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Published: June 14th 2018
Last night we met our tour director, Patrezia. We also met the other 34 people on the tour. Most are middle aged to older. Some from Canada, South Africa, Australia (of course), nd the US. There are few younger folks, say 13 to 25. The rest may not be over the hill, but the top is in sight if you know what I mean. We took a 60 minute quick tour of Rome for orientation and then went to a restaurant for dinner.
At dinner we enjoyed unlimited bottles of wine, several courses of appetizers, breads, and many different types of Pizza. It was all delicious and very Italian. After dinner everyone was beat so we all went back to the hotel for much needed rest.
Since Cathy and I had already been here for three days we were well rested already and so we did a little pasagada, and bought an umbrella to stave off the rain in the forecast for Thursday.
We had a restful night and Thursday dawned bright and clear. The forecast however called for rain around 2.30 in the afternoon. After breakfast we headed for the bus and a trip to the Vatican
Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St Peters Basilica, followed by the Colosseum and back home for a nap by 2.30.
Of course Cathy and I had already been to all of these places but the tour was very informative and we did see some new things. For example, when we went to the museum our tour had special permission to take the Bramante Stair case, the private stairs of the pope. This is an amazing circular staircase that has no actual steps but is a winding ramp that, in the past, popes were carried on a litter up the ramps to the private museum and papal staircase to the Sistine Chapel. It was unique and gave us a view of the museum we did not have before, also there were no crowds so it was even better for that.
Unfortunately, we had to join the crowds as we passed through the several museum halls winding through several exhibitions as we made our way to the Sistine Chapel. We have been in the Sistine Chapel every time we were in Rome but it never gets old. We stayed in the Chapel for at least 30 minutes marveling at the view
of the walls and, of course the Michelangelo ceiling. It had been cleaned in 1980 - 1990 and so it looked brand new. They did leave a corner uncleaned so we could see just how bad it was.
Next we went to the Basilica, the world's largest church. The crowds were a little less but still massive. Our first stop was the Sacred Entrance, currently sealed until 2025. I passed through this door in 2000, and according to legend, my sins were forgiven. I need to plan a trip in 2025 because I am sure I need another shot.
We then went to the famous Pieta, again my Michelangelo. The famous statue is now protected from the public by bullet proof glass. It seems some one in 1990 to a hammer to the statue claiming he was Jesus risen from the grave. The arm, face and eyes of Mary were ruined. Thankfully they were restored and are now well protected.
While we were standing in a short line to venerate the feet of the statue of St. Peter, we felt a small earthquake! It was a sudden tremor that lasted only a second or two but it
was strong enough to be felt. Amazing for sure.
A little more time in the Basilica, and out we went to see the St. Peters Square, which is actually a circle with open arms embracing you as you enter the plaza. Next we headed to the obligatory Papal Souvenir Shop, where you could have anything you bought of a religious nature, blessed by a Vatican Priest, nope not the pope, just a lackey, but it was cool anyway.
After some time in the shop we ate the most expensive lunch on the trip. Two cups of watermelon, one (dry) chicken breast with Fries (also dry) one coke and all for the amazing price of 33 E! Outrageous, but that was all we had time for. Back on the bus and off to the Coliseum.
Here we had a special treat. Now only did we walk around the building, we went inside. This was cool as our guide told us all about the history of the site, the exhibitions held there and why Christians were NEVER killed as part of the spectacle. Some researchers, however, disagree about the Christian executions. I am sure that debate will never end.
We spent some time walking all around and soon it was time to go back to the hotel for a nap. The bus ride was relatively short and we arrived at about exactly 2.30. Cathy did not have much to eat, so she wanted a snack. We headed up to the room to dump our things, looked outside, it was not raining so we left her newly purchased umbrella on the bed.
We walked to a pizza joint but it was packed. So we walked a little more and found a nice pizza stop that was empty. We sat down and for 10 E we had a huge cheese pizza and two Fanta beverages. We paid our bill and suddenly the sky opened up and the torrents fell!
Bad new was we had no umbrella. So we headed out and kept our heads low and made a turn and found ourselves totally disoriented! I had no idea which way to get back to the hotel that was less than 3 blocks away. We asked a local store owner and he did not know where the hotel was either. It was disconcerting to be so close and yet
not know which way to go.
Finally we go directions and headed out into the drenching downpour. Everyone who owned a shop tried to sell us an umbrella but we were determined to muddle through. In three minutes, we arrived at the hotel drenched to the bone! We laughed at our folly and headed up for a nap of our own.
Tonight there is an optional tour of the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and Spanish Steps, all of which we have seen before so we decided to save 33 E and do something on our own.
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