Iberian Immersion Cruise on the Oceania Riviera
11/4/21 to 11/20/21

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Page 1 – Pre-cruise in Nice, France; Embarkation, Ship (Part 1)
Page 2 – Ship (Part 2); Ports of Call:  Marseille, France; Toulon, France
   
Page 3 - Ports of Call: 
Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Cartagena, Spain; Melilla, Spain; Alicante, Spain
Page 4 -
Ports of Call: Ibiza, Spain;  Catania, Sicily; Naples, Italy
Page 5 - Rome, Italy: 
Day 1 & Day 2 (Part 1)
Page 6 -
Rome, Italy:  Day 2 (Part 2) & Day 3

 

Rome, Italy

Day 1

We arrived at our hotel, Albergo del Senato (www.albergodelsenato.it) at about 9:45 AM.  The hotel is right next to the Pantheon. 

   

We assumed that we would have to check our bags there and wait until much later in the day to check in.  To our surprise, our room was ready, and we were able to go up to our room.  We were on the fourth floor and had been given a Pantheon view room.  Oh my, what a view!  You can’t get this from ground level.

   

We had found this hotel from a www.cruisecritic.com thread about Rome hotels.  It had been highly recommended by a cruiser who had visited Rome many times.  We are so glad we followed her advice.  The hotel has been modernized with many nice features but has also maintained its elegant look and feel.  We just loved it and the receptionists Alesandra and Julia were just so pleasant and helpful.  They made our stay in Rome so much more enjoyable with recommendations and restaurant reservations.  This will be our go to hotel in Rome for future visits.

   

   

   

Our room was quite comfortable with adequate storage and a comfortable bed.  Although after being in an Oceania suite, any room would have felt small, this room was much bigger than our Nice, France hotel and more than adequate.  I appreciated that they had USB charging ports on either side of the very comfortable bed.      

   

   

The bathroom was of an adequate size and the fixtures were all updated.

   

After putting away our clothes we were ready to begin exploring Rome.  Being next to the Pantheon makes most tourist sites within at most a 15-to-20-minute walk.  Most much closer.  We walked through the Piazza della Rotonda in front ot the Pantheon and admired the fountain and Egyptian obelisk.

   

My first destination was to go to Piazza Navona.  I pulled it up on my Google Map and we headed off.  Right around the corner of our hotel was the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

In front of the church is Pulcino della Minerva statue that was designed by Bernini.  It is a statue of an elephant with an obelisk on top of it.  The design was inspired by a 15th century novel.  The obelisk itself was constructed around 580 BC and is the shortest of the eleven obelisks in Rome.

   

The door to the church was closed.  A sign near the door showed that the entrance was around the other side of the building.  We walked around it and kept walking until we finally found a small alley that appeared to go to an entrance.   The sign on the door said that it opened at 5:00 PM.  Since it was close to our hotel and it is one of the better known and highly recommended churches in Rome to visit, we made plans to return later.

Continuing our quest to find Piazza Navona, we came to a different church, Basilica di Sant Andrea della Valle. For some reason, I didn’t take a photo of the exterior, probably because I assumed that it would be closed also.  But it was not.  And oh my, was it a beauty!  Every square inch was covered with frescos and other ornate decorations.

   

   

   

   

I had told Cathy that from my previous experiences in Rome, most of the churches are incredibly beautiful, even the minor ones.  I am the type of person who loves to visit religious buildings.  I normally can’t pass by a church, mosque or temple without wanting to go inside to visit.  Cathy learned this early in the vacation.  I must say she enjoyed them also and was a real trooper. 

After struggling with the GPS with it telling me I was aiming the correct way, then telling me I was going the wrong way, we finally made it to Piazza Navona.  It is a gorgeous plaza with three beautiful fountains. 

   

The largest and most famous of those is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, which also has an Egyptian Obelisk on top of it.  It is in the middle of the plaza.  There are just so many different amazing, sculptured subjects on it.  We had to look closely at all four sides of the fountain.

   

   

   

   

The Fontana del Moro is on the southern end.

   

The Fountain of Neptune on the northern end.

   

Across from the Fountain of the Four Rivers is the Sant’Agnese in Agone church.  I had mistakenly thought that the Agone referred to the agony of Saint Agnes, but actually relates to the piazza itself which used to be called the Agone area.

   

   

   

Once again, the interior was amazing.  Just more beauty than can be taken in with the short amount of time we were able to be there. 

   

Cathy was particularly impressed with the inlaid artwork on the floors.

   

After we left the church and finished taking photos of the fountains, we went across the plaza to an open-air restaurant where we had our first pizza and beer in Rome.  It was so good!  The scenery from our table wasn’t bad either.

After an enjoyable lunch and a bit of relaxation, we were ready to continue our exploration.  I wanted to show Cathy the Trevi Fountain, so we looked at the directions on the map app.  As we were leaving the plaza, we saw a tourist information booth.  We had hoped to be able to find a printed map that might also help us to locate different attractions.  The attendant did help us a bit plus he was able to sell us tickets for a hop on hop off bus that we planned on using the next day to look around and just a way to travel from one end of town to the next.

During our walk to the fountain, we saw a gorgeous building down the road away from where we were headed.  I had to know what it was and to see it closer.

Walking across the bridge to the building, we could see the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral in the distance.  I love Rome!  We would be visiting it the next day.

The building was the Palace of Justice.  The Supreme Court of Cassation sits in the building and is Italy’s highest court of appeals.  In addition to churches, I really appreciate beautiful buildings.  This one was a gem.

   

   

On the way back toward our hotel, which was on the path to the Trevi Fountain, we passed by some pretty churches which I refrained from going inside and a particularly lovely courtyard.

    

   

We took a quick break at our hotel and noticed that the line to the Pantheon was getting longer than it had been in the morning, so we decided that we might as well go now while it was convenient.  I’m glad we did, since the line was long every time we looked out of our window or walked by the Pantheon.

Entry is free, but we did need to use the QR code on the EUdplf tracking form we had obtained before our trip that proves we had been vaccinated for Covid.  The line moved faster than I expected, since most people had their phones out with the QR code showing.  It is always a treat to walk into the Pantheon, one of the oldest of the ancient Roman buildings.  It is in very good shape, since it has been used as a church for much of the time since its construction in the first century AD.   The opening at the top of the dome is always fascinating to me.  That day was a bit cloudy when we were there, so we didn’t have the bright ray of sun shining in, which looks so impressive.  But it is still a treat to see the beauty in this ancient building.

   

   

   

   

On our last leg to the Trevi Fountain, we passed by a building with 11 tall ancient columns.  It was the 145 AD Temple of Hadrian.  Only the wall and columns remain which are now the facade of the Rome Stock Exchange.   

     

As is usual when we arrived at the fountain, it was crowded with sightseers.  And rightfully so since it is probably the most famous fountain in the world.  It is certainly a gorgeous one. 

   

   

The area around the fountain is not that large, so it is good that the steps to the lower level create tiered viewing for taking photos.

   

I went down to the lower level to get photos from a different and closer view.  This is the area where people throw coins in the fountain.  The legend is that if you throw coins with your right hand over your left shoulder while turned away from the fountain you will return to Rome.  It is estimated that pre-Covid the city was collecting 3,000 Euros per day from the fountain.  This money was used to subsidize a market for Rome’s needy.

   

Walking back to our hotel we came to the Column of Marcus Aurelias which was erected around 180 AD by his son to commemorate his father’s military campaigns.  The reliefs are so detailed.  It is almost a shame that it is 128 feet tall, and the upper ones can barely be seen.  An additional 23 feet of the base are underground, having been covered by newer layers of construction.

   

We continued the walk and saw Galleria Albert Sordi, a shopping mall.  We didn’t do any shopping but just looked at the beautiful interior.

   

   

We then came to another beautiful place, Piazza Montecitorio.   It contains the Palace Montecitorio, where the Italian Chamber of Deputies meets, and the Obelisk of Montecitorio.  The obelisk was constructed in Egypt in 590 BC.  It is covered with hieroglyphics. 

   

After a very full day, we went back to the hotel to recuperate for a bit before we headed out for our evening activities.   We wanted to return to the Santa Maria sopra Minerva church before looking for a restaurant for dinner.  Since we now knew where the secret entrance to the church was, we were able to go directly to it.  With sunset being pretty close to 5:00 PM, it was getting dark outside.  Most of the streets are pretty well lit in the center part of town; but I knew that we wouldn’t be able to see the beauty of the stained glass in the church without sunlight.  When we entered the church, we couldn’t believe how dark it was.  There were very few lights on.  Those that were on were pretty dim.  The high altar area is surrounded by beautiful stained glass, but I couldn’t see a thing other than the altar itself with the sarcophagus of Saint Catherine of Siena.

   

   

   

   

     

   

   

The photos I took in this church would not have been possible without my iPhone.  It is an incredible camera with low light capabilities that truly amaze me.   Most of the photos are of the various chapels and the ceiling.  Most of them were so dark, that I couldn’t see much with my eyes.  When I used my iPhone, I could actually see what was there.  I called Cathy over to show here what one of the gorgeous chapels looked like on the phones screen, since it couldn’t be seen otherwise.  She was also amazed.  I am so glad that not only was I able to capture some photos, but more importantly to even see what was there.  It is such a shame that the church didn’t have adequate illumination to see the beauty of this place.  If it had been open during daylight, that would have made a huge difference.  We made the best of it. 

Unlike me, Cathy likes to read information sheets next to most things when we are in a church, museum or other tourist attraction.  I am so glad that she did, since she found out that the beautiful statue, we had admired was Michelangelo’s Christ the Redeemer.  Had she not seen that, I wouldn’t have realized what a treasure we had just seen.

We returned to the hotel and asked how to get up to the rooftop bar.  Julia told us to take the smaller elevator to the 7th floor.  We hadn’t realized there was a second elevator.  It was still early in the evening, and it was a bit cool, so we were the only ones at the bar.  We could see the Victor Emanuel Monument in the distance.  I hadn’t realized that it was so high up on a hill.  I was looking forward to seeing the view in the daytime.

   

Of course, the view of the Pantheon at night from above was quite special.  Most people don’t get to see it. 

On our way out of the hotel we asked about restaurant recommendations and were given some.  Since we were pretty tired from our day’s activities, we decided to just eat close to the hotel at one of the many restaurants in the area.  I had found a restaurant on Yelp that I was interested in trying, so I planned on going by there to see if we could get in. While walking around to check out what else was available, we saw a beautifully illuminated church.  It was closed.  I did check.  It was never seemed to be open the many times I passed by.  The Pantheon had some nice illumination too.

The restaurant I had found on Yelp was fully booked for the night, so we made a reservation for the next night.  We had a delicious meal in the Pantheon square and went back to the room for an early bedtime.  We had another busy day scheduled for the next day.

 

Day 2

The hotel has a nice breakfast buffet each morning.  You tell the attendants what you would like, and they put it on a plate and bring it to your table.  They had a nice selection of pastries and fruit to go along with the scrambled eggs and bacon.

   

We found it interesting that in the middle of the restaurant was a Roman column with the base below the floor.  The receptionist, Allesandra, told us that at one time the building was a monastery.  I am glad that the column could be saved for people to appreciate.

   

Since I wake up pretty early, I went up to the rooftop bar to see what the view looked like in the morning in sunlight.  I could see a lot more.

   

   

This was going to be a big day.  We had booked a visit to the Vatican Museum, which is a highlight of any Rome tourist.  With the weather being pretty much in the high 60’s during the day and low 50’s at night, we didn’t need air conditioning in the room.  We left the window open a bit at night and it kept the room quite comfortable.  The downside of that is that the square stays active until late in the night and some people can get loud.  Cathy had brought earplugs, but we never needed them.  I would recommend bringing some if you are a light sleeper and bothered by noise.  But what a pleasure it is to wake up in the morning and look out the window to see the Pantheon square.

   

We took an Uber to the Vatican Museum.  It cost 11.5 Euros plus tip and saved us a lot of energy for all the walking we would do during the day.  Once again, we needed to show our QR code along with our eTickets to enter the museum.  We walked around the grounds trying to find the entrance that would get us to the Sistine Chapel the quickest to avoid crowds.  It was probably unnecessary since the tickets had been limited due to Covid restrictions.  The floor plan of the museum was not that helpful since we didn’t have the slightest idea where we were.

   

   

We finally just picked an entrance and began touring through the amazing exhibits. 

   

   

   

There were signs directing visitors to the Sistine Chapel, but they pointed multiple different ways.  So, we picked one and continued gawking at everything.  I will put in way too many photos of the museum and not even attempt to explain what the various things are, since I don’t remember, and it isn’t that necessary.  The place is just amazing, especially the ceilings.

   

   

   

   

Every so often we would come to an open window where we could look out into the lush gardens.  The Vatican takes good care of the grounds.

We eventually found a sign that said Sistine Chapel Quick Tour on it that directed us down some stairs.  Since we had seen quite a bit already, we decided to take that route.  If I was staying in Rome for more days, I might have spent the whole day in the museum, but we didn’t have that luxury.  When we got to the Sistine Chapel, we almost had it to ourselves.  I couldn’t believe it.  On my two prior visits, it was so crowded it was uncomfortable.  Photos are not permitted in the chapel, and it is probably a good thing or people would be taking photos for hours on end.  However, it is not great if you just want to take a few photos to remember the visit by.  I did break the rules and took a few photos in a sneaky way.  Since there were so few people there, Cathy and I were able to sit on a bench on the side of the chapel and just take in the beauty.   After a while we moved over to the bench on the other side to get a different angle.  It was so nice.

   

   

After leaving the chapel we continued walking through a different part of the museum toward the exit.

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

To get to the exit we had to go down the big circular ramp.  Quite a sight on its own looking down or up.

   

 

 

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