Entry 69, May 20th, 2011, 12:03am (ship time GMT +2)
Management is doing their best to make sure that everyone has a chance to get into Rome while we're here in the Mediterranean. To this end, the orchestra had the day off today. There was also a special crew-only tour of the city for only $20 that filled up extremely quickly. Luckily I was able to snag a spot!
The crew tour was a particularly good deal because the ship does not actually dock in Rome (the city isn't really on the coast). Instead, we dock at Civitevecchia (chiv-ah-ta-Veck-ee-ah, or as the crew has already shortened it: Chivvy), one of the industrial ports that serves the Rome area. From there it is about an hour and half by bus or an hour by train to the city itself.
Most of the bus trip is through rolling countryside, the hills bursting with verdant green shoots in the mild breeze of late May. Hidden in the idyllic landscape we could see pastures with grazing cattle, vineyards, and the odd collection of red tile roofs scattered here and there. Rob, our lead trumpet player and a native of Morrow Bay, California, said it reminded him of home (except with Cypress tress scattered everywhere). To me, it looked like a Van Gogh painting. It is no large wonder to me that Percy Shelley, Humphrey Davies, Coleridge, and Lord Byron all ended up here in Italy at one point or another.
The city strikes out of nowhere. In the space of five minutes the bus goes from rolling green countryside to crowded cobblestone streets. The ancient district strikes with similar rapidity – we were beginning to wonder if the bus was in the right city when out of the asphalt jungle sprang a two thousand year old wall (our guide announced (with practiced nonchalance, I thought) that, “this wall was built in 37”). From there we were mostly walking.
The tour was rather rushed, I feel. We got no more than ten minutes in each location, but I suppose this makes sense as it was designed to allow the crew members who will only manage to get off the boat once in Rome this season a chance to see the whole city at one go. We saw (in no particular order) what's left of the Circus Maximus, what's left of Caesar's palace, what's left of the Colosseum, what's left of the forum, what's left of . . . you get the idea. All of these things were mind boggling, of course, but I have to wonder whether or not they would be more impressive rebuilt to their former glory rather than left as pile of rubble. Of course, there's much to be learned from archaeological digs, but once those have been completed, why not restore the Colosseum to its former glory? It used to be plated in white marble and gold . . . what's left is sort of a skeleton that's been worked on in haphazard fashion over the years before being preserved. I say, fix it up and let's have some concerts!
But these are quibbles. I deviate from my main point, which is namely that I saw more actual history today than I've seen in my entire life up to this point combined. To see, in a single day, everything from the hill where Romulus founded Rome to the balcony where Mussolini used to speak leaves me in a state of sensory overload that will take some time to recover from. I consider today's trip to be a sort of reconnaissance mission, laying the groundwork for future expeditions. I already know that one day will be spent on the Colosseum, another on the old forum and governmental ruins, another on the Vatican and Sistine chapel . . . etc. There are plans to be made!