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I cannot think of a better prelude to twelve sinfully luxurious days on Silver Wind than a weekend in one of my favorite cities in Europe: Rome. A city where the ancient magically blends in with the modern day. Where steps away from the beautiful Baroque Spanish Steps, people queue up at the Gucci flagship store in the Via Condotti. On Saint Peter's Square, crowds cheer as Pope John Paul II appears at the window high above Vatican City on Sunday. Couples stroll along the banks of the River Tiber hand in hand. Tourists find their way amongst the majestic ruins of the Forum Romanum. Rome, the city of gelato, cappuccino and La Dolce Vita. Benvenuto!

By the time the KLM Boeing 737 starts its descend towards Leonardo da Vinci Airport after a short & sweet flight from Amsterdam, my good friend Teun Wim and I switch into "Italian mood". When compared to the Dutch, the Italians seem to talk a bit louder, definitely dress more fashionably, but most importantly seem to enjoy life much better. And while Rome Airport may look chaotic at first, things move fairly quickly. Before we know it we are speeding towards the center of Rome in a comfortable train. Only twenty five minutes later, we leave the hustle and bustle of the city's main central station behind us and check into our home base for the next two days. The charming Morgana Royal Court Hotel is ideally located, just a stone's throw from Roma Termini in a quiet street.

Pope John Paul II making a Sunday appearance

As Rome is basically one big open air museum, there is no time to waste. We bravely venture into the midday heat and after a short metro ride we start our explorations of Rome on foot. Every building here seems more steeped in history than the previous one. There is no end to the number of monuments, fountains and Roman ruins that we find on our way. What a city!

I love coming to the Piazza Navona with its eclectic fountains, lined with touristy restaurants and overlooked by  the  Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. Rome is a city of churches and it requires some research to decide which ones to visit. Not to be missed it the biggest one of them all.. Construction of the gigantic Saint Peter's Basilica started in 1506, incorporating works of all famous Italian medieval masters. From the stunning colonnades at Bernini's Piazza to Michelangelo's magnificent dome, Saint Peter is a sight to behold. And on most Sundays, an eclectic mix of people from all corners of the world go wild on the Piazza as the Pope appears one of the windows of his palace. 

Michelangelo's glorious dome in Saint Peter's Basilica

Less known, but to me equally impressive is the hidden church of San'Ignazio di Loyola. We venture into the church during an organ recital, which only adds to the unique atmosphere. Built in 1626 by Pope Gregory XV, this church features a dazzling painted three-dimensional ceiling  that make the roof seems to open up to the sky above.

Highlight of our stay in Rome must be the wonderful evening we spend with our friends Stefania and Beppe, both born and raised Romans. In true Italian fashion, they make us feel more than welcome and show us parts of their city that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Of course, an evening in the Eternal City would be worthless without a proper Italian meal! Stefania and Beppe take us to a charming eatery in one of the suburbs and treat us to a bacchanal that will be remembered for long. Bellissima!  

Inside the Pantheon

Spanish Steps

The Colosseum

Trevi Fountain

Luxury shopping in the Via dei Condotti

Piazza Navona

Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City

Forum Romanum

Swiss Guard at the Vatican

Dazzling ceiling treatment at the church of Sant'Ignazio

Inside Saint Peter's Basilica

The mighty Saint Peter's Basilica

Fruit stall near the Pantheon

River Tiber with Castel San'Angelo in the background

 

All photos and text: 2004 Bart de Boer - www.ShipParade.com

First published on September 5th, 2004. All rights reserved.