Fourth Day of Cruise — Port of Civitavecchia to Rome
Today Rome — the port I have been anticipating the most this trip. Why? Because of who we are meeting in Rome.
One of the clients I work with makes occasional trips to their office in Rome, so I asked them for recommendations on touring Rome. My e-mail got forwarded to the Rome office, where Fr. Marc Dessureault replied and offered to be our Cicerone — meaning guide — for the day. If I’d dare to dream, it is what I would have asked for. To have it offered, was more than I could have hoped for.
We got up with dual alarms — the wake up call on the cabin phone, and the alarm on my world clock alarm clock. Four showers and off to the Raffle Court terrace for breakfast, then off the ship in the first wave of people through the card readers. I think we even beat a lot of the people with excursions. The ship provided a free shuttle bus to get us from the ship to the entrance to the terminus — which is the guarded by an impressive stone fort.
Once we walked out of the port terminal, we walked along a coastal street to the train station. In the seaside park beside the street was an unusual and unexpected statue of a sailor kissing a nurse. I am not sure why it is there.
We didn’t quite make it to the train station in time for the first train, but the next one was only 25 minutes later. We purchased the BIRG ticket, which gave us round trip fare plus metro service in Rome.
We had made arrangements with Fr. Marc to call and let him know how our schedule getting off the ship was going. If we got to Rome early enough, he might meet us at the train station, if not, we would taxi over to the OMI house and meet him there. So after purchasing the tickets we found a public phone and tried to make a call.
You would think making a phone call would be easy. But it wouldn’t recognize our phone card, wouldn’t take coins (though it had a coin slot), and had all sort of options to send faxes and texts, but no option on the LCD screen to actually make phone calls.
After about 5 minutes of that I gave up, since we only had 10 minutes until the train was to depart.
We made the train, and the kids dropped off to sleep fairly quickly — obviously they are already seasoned travelers!
When we arrived at the San Pietro station in Rome, we found a phone, and tried to call Fr. Marc. No more success than before. So I quickly gave up and summoned a taxi. I showed him the address for Fr. Marc on the e-mail I had printed off, and we piled in and were off. A few minutes and EUR 6.40 later we were in front of the door for the Oblati Maria Immaculata
Once inside we marveled at the nice grounds, the sort of quiet contemplative I should have expected, if I had known what to expect. The receptionist at the desk paged Fr. Marc for us, and we met him and others (Fr. Mauro and Sister Virginia) and discussed our plans.
Originally, via e-mail, we had discussed doing the Vatican in the morning and the Historic Center in the afternoon. But now that we knew we needed to leave by 4:30 via train, we decided to do the historic first, then lunch at OMI, and the Vatican after lunch.
Fr. Marc had us catch a bus to the historic center, and we walked through and around several sites. We saw the Coliseum from a distance. Saw monuments to modern Italy, the Senate, etc.
We walked into the Pantheon, which had quite a crowd, and got to hear a choral group singing some very wonderful religious music. The acoustic there was good, as was the group, their music penetrated through all the chatter of the people. They had good projection, which I discussed with Fr. Marc. He seemed to have some good understanding of musical support and projection.
But the most memorable part of our visit to the historical center was an old Roman drinking fountain. I could try to write and describe the experience, but instead I’ll offer this video explanation:
Just click on the above photo of the fountain to go to the the video.
After the historic center we came back for lunch. The OMI has a nice lunch room/cafeteria. The tables were nicely set, and one was reserved for us. We had a wonderful pasta with a basil sauce, lemon veal, mixed fried vegetables, bread, salad, a lot of fruits.
The rest of those there wandered in and had lunch as well, as was their wont, in a very social, community-focused way. There was a family feel about it. We saw one gentleman that we had met on the bus, a student who had arrived in Rome to brush up on his Italian before starting college classes in the fall.
We learned that we were there during a summer break. Normally the OMI is its own small United Nations, with people from many of its 65 provinces from around the world eating and studying together in preparation for the various missions and ministries the OMI supports around the world.
After lunch we took tea and coffee and went up to their rooftop on the fifth floor. Like many people in warm climbs, the roof is a place to relax and get a cool breeze. And the view was very nice of the city. You could see St. Peter’s and the historic center in the distance. Good panorama.
After lunch we took the bus to St. Peter’s Square. The line for the basilica seemed long, so we walked around the square taking in the sites available, before deciding to get in the line. Though long, the line took only 20 minutes to get us through the security scanners. We got to see where the Pope was announced, where he gave his audiences, all the chairs going up on the Square for the Wednesday audience coming up.
We went in to St. Peter’s Basillica and got to see many statues, painting, the ceilings. Fr. Marc gave us a periodic running commentary about the various paintings,statues, and murals and artifacts, in our serpentine tour of the Basillica.
For all the people outside in line, and for all the people in the Basillica, it didn’t really have a crowded feel. The size and grandeur of the place gave it a presence.
We left Fr. Marc after the Basilica, bought some gelato on our way to the station, caught our train at 4:30, and were back on the ship at 5:40. In plenty of time for the 6:30 all aboard.
We all went to the pool, where we found Kent and Carolyn, and then Isaac came by and said Mom and Dad wanted us to all got to supper at Windows at 7 p.m.
Dinner was fine, but for a couple disappointments. Pecan Pie was on the menu, and many of us, including Sofia, ordered it. But she got a fruit cup when it came out, because they couldn’t guarantee it was peanut free. She ended up in tears at that point, disappointment at the last moment change. For the rest of us the disappointment was different, because it really wasn’t pecan pie, it was pie with pecans on top. Terribly disappointing. We think the European chef didn’t get the concept of all that corn syrup that makes up the richness of the American-style pecan pie. We discovered similar things with some other dishes on the trip — their European chefs had different ideas about traditional foods than an American would.
Now as I write, and contemplate, at the end of the day I find myself quite satisfied. I began the day with a lot of anticipation, and a little anxiety, about getting to see Rome, and especially meet Fr. Marc. The anxiety proved unfounded; the anticipation less than deserved. Meeting Fr. Marc and the others at OMI was truly the highlight I had expected it to be. The tour of Rome was fun and educational, but the lunch conversation at OMI was equally stimulating. It was refreshing talking with Fr. Marc about his calling and his Order, and their mission and lifestyle of service.
Now to set the alarm for tomorrow morning — arrival in Naples and a train trip to Pompeii.