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 2 (Continued)

We had seen an exit to St. Peter’s when we first walked into the museum ticket area.  I asked a couple museum employees along the path as to where an exit was, and they told me a way to go.  The exit we ended up using wasn’t the right one.  We had to go back into the museum and then we were directed to a different exit that required that we walk totally around the museum to get to St. Peter’s.  We weren’t looking for more exercise, but we got it.  Perhaps that is the only exit, but it did seem very inconvenient.  It was just an exit out of the building.

After about a ten-minute walk, we could finally see St. Peter’s square.  The massive colonnades surrounding it with statues along the top is most impressive.  The colonnades reach out from the church to represent the maternal arms of the mother church.

   

   

   

   

We found the entrance line and began what turned out to be much shorter wait than we thought.  Once again, we had to show our QR codes to get in.  It is a massive, gorgeous church. 

To the right as we first walked in is Michelangelo’s famous Pieta.  It is kept behind bulletproof glass after a mentally disturbed geologist attacked it with a geologist’s hammer breaking off pieces of it.

   

The rest of the church is filled with so many beautiful objects.  Below is a sampling of what we saw.

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

One of the places that I had not been to was the grotto where many of the popes are buried.  Photos are not allowed there, but I did take a couple to show what it was like.  There were many others taking lots of photos, but I restrained myself.

   

On our way out of the church we saw a couple members of the Swiss Guard in their unusual costumes.

We planned on walking close to the Palace of Justice we had seen the previous day to catch the hop on hop off bus we had purchased tickets for, but first wanted to stop for lunch.  We found a place along the way that had the best pizza we had the whole trip.  Luck is a wonderful thing.  The beer was good too.

After lunch we passed by Castel Sant'Angelo.  This was originally Emperor Hadrian’s tomb but is now a museum.  The round building is an eye catcher.

   

Once again, we passed over the bridge in front of the Palace of Justice and got a view of the dome of St. Peter’s.

We were picking up our bus on the other side of the bridge. We had purchased tickets for Rome Open Bus Tour based on the tourist info office recommendation.  Having looked at some other company’s routes, they all looked pretty much the same.  Since they can’t come into the center city, they do an outer loop.  All the busses appear to have the same bus stops also.  With it being off season, the buses come around every 20-30 minutes.  I had primarily booked the tour to be able to see some of the outlying areas and to use it for transportation around town.  We found we could walk anywhere we needed to go or just use an Uber, so it was probably a waste of money based on our hotel being so centrally located.  We didn’t see too much from the bus, but we did get some good info on the recording that helped us out for the next day’s activities.  We saw several fountains and other sights.

   

   

We circled around the Santa Maria Maggiore church, which is one of the major churches in Rome.  I have been to it before and was most impressed with the interior.

   

On our way to our next stop, the narrator told us about a Michelangelo statue in the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli or Saint Peter in Chains that we were passing by.  Since we were going to be visiting the Colosseum nearby the next day, we put that church on our agenda.  We were soon seeing the Colosseum and driving around it.  Always something that is amazing to see.

   

We then drove by the Circus Maximus where the Roman chariot races once took place.  On one side of it is Palatine Hill, where Rome’s rich and famous lived in ancient times.  It is now an open-air museum.

   

The buses next stop was at Piazza Venezia.  It would be our last stop since we wanted to get off there.  It was also closer to our hotel than the next stop which was the one where we originally boarded the bus.  Where we stopped before the plaza was in front of the Theatre of Marcellus which was built in 13 BC.  Its design influenced that used for the Colosseum that would be completed 93 years later in 80 BC.

As we walked toward the plaza we could see the side of the Monument to Victor Emmanuel, the man who became the first king of the united Italy in 1861.  We had seen this monument from our hotel’s rooftop bar, but it is so impressive when standing below this massive, beautiful structure.  At one time people referred to it as “the typewriter” since it does have a similar design.  But in more recent times it is now referred to as “the wedding cake”, since younger people don’t know what a typewriter is or even looks like.

   

   

In the cente of the monument is Italy's tomb of the unknown soldier with an eternal flame.

Also in the plaza were two churches that I was most interested in seeing.  I walked all around both, but neither were open. 

We then mapped out our walk back to the hotel and took our time getting there.  It had been a long and tiring wonderful touring day. 

Before dinner we stopped at an open-air café next to the hotel for drinks.  All during our stay in Rome we had seen people drinking bright orange cocktails.  I asked at one of the restaurants what they were.  They told us that it was an Aperol Spritz.  It is a combination of Aperol, Prosecco and sparkling water.  We decided that it would be a good time to try one.  It was a most refreshing drink.

That evening we had reservations for a highly rated restaurant that I found on Yelp, Osteria del Sostegno.  The reviews mentioned that it was a bit difficult to find, but my map app had no problem with it.  The restaurant is down a short alley and the only indication that there is anything there is a small “Tratoria” sign.  There was a small outdoor seating area, and we ate in one of the two inside rooms.

   

   

The restaurant was wonderful.  We had a great meal and conversed with a couple from France who were seated next to us.  It was a most special evening.

 

Rome, Italy - Day 3


For our last day in Rome, we had a pretty full day planned.  We had to get our Covid test for our return flight home.  The hotel receptionist told us where to go, which wasn’t far away.  I had booked tickets to see the colosseum, but the earliest we could get in was 12:30 PM.  So, we had plenty of time to get the test before starting the day’s touring.   It was too easy.  We walked in, paid 22 Euros each for the test, walked outside to the tented area where the doctor gave us the test and ten minutes later, we had our negative test paperwork in our hands.  We were relieved it was so easy and of course negative.

Prior to setting out on our visit to the Colosseum area, we walked around our area a little bit.  We came to the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Since it was open, we went in.  Just a spectacular baroque church.  The altar, ceiling fresco and chapels were just gorgeous.

   

   

   

   

   

   

   

Our first destination was the Saint Peter in Chains church close to the Colosseum.  It would have been about a 20-minute walk, so instead we got an Uber.  We knew that this would be a big walking day and there was no reason to wear ourselves out before it started.  Once again it only cost 11.5 Euros plus tip for the Uber.  We were dropped off and headed up the steps.  I am glad we did since we walked 20,000 steps that day.

Once inside we were pleased to see a totally different look from the other churches we have visited.  It was mostly white, which set off the beautiful ceiling fresco.

   

   

   

There are two main attractions in what is considered a minor church.  The first and the reason we visited it was to see Michelangelo’s Moses statue.  It was all the way in the front of the church.  It is a massive and quite beautiful work of art.  We are so glad we had heard about it on the bus.

   

   

The other attraction is the container near the altar with chains that supposedly were used to bind St. Peter while imprisoned in Jerusalem.  A pretty impressive relic.

   

We left the church and headed toward the Colosseum.  Our ticket included entry to the Colosseum, the Forum and Palatine Hill.  When we arrived at the Colosseum, we had to figure how to get down to it from the road above that we were on.  We couldn’t see a direct way there, so we asked someone.  They told us to go down the steps to the metro station and we would be there.  It worked great.  We took our required selfie in front of the Colosseum along with some other shots.  It isn’t the same all around.

   

   

                         
We walked over to the Arch of Constantine which was built around 313 AD.  It was what the victorious military leaders would march through on their return into Rome.  The friezes all over it have so much detail.  I could have looked at them for a longer time, but we had more to see.

   

    

We walked toward where we thought we would be able to enter the Forum.  When we reached the Arch of Titus we knew that we were on the right path.

   

We found the entrance gate where they needed to see our tickets and QR code.    When we were through the gates, we had to choose which path to take.  We followed a small group that had a leader who was telling them about what they would be seeing.  The path headed up to some stairs where at the top there was a landing where we could look down on the forum area.  I’m glad we followed them since it was a great way to see it from above.  There was a nice view of the Colosseum through the tall trees.

   

   

The group continued higher, I am assuming to go to Palatine Hill, but we decided to go down to the forum, since we needed to see it before our Colosseum entry time.  We walked along the main road reading about the different structures we were seeing.  It is amazing that so many of the buildings have either survived or been able to be reconstructed.

   

   

   

We saw the Arch of Septimius Severus at one end of the Forum.  It was erected in 203 AD to commemorate the Roman victories over the Parthinians.  At one time it was the most richly decorated of this type of arch.  But has since been badly damaged.

It was approaching the time we could enter the Colosseum, so we headed that way.  There was no clear signage to the entrance.  There was a ticket booth sign, but it looked to me like the entrance was on the other end where I originally saw a lot of people hanging around.  Cathy didn’t agree with my logic but went along with me.  The entrance was nowhere to be found and we saw people walking around inside on the ground level, so there had to be an entrance somewhere around the building.  We eventually did find the entrance not that far from where we were when we left the Forum.  I felt terrible that I had made Cathy walk all around the huge building.  Once again, we had to show our ticket and QR code to enter.  Once inside we had to figure out where to go.  We walked for a while and saw blocked off staircases, but nowhere to enter.  We could see people higher up but had no idea how they got there. 

We finally found an entryway that was open, but when we tried to go in, we found out that we had to have an all-access pass for that area.  I wanted to be able to walk out onto the floor that had been added several years ago that wasn’t there on my first visit, but I had the wrong ticket.  Oh well, we should still be able to see everything from a different area.  We asked how to see the inside and they pointed to a steep staircase.  We also saw that there was an elevator, but it was limited to handicapped individuals.  We asked and they said that seniors could use it also.  Ah, the benefits of being old!

We got off the elevator and tried to find where to look into the Colosseum.  It wasn’t obvious, so we followed the other people along a path that never seemed to end.  We could see people outside looking around but didn’t know how they got there.  We must have walked around a third of the circumference when we found the opening.  I guess this is done for crowd control, but it was really a hassle.  We walked around trying to get the best views and see as much as we could. 

   

   

   

   

It is an old building, about 1,950 years old, and quite deteriorated, but still looks amazing. 

   

We saw a passageway that allowed us to look out into the Forum area.  A nice change from the drab tones we had been seeing throughout.

   

We did find a viewing platform just opposite the floored area that provided great views of the underfloor tunnels.  I was glad that we were able to look into the passageways that were under the floor.  Italy is supposed to be putting in a totally new floor, which will cover them all up.  I guess a separate ticket will be needed to see them.

   

   

   

We left the Colosseum and found a restaurant next to it to have pizza and beer.  It was our go to lunch, pizza and beer.  It was nice to have lunch outside looking at the Colosseum walls.

After lunch, we planned our walking path to our next destination.  On the way there, we were close to Piazza Venezia when we found the Forum of Trajan.  It is the largest and most monumental of the Imperial Forums of Rome and the last forum built.  I didn’t know what it was when I found it on the map but was just using it to have a destination on the walk to where we were going.  I’m so glad I did, since it is an amazing place.  We had to cross over a bridge to get to it since it is below the street level.

   

   

   

I then walked over to the two churches we had seen the previous day to see if they were open.  Cathy used the time to rest while I walked around the churches not finding anything open. 

   

We then walked to Largo di Torre Argentina.  This is a square that contains the remains of four temples and the remains of Pompey’s Theater where Julius Caesar was supposedly assassinated.  It is strange to see this piece of ancient Rome in the middle of busy Rome street.  But in Rome when they do any excavation, there is a good chance that they will run into historic ruins.

   

   

   

On the way to the square, we passed by the Church of the Gesu.  It didn’t open until 4:00 PM.  So, after checking out the square, we went for gelato to pass the time.   I thought that the exterior statues with religious people holding down men with their feet was a bit strange.

   

When the church opened, we went in to check it out.  I am so glad that we waited for it to open.  It was just gorgeous!

   

   

   

   

There were so many beautiful chapels to look at.

   

   

   

   

   

Cathy was amazed at how the ceiling fresco seemed to fall out of the ceiling into the wall of the church.  A strange effect.

   

We had a short walk back to the hotel by the Pulcino della Minerva statue.  The lighting was better, so I took some more photos of it.

   

When we got back to our hotel room at around 5:00 PM, I looked out the window and saw that the line to the Pantheon was the longest it had been.

We had dinner reservations at a restaurant called Grano, that the hotel recommended.  On our way there we passed the Santa Maria Maddalena church that we had passed several times.  We were thrilled to find it open, so we went in to see it.  Once again, we were in another gorgeous ornate baroque church.  I took a few photos and then realized that the reason it was open was that a service was starting, so I quickly left. 

   

   

   

After an excellent dinner, we went back to the hotel to finish packing and get ready to go home.  The next morning, I took some more photos from the rooftop bar.  Our RomeinLimo driver picked us up on time and took us to the airport for our flight.  Our vacation was over, but we have so many wonderful memories.

 

Recap

With this being our first post-Covid lockdown cruise, there was a lot of stress leading up to it with potential cancelation, port changes, required forms and vaccinations for different countries, etc.  Having never traveled to Europe in November, I had worried about the weather, which turned out to be almost perfect.  The Covid protocols put in place by Oceania, were effective and didn’t take away at all from the cruise.  In the end it all worked out and we had an absolutely wonderful cruise vacation.    With it being my first cruise with my partner Cathy, I wanted it to be perfect and it was.  We look forward to many more wonderful vacations together in the future.

 

 

 

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