Contiki – Rome and Venice

This is a continuation of the post about Pisa and Florence.

TUESDAY, 2nd September. The day was quite exhausting as we saw most of the sights of Rome today. We started at the Pantheon, and then St. Peter’s church and square. The crypt was most interesting as this is where the last two Popes are resting in ornate marble tombs. From there we saw the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and St. John’s Basilica where there is a portrait of every pope.

In the afternoon we went on a tour of the Catacombs of St. Sebastian which is near the church Domine Quo Vadis. We passed some Roman Baths which are also used for outdoor concerts (Baths of Caracalla), and then to the holy steps in Santa Scala, and St.John in Laterna (church). [I think by this time we had church-overload from all the sightseeing].

We also visited the church of the Cappuchin monks which was a most strange place as a number of rooms had been “decorated” with human bones. They certainly had a way with interior decorating as ceilings had lovely patterns of rib-bones, and there was even a light fitting made out of smaller bones! At the exit there was a rather solid monk collecting donations and saying “No photographs!”.

We then drove around the heart of the city passing a street with offices of all the major airlines of the world. Back at camp we had dinner of spaghetti bolognaise and fruit salad. The evening was spent singing and telling jokes together with people from other tours who were also camped there – Top Deck Travel and the Contiki 6 week trip who had been following us for a while.

WEDNESDAY, 3rd September. We had a free day starting the day at the Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel. There were many Egyptian relics in one part of the museum as well as many rooms of modern religious art which I didn’t particularly like. The Sistine chapel was full of people, and was actually much smaller than I had imagined. The frescoes were
not quite what I expected as the colours were quite soft and pastelly -not like most photos you see in art texts. The end wall with the painting of the Last Judgment was most awe-inspiring as were the other paintings. [I took many photos inside the Sistine Chapel but I dont have any postcards, so you will have to wait until I scan some of these slides]

From there I wandered down to the markets and bought some beautiful purple grapes for 650 lira per kilogram. Then I walked to the National Gallery which took about 2 hours altogether after a lunch stop. The gallery had a painting by Caravaggio, many icons and 14th and 15th Century paintings.

I was with a Canadian who decided to try out a barber near the Trevi fountain. We wandered around the Trevi fountain area where there are some markets. Everything shuts at 2 o’clock as that is siesta time.

We got back to camp by taking the new underground train and then a bus. Dinner that evening was a barbecue which was excellent, accompanied by a very powerful Italian beer called Schloss-Bier – Birra Doppio Malta. [I am sure I got sloshed on the Schloss!]

After dinner there was a fancy-dress held in the camp disco, however I was not feeling too well as I had a cold [probably I was drunk on the beer!].

THURSDAY, 4th September. Left Rome in the morning with impressions of a hilly city after yesterday’s hiking! We travelled north towards Venice (Venezia) via Florence and Bologna. We stopped at a huge service area with a medium size supermarket so typical of Italy. Everybody bought – food of all descriptions, from Mars Bars and ice-creams to Italian biscuits and chocolate.

After lunch we passed through Bologna which was very flat. There is a lot of agriculture in the region and the soil was very brown and dry. Again, the weather was good and the day was warm. We stopped at an outer Venice suburb to do some shopping (mainly food for the trip).I tried two beautiful cakes, one was an eclair filled with rum flavoured cream – absolutely delicious!

We then went to Camping Fusina which was right next to an aluminium smelter and an oil refinery. There are four oil refineries in Venice mainly supplying Austria. After our dinner we had a small wine and cheese party which fizzled out very quickly due to a shortage of food. Afterwards, we went for a walk down to the ferry terminus, and saw the lights of Venice which were very pretty. It was very peaceful
watching a boat going over to Venice. Back at camp we heard the non-stop hum of motors from the aluminium smelter. The camping ground address is : Camping Fusina Mall Contenta Venice.

FRIDAY, 5th September. The day was spent in Venice, and we were taken to a wharf on the Grand Canal where we caught the waterbus to St.Mark’s square. The trip was really exciting as it was the first time we had seen the canals and all the buildings of the city which seem to be very old. When we got off the ferry, we were taken on a tour of a glass factory where we had a demonstration of glass-bowing as well as being able to buy some glass.

We then walked through St. Mark’s church and the Doge’s Palace. The square has thousands of pigeons, so it is quite an experience walking through. Venice is an absolutely magic city and nowhere near as dirty as I thought it would be. Of course there are no cars at all, but taxi-boats and gondolas instead.

I had a coffee in St Mark’s square with two fellow Aussies. I remember the coffee was $2.70 a cup which was about 4 times the Australian cafe price. The $2.70 included several taxes including a music tax to pay the musicians.

We walked through many side-streets and then to the seaside promenade near the Bridge of Sighs (previous image). The promenade has quite a resort atmosphere as there are many cafes with tables outside.

We walked through some narrow streets in a poorer part of the city. The houses were nearly Spanish in style, and washing was strung out across the canal. We took the ferry back to the Camping ground and we had a most relaxing trip. A small Italian child was most intrigued with our cameras as he had a small souvenir camera and kept “photographing” us.

We had a meal of barbecued spare ribs and chicken with a cheap red wine, and Heineken beer. I met two girls on the ferry back to camp who were travelling with “Tracks” – one girl was from Perth and the other from Blakehurst in Sydney.

Click this link to travel to Austria.


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