September 30, 2023

From the La Spezia port, the ship navigated 182 nautical miles of Mediterranean waters towards the port of Civitavecchia, a coastal town northwest of Rome.
We joined the excursion to Italy’s capital and it took us an hour and a half ride on a tourist coach to arrive. The bus parked in front of the Palace of Justice from where our walking tour started. Our first stop was the famous Trevi Fountain, where we hoped to throw three coins to make our wishes come true, as the love song “Three Coins in the Fountain” that I have heard so many times since my boyhood years, would go.
We later learned that the fountain is centrally located at the joint of three main roads, hence, the word “trevi”. The place was already teeming with tourists capturing the intricate artwork of the sculptures surrounding the fountain, or doing selfies and videos of each other – tossing coins over their shoulders to assure their wishes that they shall return to Rome.
Of course, we also threw out lucky coins for the same wish. Next, we walked towards the Pantheon, one of the most preserved monuments of ancient Rome, which used to be a Roman temple dedicated to 12 gods.
It is one of the seven wonders of the world. We would have loved to enter the building and see its giant dome (the largest unsupported dome in the world) with its famous hole at the top (the oculus), but the line of people leading to the entrance was so long.
We had our lunch of pasta with wine before proceeding to the Vatican City, the smallest country in the world and the official residence of the Pope. Only priests and nuns of many nationalities make up almost all the population plus the Swiss Guards, a corps of Swiss soldiers and Italian Guardia Svizzera, who provide for its security.
At the St. Peter’s Square at the center of which is the obelisk, I was truly overwhelmed because, ever since my time as a youthful acolyte at the Baguio Cathedral, I had wished to visit the Vatican City and attend mass officiated by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope regularly holds masses at the Square but on that Wednesday, when we arrived, it had already ended, thus frustrating the realization of a childhood dream. We did not have time to enter the Basilica, the largest church in the world, or the museum and the Sistine Chapel because of the kilometric lines of tourists waiting to enter.
More than ever, I made a firm resolve to return and fully realize our childhood dream, and to view the tombs of St. Peter and the other popes, watch the different sculptures of the famous Italian artists especially Michelangelo’s La Pieta, and his famous painting on the altar wall and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel particularly, the Creation of Adam.
We had to rest content admiring the statues and sculptures around the St. Peter’s Square of the saints and popes, Jesus and the Apostles, St. John the Baptist, a new sculpture-monument as a tribute to the tragedy of migration which Pope Francis commissioned to be built on the Square as a reminder of the evangelical call to hospitality and the original Christian message.
As we left St. Peter’s Square, I felt an uplifting spiritual closeness to God. Our last stop was the Colloseum, another one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, a monument of ancient Rome’s architectural and engineering prowess.
The coach brought us to the Colloseum, which was right at the central part of Rome. I recalled Spartacus, the most famous gladiator, whose life was made into a movie starring Kirk Douglas. As shown in several movies, the Colloseum, which has a height of 48 meters, is in ruins but remains to be the largest standing amphitheater in the world.
It was the entertainment venue for gladiator fights, animal hunting (venatio) and mock naval battles. Old and ruined as it is, the Colloseum is the top tourist attraction of Rome. In fact, as late as the afternoon that we arrived there, there were still tourists lining up to enter.
We then contented ourselves with walking and admiring the outer walls of this wide amphitheater, which is now in the process of rehabilitation. In fact, we saw portions of the wall that were repaired and learned that the construction of its new floor will be completed this year.
We had no more time to visit the Roman Forum, which was just a few hundred meters from the Colloseum, but the bus moved slowly past by it to have a very close view of this historical place and made me imagine the day-to-day life of the Romans and the politics, the great speeches of Julius Cesar and the senators.
As we left Rome, I knew that the coins that we tossed on the Trevi Fountain assures our return to this fascinating city and the Vatican. (To be concluded)