They reckon you should never talk about politics or religion. Oops.
It’s another early morning and we’re on our way from the port of Civitavecchia to Rome. We’ve heard horror stories about crowds, heat, pickpockets. We’ve also heard the place is run by Italians. Ok, grab the organised tour and let someone else sort things out. In pleasant contrast to yesterday, our guide Powla (that’s how she pronounced it) has enlisted an art and history expert Marco to regale us with info.
First stop – Colosseum. The lines are huge but Powla and Marco whisper in an ear or two and suddenly we’re inside. Cue the myth busters. Marco tells us that, since most Romans didn’t actually work, the games were arranged for entertainment. What we didn’t know was each bout was sponsored by wealthy people, usually around Senate election time. “How are we looking in the polls Augustus?” “Not good. You better nip down to Octavio’s’ gladiator rental and grab a half a dozen number threes and a couple of number sevens.” The sticky bit came if your gladiator lost. Did you let the other guy kill him? No, this wasn’t a moral decision. The problem was your gladiator was only rented, so you had to “pay the price” if he wasn’t returned in good condition.
We move on to the Vatican and leave the intrigues and plots of Ancient Rome behind. Well – not exactly. We hear of plots and counterplots, intrigues and contests between the old Popes, the powerful Medici family in Florence and the emperors to control Rome, and thus the world. Our tour includes the Sistine Chapel. You’re not allowed to speak inside so we stand out in the hot sun so Marco can explain the famous artwork before we enter. “Michelangelo he was commissioned by the Pope to painta the ceiling, but he didna agree with the Pope so he paint a lot of symbolism in each section that say the Pope, he no good.”
Well what about the famous St Peter’s basilica? The inside is so huge and ornate it takes your breath away. There’s marble everywhere. There’s stay-tues, as Marco calls them, and there is the unmistakable architecture genius of Michelangelo. “There is a lot of debate about thisa building.” says Marco. “They say the Catholic church was a fighting with the protestants so they built a this church to say ‘hey look a this. Maybe you all come back to us no?'” It seems some things just never change.