Thursday Sept 25, 2014

We had another big day today – a VERY big day – which, for most of our mad midlifers, included many moments that felt unreal: “Pinch me, please – this can’t really be happening!”

The first of those moments was when our air-conditioned coach reached Rome, after a 90-minute drive from the Port of Civitavecchia (Shiver-ta-veckia). I mean, this place with its historical remains, churches, palaces, parks, babbling fountains and inspiring domes was once the hub of history and the centre of the ancient Western world.

The second “pinch me” moment occurred when we entered the Catholic Church’s Vatican City and stepped inside the lavish St Peters Basilica – truly one of the peak achievements of European culture, with its precious works of art (including Michelangelo’s stunning sculpture, Pieta).

It happened a third time when we stood amongst the skeleton-remains of Rome’s awesome Colosseum – that vast, stunning arena where 60,000 screaming spectators used to enjoy the cruellest of life-&-death sports.

And the “pinch me” feeling returned a fourth time when we eyeballed the beautiful Trevi Fountain. Except there was one small problem: a large-scale renovation is currently underway; the backdrop-building is smothered in scaffolding, the fountain’s not playing, and the pool has been drained. We could still ogle the massive sculptures, but tossing coins over our shoulders will have to wait until next time.

There were some very satisfied, very weary, Kiwis who sat down for dinner tonight in the Manhattan Dining Room aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam. But that weariness quickly disappeared when we saw what was on the menu.

As I keep saying, it’s an awful life, this luxury cruising! But someone has to do it …

TOMORROW: We visit a stark monument to a very violent moment in history: the Roman town of Pompeii, buried under volcanic ash in the year 100BC. Whatever you do, don’t miss this next episode!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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