Trip to Italy and Greece June 2019

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July 2nd 2019
Published: July 3rd 2019
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Sunset on our first day in EuropeSunset on our first day in EuropeSunset on our first day in Europe

Beautiful sunset in Civitavecchia.
(Travelers were Rob, Dina and Laurel)

Days 1 and 2 Friday June 14-Saturday June 15

We left the house at 9am and made the 3 hour drive to Atlanta. We encountered some traffic in Atlanta and there was a lot of congestion at the airport, but we got off okay. It was a quick flight to Charlotte where we caught our flight to the Rome airport. The flight was more than 9 hours long, through the night. We did manage to get some rest and it went by fairly quickly. We even had a fairly good dinner on the flight.

When we landed in Rome it was already 9:40am on Saturday, Rome time. We were all so excited to be in Italy, that we stayed pretty alert on the easy ride (thank you Welcome Pickups) to Civitavecchia, the cruise port town. Our hotel, the Borgo del Mare, was very nice and comfortable and just a short walk to the coastline. We were still pretty awake and so tired of sitting that we decided to take a walk to the beachside restaurant several blocks down along a busy street. We walked until the sidewalk ended and then turned back to have lunch at the restaurant. No one at the restaurant spoke much English and we only knew a few words in Italian so ordering was a bit of an adventure. The food was great though and the view and sea breezes on the patio were amazing.

We were getting very sleepy after lunch, so we came back to the hotel for a LONG nap, but not before we discovered a nice little rocky beach just up from the hotel. There were a lot of locals there, so we decided to nap first then go back to the beach later. It was really hard waking up from our nap, but the sun was getting low in the sky and we wanted to watch the sun set from that rocky beach near our hotel. When we got there, we had the beach to ourselves. The sun light was perfect for pictures, so we took a lot of them! It was absolutely gorgeous! We each got our feet wet in the Mediterranean Sea and watched the waves crash in the setting sunlight and all the ships leaving the port. It was perfect.

After the sun set we walked back to
Jewel of the SeasJewel of the SeasJewel of the Seas

Our boat as we were boarding.
the hotel for dinner, dodging the many cats along the way. 😊 I talked everyone into trying the traditional four course Italian meal. I did not expect so much food for each course. All of it was delicious and we all left very full. During dinner, I watched the cats doing there thing in the parking lot near to outdoor seating area. There were two cats that I called Romeo and Juliet that I found particularly amusing. Juliet would not let Romeo out of her sight. She followed him everywhere, sometimes playing with his tail. Romeo seemed clueless to her adoration, but she was enamored. It was so cute.

Then it was back to the room to journal, get ready for bed and get some sleep. It was truly an amazing first day in Europe.

Day 3 Sunday June 16

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel while trying to adjust to the time difference. We were ready by 11am and caught the shuttle to our boat, Jewel of the Seas. The drive though Civitavecchia was really cool, beautiful architecture and breathtaking sea views. The smell in the air was of sea air and flowers and
Our RoomOur RoomOur Room

It was nicely appointed and I loved the balcony.
was amazing. We even heard church bells from the many Italian churches in the morning.

Check in at the ship was easy and we were quickly on board. We toured the boat without our backpacks on while we waited for our room to become available. At 1pm we were able to get to our room and found it to be nicely appointed and comfortable. Then we changed into swim suits and went up to the Solarium to swim a little. The water was very salty and we were really buoyant in it, which was quite fun. We even grabbed a quick bite (pizza) at the Solarium snack bar.

At 4pm we went back to the room to get dressed for the muster drill. It began at 4:30 and didn't last very long. After that we went to the workout facility to participate in a spa raffle. We didn't win anything, but did get a good deal on a massage package, so we each signed up for a massage for Day 5 of the cruise. After that we dressed for dinner and headed to the dining room. Dinner was amazing! We then went back to the room for just
The CentrumThe CentrumThe Centrum

Pictures just don't do it justice.
a bit. Laurel went to the pool and teen meet up. we didn't see her again until a little after 11pm. Rob and I went up to deck 11 to watch the sunset. It was so pretty. We then walked down to the Safari Club to play pool. We didn't stay long though, as bad karaoke was starting. LOL. Seriously, it was really bad!

We went back to deck 11 later to grab some even snacks and then it was back to the room to enjoy the gorgeous full moon reflecting over the water from our balcony. We had a great night's sleep with the balcony door open, listening to the sounds of the sea. An amazing first day at sea.

Day 4 June 17 Monday

We awoke around 8am and had breakfast brought to us, which we ate on the balcony. It was really neat. We were passing through the straights of Messina and had Sicily just off our port side, in view from our balcony. Cool beachfront villages dotted the coastline. Very scenic.

After breakfast, Laurel jetted off to do her thing and Rob and I set out to find a quiet place to
Full moon over the MediteranianFull moon over the MediteranianFull moon over the Mediteranian

First night of the cruise, full moon.
journal. I suggested the Safari Club. We were greeted with beautiful works of art set up for the auction at 1230. We called Laurel down to see all the art, and then decided to try to activate her arcade points. No luck, as points don't get added until around 3pm on the first sea day.

Laurel went off on her own again as me and Rob decided to head to the art auction. It was fun and I won a raffle prize, a piece of art. Nothing special, but I liked it. I had an appointment at 9pm to see what I won.

The auction didn't end until 2:30pm. Rob left early to eat, but I stayed until the end. I then went back to the room and changed for the pool. After a brief search and the help of Laurel and her radio, I located Rob and we did some swimming in the Solarium for a bit, sunned up on deck 13 to watch the rock climbing at the rock wall, and then played some shuffle board. After Rob kicked my butt at shuffle board, we decided to try to find our way to the helicopter pad.

Overlook of the Caldera on Santorini.
Trying to remember what I saw in the Happy Travelers Youtube video, we stumbled around a little , then finally found the way out on deck 6. The helicopter pad was nearly deserted, so we got to do our "I'm the King of the World" thing at the very front of the ship. The unobstructed view there was amazing.

It was getting around dinner time, so we went back tot he room to change and meet up with Laurel. It was formal night in the dining room and we did not want to dress up, so we opted for the buffet instead. It was nearly empty as most people look forward to formal night. Dinner was pretty good, a lot of choices.

After dinner, we checked again on arcade points, which she now had, and played a little there, then back to the room. Laurel went off on her own again, and Rob and I just enjoyed the rising full moon from our balcony. Soooo pretty.

At nine, we went to meet the auctioneer to see what I won. It was the Adirondack chair and beach scene that I liked. Cool. We were right next to the

Lovely vases made over 4000 years ago.
Coral Theater and the doors were still open although the show started at 8:30pm. We went in and caught the last part of the show. Really, really good. We will have to catch the whole show again later.

After the show, we were at the perfect time to meet up for the star gazing tour. As it turned out, the MC for the show (our cruise director) was the tour guide, too. We were given star maps and led to deck 13, where they turned out he lights and gave a really knowledgeable talk on the stars with the aid of a powerful laser pointer. Despite the bright full moon and hazy skies, we saw several constellations and learned a lot.

I had to be up early the next day and we lost an hour to time change, so we then came back to the cabin to get ready for bed. We were already asleep when Laurel came in after 11pm. It was another restful and dream filled night at sea.

Day 5 June 18 Tuesday

What a day! Santorini baby! Yay! I woke up just in time to watch the sail in the Santorini Caldera,
Santorini viewSantorini viewSantorini view

Most photogenic scene on Santorini.
it was even more amazing than I imagined. At 8am, I had to go get tickets for the tender. We were on boat 18. We then went and got breakfast and checked out the art auction. After that, we checked out the view from the helicopter platform. It was amazing. Then we ate lunch and waited to be called for our boat. Finally it was our turn and we were off to Santorini.

After a very long and HOT wait in line for the tram, we made it just in time to meet our guide, Ted, for our tour of the island. First stop was a lovely overview of the caldera. Ted gave us a little history of the island and a little talk about the volcano and Akrotiri which we were about the visit. We then went on the Akrotiri ruins. I was greatly anticipating the ruins and they did not disappoint. Ted could not come in with us, so we explored on our own. The entire excavated area is under a cover and well protected, but still gave us up close and personal contact with the 4000 year old city that was likely the inspiration for the
Santorini SunsetSantorini SunsetSantorini Sunset

So pretty, especially in the afternoon light.
story of Atlantis.

We met back up with Ted and he took us to the most photographed blue domed church on Santorini. He told us about the history of the island through the Roman, Venetian and Turkish occupation and then the revolution that finally freed Greece again. In Santorini, the people were very poor, until the island was made famous by a Darrel Hannah movie in the 1980's. Now it is very wealthy, thanks to the tourist trade. And a lot of tourist there were! Five cruise ships worth on the day we were there, which was two more than is supposed to be allowed and the first time that has happened. When we got to Oia, it was packed. Ted showed us a photo album of what the island and people looked like before Santorini was famous. Poor, dirty and weathered. Then he took us into Oia to walk around and see the sights and the island architecture and even the original cave houses where the poor once lived and many people still live to this day.

We had to wait in another long line for the tram down. At least it wasn't quite so hot. Royal
Mykonos TownMykonos TownMykonos Town

View of the harbor with Mykonos town in the background.
Caribbean staff were by the port where we met the tenders and greeted us with flavored ice water and made sure that we made it on the tenders ok. Back on board ship, we ate a late dinner and then decided to go back to the helicopter pad to see the caldera at night. It was so gorgeous, like glittering jewels on top of the cliffs. We stayed there a little while, then Rob and I went back to the room to get ready for bed. Laurel came back later after watching sail away and some of the game show at the Coral Theater. Then it was sweet dreams.

Day 6 June 19 Wednesday

When we woke up, we were gliding into Mykonos harbor. We ate room service on our deck and then got ready for our excursion. We met our group at the Coral Theater and after a short wait, we were escorted to our tender to the town of Mykonos. We walked around the town, noting all the shops and the crystal clear water. We walked until we go to our bus, which took us across the island to Kalafatis beach. It was a neat 20
Mykonos BeachMykonos BeachMykonos Beach

This is Kalafatis beach on Mykonos.
minute drive across the island, so we got to see a lot of how the people of Mykonos live, outside the main tourist areas. On Mykonos, all the houses are required to be painted white with lime and almost all of them had blue shutters and doors. Very cool.

We were able to get a palapa with two chairs for 30 Euros at Kalafatis beach, which was half the price of most of the chairs. Our guide instructed us to get the blue chairs, so we did! She also said the water in the Aegean was usually known for being very cold, but we were lucky because it was warmer than usual. Nope, it was very cold! I can't imagine what they considered cold, if this was warmer than usual! However, it was quite warm outside, so once you got past the "take-your-breath-away" shock of the water, you adjust to it and it was actually quite refreshing. We swam for awhile. The water was so incredibly clear. I suppose it was dui to the rocky bottom, which was quite slick, by the way. You could see little fish swimming around you here and there. Surrounding the beach, there were
Street Scene on Mykonos.Street Scene on Mykonos.Street Scene on Mykonos.

Love how pretty this town is.
just a few villas and just as many little chapels. The chapels were everywhere on both Mykonos and Santorini. Our tour guide on Santorini told us it was because the Greek people wanted to make a statement to the Turks that they did not want to be converted to Islam while under the Turkish rule.

At around 12:30, we caught our bus back to Mykanos town, where we spent a little time shopping at all the tourist shops. It was fun and we all got a few trinkets. We got around the town just in time to catch one of the tenders back to the ship.

Back aboard the boat, we decided to swim at the Solarium and rest a little. Rob and I slept a little on the loungers, then journaled a bit, and them swam. It was after 4pm by the time we went back to our room. I showered, we then watched a little TV until our dinner reservations at 7:30pm in the main dining room. Dinner was really good, as usual. We each got something different. After dinner we went to the City of Dreams show at the Coral Theater. the singers and dancers
Mykonos from the BoatMykonos from the BoatMykonos from the Boat

Such a scenic little Island.
are very talented, but I liked the West End of Broadway show a bit better.

On our way back to the room, I spun a wheel for a prize at the art gallery and I won a cute cloth bag. I called mom from the room and then we headed to bed in preparation for our busy day in Athens in the morning.

Day 7 June 20 Thursday

When we got up around 6:30am, we were already docked at the port in Piraeus. We had room service again for breakfast and then met our group for the bus ride into Athens. Along the way, our guide pointed out the places of interest (ie. Stadiums from the 2004 Summer Olympics, etc.) and we even passed the Prlement building with the tomb of the unknown soldier just in time to glimpse a little of the changing of the guard.

We were dropped off across from the Temple of Zues and Hardian's Arch at the start of the pedestrian zone around the base of the Acropolis. Our guide recommended that we go to the Parthenon first as it was already getting hot at 9:30am and was only going to

The Parthenon.
get hotter. We took her advice and headed there first, after grabbing some waters. It was a bit of a hike up and really hot, but we took our time and it was really not that bad at all.

The Acropolis was really packed as one would expect, but we were able to see everything and get lots of pictures. I even picked up a marble stone from the top of the Acropolis for my brother. We then made our way back down the slopes of the Acropolis and to the Acropolis Museum. I was free admission on this day, because, as the lady at the ticket counter told us, "it was their birthday!" It was really cool to see all of the original statues and stuff from the structures on the top of the Acropolis. It was especially nice since inside the museum it was air conditioned! 😊 It was not a very big museum, but it had a lot of neat stuff. They even had glass floors in places in the museum so you could see the excavated ruins beneath the museum. Very cool.

Before we left the museum, we went through the gift shop and
Athena's GiftAthena's GiftAthena's Gift

The olive tree supposedly given to Athens by Athena herself.
drank some Frappe's and frozen chocolate drinks at the café. Then it was back out onto the hot, although mostly shaded streets of the Plaka to do some souvenir shopping. We each found some decent priced things to buy, and after shopping a little we found a nice little authentic Greek restaurant to have lunch at, al fresco. Rob had lamb gyros, the authentic Greek way, with the pita on the side. I had chicken souvlaki and Laurel had octopus. It was all very good. Rob and Laurel even had some authentic baklava. Yum, yum.

We hit a few more little shops on our way back to the bus and enjoyed the many street musicians. Our bus was right on time and our guide rounded us all up and they drove us back through Piraeus to Terminal B where we were docked. We noted the many sex shops and gentlemen's clubs along the way. The Greeks are not afraid to be sexual at all. In fact many of the souvenir shops we visited had several very provocative trinkets!

We had to go through security before getting back aboard ship. After security, Royal Caribbean staff met us with cold
Temple with treeTemple with treeTemple with tree

I really liked this ruin here.
face towels and ice cold water. It was so thoughtful and much needed as we were still quite hot.

Once back on board, it did not take us long to get changed into swim suits and head to the pool deck. Rob and I anyway, Laurel stayed behind to "maybe nap". We were greeted with drained pool in the Solarium (they were doing repairs to it), so we jumped into the main pool instead. We swam a little and then, now cooled off, decided to find a table at the Solarium to journal a bit. We then turned in our towels and played a little mini golf. Rob won, it was fun.

We came back to the room after that and chilled in the room for awhile. It took a nice shower and the we all got ready for dinner in the dining room. It was delicious. Rob and I checked to see what we missed at the buffet (Chocolate night!!!) and then came back to the room. Laurel went and watched the Beatlemaniacs show and then went to the 70s party. Rob and I just got ready for bed and headed off to dream.

Day 8
Porch of the MaidensPorch of the MaidensPorch of the Maidens

These are just replicas, the original Maidens are at the Acropolis Museum.
June 21 Friday

We got up at our leisure and found the ship already docked at Kotokolon. It was a quaint little town in a very pretty location. Unlike the rest of Greece that we had seen, which was kind of dry and deserty, this town was full of trees and lovely villas. But, alas, we decided not to go ashore.

We went to the dining room for breakfast, but it closed at 9am and it was already after that, so we went to the Windjammer buffet instead. It was good.

After breakfast, Rob and Laurel went to the Solarium (which was completely deserted) and I went around the ship taking pictures. A lot of the people went ashore, so it was a good time to get shots of the boat without the crowds.

At 11am we all went to Vitality Spa to wait to get our massages. We had to wait just a little as the crew was having a drill. they came and got Laurel first, then Rob and finally me. My therapist was from Serbia. We all had a nice, long, relaxing massage. Laurel was waiting for me when I got out. We
Greek GoddessGreek GoddessGreek Goddess

Laurel looking like a goddess with her Laurel wreath headband.
found Rob in the hot tub at the Solarium. Laurel joined him and I went to change into a swim suit so I could join them as well. We swam for awhile, with the pool pretty much to ourselves.

After swimming and then going out to the main pool to sun a little, I went back to the room to shower and change. Laurel went to eat lunch and Rob stayed to have a drink or two by the pool. By the time I got out of the shower and called my mom, Laurel and Rob had returned to the room as well. Laurel stayed in the room to nap, and Rob and I went first to the helicopter pad, and then to the Safari Club where I journaled and Rob had a few happy hour drinks.

At six we went to eat dinner at the Windjammer. Then at 7pm, Laurel kicked butt at the audio trivia, Disney songs. She got them all right and won a small prize. Very cool.

We went back to the room to change and were greeted by a towel bat hanging from the roof in our room. I was so cute!
Authentic Greek food. Authentic Greek food. Authentic Greek food.

Lovely outdoor restaurant with great Greek food and street musicians to serenade us.

We went at 9pm to see the Tango in Argentina show. It was really good. They had guest dancers and a guest band from Argentina and they were awesome. After the show, Laurel hung around to see Aquaman on the big screen by the pool and Rob and I filled our water bottles, got snacks and went back to the room. It was a nice relaxing day.

Impression of Greece.

1. They are a very proud people.

2. They depend heavily on tourism.

3. They have a rich and tumultuous history.

4. They achieved a lot for western civilization.

5. The waters are incredible blue!

6. The buildings on the Islands are unique and beautiful.

7. It's a nice place to visit, but I don't think I would want to live there.

8. They love life.

9. They don't mind a big woman. 😊 A woman was walking by me and I accidently bumped her and apologized noting that I was a big lady, and she said "No, very good" and made a "buff" gesture as if big was a good thing. LOL

Day 9 June 22 Saturday

My favorite place on the boat.

We slept in, but with the time change we were still up by 8:30 am. We went to the buffet for breakfast. I chatted with Danny a bit, but it was late there, so we did not video chat. We were passing through the Straights of Messina again heading North, so we got a gorgeous view of the boot of Italy and the beautiful Italian coastline.

At 10:30 we were at the Schooner bar for a morning trivia. We failed miserably, haha. Rob and I went and looked at the art displayed for the auction. There were a few new ones. Then it was back to the Schooner for another trivia game-flags of the World. We failed miserably at that one, too!

We went to lunch after a quick stop at the room. We admired the view of Stramboli as we passed near it. Gorgeous volcanic island. Then it was off to another Art Auction for me and Rob. Laurel stayed in the room.

After the auction, we went back to the room, packed and then each went our separate ways. I explored the ship a little and then got a print out of our bill.
Safari ClubSafari ClubSafari Club

Another favorite spot on the boat.
Then I just came back to the room to journal and hang out on the balcony.

We all made it back to the room by 5pm and hung out on the balcony a little looking at the sea. We saw several sea turtles in the water far below us, which was really cool! At 6pm, Rob and I went to eat at the Windjammer, but it did not open until 6:30, so we went to the art gallery to pay for the mystery lot that we bid on. I love art.

The Windjammer was having a meat feast for the last night. They had prime rib, lamb, pork loin, ham and also shrimp, muscles and crawfish. It was great. rob and I made our way to the final show together, while Laurel ate and caught the show with her friends. The Ukranian Duo, Arts Motion were performing and they were really good. Acrobatic dance with a lot of passion.

We got some snacks and came back to the room. I showered and Rob and Laurel watched the sea, where they say dolphins playing in the water! I was so jealous that I missed it!

I forgot
So much ArtSo much ArtSo much Art

The ship had beautiful art everywhere.
to mention the egg drop contest they had in the Centrum at 4pm. It was pretty fun to watch and Laurel and I got some Italian lessons in the Schooner bar after that. Now it is just journaling and looking out at the pink sky and blue seas.

Cruising is amazing. Jewel of the Seas lives up to it's name. The entire ship is so beautifully appointed and the international staff are so helpful and friendly. So many countries were represented on this ship with the crew, it was very nice. I was most impressed with the service and attention to detail as well as the incredible talent with the performers and the chefs as well as all the staff. I will definitely cruise again with Royal Caribbean!

Day 10 June 23 Sunday

We arrived at port in Civitavecchia at about 5am. We got up at 6am and made our way to breakfast at the Windjammer. It was a nice meal. We then went down to the Safari to wait to disembark. We left the boat at about 8:30am and collected our luggage in the terminal then proceeded to the exit to meet our driver. He brought
Helicopter PadHelicopter PadHelicopter Pad

Great place to go to see a panoramic view.
us to our B&B, La Duchessa a Roma in the Monte Verde area of Rome. Alssandro met us at the door and was such a gracious host! He gave us a lot of recommendations and suggestions on where to eat in Rome and what to do there. We settled into our rooms and then decided to take his advice and take the tram to into the city center for pizza and gelato. It was a very long and hot ride on the tram and we missed the stop we were supposed to take, but the stop we did exit on was really amazing. What you would expect of Rome with grand old buildings, magnificent statues and fountains. We took pictures, then made our way back to the pizzeria Alessandro suggested, Alice's. The pizza was good, but you had to stand and it was hot in the pizzeria, too. A little further down were the Largo Argentina ruins, which was also supposed to be a cat sanctuary. It was cool, but we only saw one cat. 😊 We easily found the gelato stand just down from there.

After a little gelato, we walked through the Jewish Ghetto to the Tiber
Magnifecent RomeMagnifecent RomeMagnifecent Rome

This building was commissioned to celebrate the unifying of Italy in the 1800s
river, then caught the tram back to the B&B. We were hot and tired, so we took a nap in the A/C of our rooms. Around 7:30pm we walked a few blocks to a recommended fish restaurant. It was a nice place, and a little intimidating. they showed us a tray of raw dead fish to choose from, then cooked, and brought the fish out whole, head and all. They offered to "clean" the fish, which we agreed to and they proceeded to remove the head, tail and skin and bones of the fish. It was okay tasting, but the meal was really expensive. It was 9pm when we got back to the B&B, so I showered, journaled and then went to sleep.

Day 11 June 24 Monday

We woke up around 7am and Alessandro had breakfast ready for us on the terrace. It was a lovely morning with a cool breeze in the air. He called us a taxi that took us to the meeting point for our skip the line Vatican tour with EcoArts. We had to search a little and then finally ask for directions in order to find our tour group. We were the
Jewish QuarterJewish QuarterJewish Quarter

Such beautiful old buildings.
last ones there, so once we checked in our tour guide led us off with his pole containing a small flag and a stuffed Smurf on it. We first had to wait in a long, but fairly quick moving line to get through security. It is another country after all. Once inside, our Smurf wielding guide led us through the vast Vatican museums, giving us tidbits of information along the way. There were so many rooms, up and down staircases, through long hallways filled with art and tapestries and brilliantly painted wall frescoes. The ceilings were elaborately decorated and gilded with gold. It was so opulent and art filled, that all I could think about was the amount of money it all must have cost to amass al of that. The Vatican houses the greatest collection of masterpieces in the world. It was really overwhelming. It was also mostly not air conditioned, and it was hot and really crowded. And there were so many stairs!! But it was truly beautiful.

We were taken though the Sistine Chapel as part of the tour. It was supposed to be quiet out of respect for it being a church, but everyone (and
More of the Jewish GhettosMore of the Jewish GhettosMore of the Jewish Ghettos

Didn't look much like Ghettos now.
there were a lot of people-elbow to elbow) was talking. It was cool to be standing there looking at the original master work that Michelangelo spent 4 years creating, though. Quite astonishing. The last part of the tour was the St. Peter's Basilica. It was mind blowing. Really opulent. It was intense. We saw the Pieta, from behind glass now because some nut job once took a hammer to it. But it was restored and a magnificent work of art.

Out in St. Peter's Square outside the Basilica, we waited in line again. This time for the bathrooms. Rob filled our water bottles with water from a nearby fountain and then we shopped for some souvenirs. And of course, took some more pictures. I took a lot of pictures at the Vatican. Then we walked the long path out of the Square and found a taxi stand where we caught a taxi to Piazza Barberini where we were to meet our group for the second tour of the day. But was were a little early, so we had lunch at a nice little restaurant that had good food and a cooler sitting area upstairs. We ate our lunch and
The Vatican MuseumsThe Vatican MuseumsThe Vatican Museums

So much beauty to look at, it is overwhelming.
then found another gelataria for some ice cream. It wasn't too hard to find one, as there are pizza places and gelato stands literally everywhere in Rome.

We met the tour group near my favorite Bernini fountain in Rome, the Triton Foutain. Our awesome tour guide, Sean, led us on a bit of a hot hike up to a waiting tour bus that would take us to the first stop on our catacombs tour.

First stop was out of the city a little where early Christians placed their dead. The catacombs were nice and cool, a good tour for such a hot summer day. All the bones from these crypts had long ago been removed, thanks to the "Barbarian" raiders who destroyed them while searching for gold. They found none, because the Christians didn't bury their dead with gold, but they still profited from the tomb robbing by selling the bones as bones of martyrs to early Christian churches. It was a really interesting tour.

Next stop was a church, built over another older church, built over a pagan temple to Mithras, built over a 1st century public building. Really interesting. There was even a alter to
St Peter's BasilicaSt Peter's BasilicaSt Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's tomb with our guide in foreground, holding pole with Smurf.
Mithra still in the old pagan temple as well as an ancient well from the 1st century that had hundreds of coins (most likely modern) tossed into it. Very interesting.

Our last stop was the reason I booked the tour to begin with, the Church of the Franciscan Capuchin Monks, otherwise known as the church of bones. The monks took the bones of their fellow monks who had passed on, and after letting them decay underground for thirty years, they would dig them up and use the bones to elaborately decorate four rooms under their church. It's as pretty as it is macabre. It was a really cool tour, and our guide was informative and funny.

There was a lot of walking on that tour as well, but we still had more to go. After walking back down from the tour bus to Piazza Barberini, we walked up to the Hard Rock café and got Mike (my supervisor) the t-shirt he requested. And then all the way over to Trevi fountain on the other side of Piazza Barberini. We got some pretty pictures of the fountain. Laurel bought some water color art that she now believes is just
St. Peter's SquareSt. Peter's SquareSt. Peter's Square

So much opulence.
a copy, and I filmed myself throwing a coin in Trevi Fountain, like a good little tourist! 😊

We ended up eating pizza near Trevi Fountain for dinner and caught a cab back to the B&B. We were all pretty tired and sweaty, so we took showers and went to bed, after a little R&R on the amazing terrace. Italy at night. Lovely.

Day 12 June 25 Tuesday

We once again awoke at 7 am and Alessandro had a typical Italian breakfast of pastries waiting for us on the terrace. It was another cool, breezy morning. We ended up chatting a bit too long and left a little late to catch the tram to the city center. We bought tickets just in time to see a tram leave. We ended up waiting quite awhile for another tram to come along. We crammed our way into the already crowded tram and we were on our way. It was so hot and stuffy with all the people. It felt like being in a third world country. Each stop brought even more people onto the tram, until I was sure the doors would not close. We were packed in like
Tree lined streets.Tree lined streets.Tree lined streets.

Such a pretty city is Rome.
sardines. I got the feeling that this was not normal, as even the locals seemed annoyed and one older Italian woman went on quite a rant in Italian. I don't know what she was saying, but she was definitely NOT happy. 😊

We finally made it to our stop and we walked up to see the Pantheon. It is truly amazing, the ancient building just looming out from amongst the more modern buildings around it. The dome is open in the center, with a drain under it to drain away the rain water. Really, really cool.

We encountered an African man who made a nice little attempt at a scam by pretending to just "give" us each some cool bracelets, then go on to tell us that his wife just had a baby, and then asked us for some money. You know, "for the baby". I went ahead and gave him a few Euros, which apparently were not enough, so we just gave him the bracelets back and started on our way. He did end up giving us two cheap bracelets and followed us asking again for money for his baby. We got out of there and walked
Benini FountainBenini FountainBenini Fountain

The Triton by Benini
over to Piazza Novona, the one with three fountains, that used to be a chariot race track. Nowadays, it usually features artisans, selling their wares, but it was still early for Romans (before 11am) and there were no artisans to be found as of yet. I suppose they usually come later in the afternoon. We did find a nice souvenir stand that had some nice souvenirs for cheap, so we bought some. At 11am, some shops finally started to open, including one that Rob had read about online that had hand made Italian leather bound journals and accessories. We were in love with that shop. Rob and I both bought journals and Laurel bought a seal and wax. Very nice.

We made our way to a nearby taxi stand and caught a taxi to the Capitoline Museum. This is where I made a very stupid mistake. I had been taking pictures, so from habit and convenience, I slipped my phone in my back pocket. I felt it on my when I got in the taxi. When we got to the steps to the Capitoline Museum, there were a lot of people and the usual scammer selling water for twice
Trevi FountainTrevi FountainTrevi Fountain

Throw a coin in here and ensure a return trip to Rome.
its value. We walked over to the steps to the Museum and I walked into a splashing fountain to get a little water on me, then reached for my phone to get a picture of the fountain. My phone was gone.

I panicked. All I could think about was all the pictures I had taken on this trip of a lifetime. I wasn't sure if the phone fell out of my pocket in the taxi or if someone stole it out of my pocket in the crowd. I desperately tried to call my phone, for it to only go straight to voicemail. That is when I began to suspect that it was likely stolen and shut down so it could not be tracked. I still hoped for the taxi to return with my phone, by some miracle, but it was not to be. I fought back tears for the rest of the day, feeling stupid, and violated, as I mourned my lost photos. What I didn't know at the time, was that Google photos had backed up all of my photos each time I was connected to Wi-Fi at the B&B, so all of my pictures except the ones

A magnificent building
I had taken that day were retrievable. I just didn't know that at the time.

We finally went on up to the Museum. I had lost all my enthusiasm that had kept me going despite the heat, tired legs and sore feet. We went through the museum anyway, since we already had tickets. None of us really enjoyed it much though. It did have some cool things, including the famous sculpture of Rome founder Romulus and his brother Remus with the she-wolf that had raised them. It also had some interesting things that had been accidently been uncovered throughout Rome.

It was really hot and we were all pretty tired, but Rob really wanted to see the Forum. We got a pretty good overview of it from the top of Capitoline Hill where the museum was, but he had been looking forward to going through the Forum for some time, so we walked back down and around Piazza Venezia toward the Forum. By the time we got close to the entrance, it was really hot and Rob could see there was no shade in the Forum area that we could see from the sidewalk. Rob decided that is
The ForumThe ForumThe Forum

At least we got some great shots from above the ruins.
was just to hot to go through it, so we just took some great pictures from the overlook and decided to find some place to eat and then catch a taxi back to the B&B.

We had to walk a bit to find a restaurant where we could sit. Rob and Laurel shared a sandwich and I just ate some fries as I was not very hungry because I was still upset over losing my phone. Rob and Laurel also had some amazing looking gelato sundaes. We left the restaurant and found someone who spoke English to give us directions to the nearest taxi stand, as we learned that if you tried to get a taxi from outside the stands, you usually were going to get a scammer who would try to charge you twice the going rate. We were directed to go around the Coliseum, which was cool as it allowed us the opportunity to get up close and personal with the grand structure and also to see just how crowded it really was. No regrets about not going in it. We got some cool pictures of us with the Coliseum in the background, then went on around

Rob got an excellent panorama of the Forum.
the Coliseum to a taxi stand. Despite being in a taxi stand, yet another "fake" taxi driver tried to scam us into going with him, but when he told us the price, we said, "um, no!" An official taxi driver drove up minutes later and he was honest and straight forward as we found all the official taxi drivers to be. We paid the very reasonable rate that was on the meter and made it back to the B&B.

Allesandro was there when we got back as he had more guests coming in that evening. I told him about losing my phone. He was very sympathetic. We showered, packed and ate some pizza (again) from a pizzeria just down stairs from the B&B. I contacted Verizon on my tablet and made sure my phone was shut down. I chatted with mom on the tablet and then relaxed on the terrace for our last evening in Rome. It was so beautiful, we watched the sun set over the city and enjoyed the sounds of the night as people also hung out on there terraces and enjoyed the cool evening after a long, hot day.

We were up early the
Palatine HillPalatine HillPalatine Hill

He wanted to go up Palatine Hill, but it was just too much.
next morning and got everything together for our trip home. We ate breakfast on the terrace with the other guest, a mother and daughter from Columbia. I chatted with them a little and found out that they were going to meet the Pope. They had tickets for an audience with him and they were really excited. After breakfast, Alessandro helped us downstairs where we were supposed to meet the driver he arranged for us. The driver did not show up on time as he was stuck in traffic. We were not too worried, but Alessandro was visibly concerned. He finally called us a taxi instead and it got there in no time at all and we were off.

We saw our lives flash before our eyes on several occasions as the taxi driver navigated the crazy Italian traffic.We got to the airport with plenty of time to and it was a good thing. Because we were flying to America, we had to go through extra security. Our passports and reservations were checked before we could even go to check in for our flight. After check in, we were then checked again and asked some personal questions from a security
Rob and I at Coliseum Rob and I at Coliseum Rob and I at Coliseum

We got a nice view of the Coliseum.
woman before we were allowed to proceed to security. She asked Rob all about his job, like how many hours he worked and what kind of lotion he used. She asked me about my hobbies, and then asked Laurel what she liked to do in her spare time. It was very strange, as how could she know if we were lying or not. We were not the only ones questioned, everyone on flying out on a flight to America were asked similar questions. Strange indeed.

We were surprised to find that the airport past security did not have any water filling stations, so we had to buy water. We did that and were finally able to board our plane. It was a really long flight to Charlotte. We watched lots of movies (I watched 3) and tried to rest as much as possible. They fed us on the plane and the food was surprisingly good. Meatballs for dinner and folded pizzas for snack later. When we got to Charlotte, we had to wait in a very long line for Passport control, then get our luggage, go through customs and then recheck our bags and go through security again. We
Laurel and the ColiseumLaurel and the ColiseumLaurel and the Coliseum

More shots of Coliseum.
had almost a two hour lay over in Charlotte and we barely had 10 minutes to spare when we finally got to our gate.

The flight to Atlanta was really short. When we got there it was almost 8pm. We made our way through the crowds to our baggage claim which was already spitting out luggage. Laurel and I got our bags right away. We waited for Rob's but it never came. We waited through several other flights baggage drop offs and finally went to lost luggage to see what happened. They had put Rob's suitcase on a later flight to Atlanta. We ended up deciding that we really wanted to go home, and not stay the night there, so we set up for them to deliver Rob's luggage to us at home and we left the airport. We had a little trouble remembering exactly where we parked, but we finally made it to the right parking lot and paid the fee for parking and got out of Atlanta. The sun was just setting as we left Atlanta and the sky was a gorgeous salmon color. I enjoyed the sunset, despite being crazy tired and so ready to be
Churches EverywhereChurches EverywhereChurches Everywhere

There are a lot of churches in Greece.

Rob drove us out of the city and we stopped at a Chick-fil-A for dinner. It was the first fast food in two weeks and it was very good. 😊 I took over driving shortly after and managed to get us through Chattanooga. I wanted to make it to Lenoir City, but was just too tired. Rob took back over and he somehow got us back home. It was so good to see our lovely house in the woods. It was all clean and inviting. As we were getting ready to crash, I heard the little kitty meowing desperately. It turned out that when Mike and Mary came over to finish pressure washing the house, she snuck into the basement. I went down and let her out of the basement where she apparently had been stuck for the last 10 hours. She was fine, though, and with everyone safe in the house, we drifted off to sleep. Rob got his bag the next day. And I retrieved my pictures and got a new phone. It was a great trip, but I was glad to be home.

Impressions of Italy

1. Rome is an archeological lasagna.

Our awesome tour guide on Santorini.

2. The food is amazing.

3. They really do like to dress nice all the time.

4. There is art everywhere.

5. You can get fresh, great tasting water in these old decorative fountains all over Rome.

6. The countryside is beautiful and manicured.

7. They seem to care about appearance.

8. Rome is very popular amongst tourists.

9. They still use antennae for tv instead of cable. Just a small observation as all the buildings were topped with multiple antennae.

10. They tolerate all the visitors pretty well, even in the hot and crowded summers.

11. They don't really use A/C, but they do utilize roof top terraces for the cool of the evenings and mornings.

12. They don't get around very early.

13. The ancient and newer architecture blended together nicely.

14. There are scammers everywhere in the tourist areas, beware.

15. Even the new, international business were house in old buildings.

Additional photos below
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The Beautiful IslandThe Beautiful Island
The Beautiful Island

The towns look cool sitting on top of the cliffs.

We really liked Mykonos.
Shops on Mykonos.Shops on Mykonos.
Shops on Mykonos.

Great little gift shops.

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