Day 15 - To our final destination… Rome
We felt like we had been away for a long time and yet it was hard to believe and sad to realize that the trip was almost over. Donald led us to meet our last local guide, Ilaria, Hillary in English. She was just like all the other guides – charming, very professional and filled with knowledge, this time about Roman history and what a history they had! A quote from Ilaria “if I cannot use my hands, I cannot speak”. We spent the afternoon touring the larger than life Colosseum and the ancient ruins of The Roman Forum. It was surreal to finally see this in person. The Colosseum was built by 40,000 slaves over a period of nine years and thousands died there – the gladiators fought to the finish! The Colosseum was stripped of gold and building materials in order to build hundreds of churches throughout Rome. We saw the site where Caesar was cremated, the home of Napoleon’s mother and the building where Mussolini kept an office. We were free for dinner but we all decided to eat at a favorite restaurant of Donald’s. We were also very tired from sightseeing and couldn’t bear the thought of trying to navigate our way home through Rome without him. Throughout the trip, he always made himself available to guide us and to keep us from getting lost. Anyway, the food was very good. We sat outside and watched an older man making pizza from scratch on a huge granite counter covered with flour. Italian men in the restaurant business never seem to retire. Good for them! We had an exhilarating public bus ride back to the hotel. There were no seats so we had to stand. It was typical of how the traffic moves in Rome... very fast!
Day 16 – Roaming around Rome
Sadly, our last full day in Italy. We met our guide, Ilaria, who led us on another sightseeing tour to The Pantheon and the famous Trevi Fountain then we were chauffeured (how nice!) to Renaissance (Catholic) Rome and The Vatican Museum. We were on our own for the Vatican tour with the Rick Steves audio guide so we could wander at our own pace. We saw Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and finally toured “the greatest church in Christendom”, Saint Peter’s Basilica, home to Michelangelo’s sculpture Pietá. At this point, we were feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the magnificent art and churches we were fortunate enough to see throughout the trip. Instead of taking public transportation, we decided to walk about two hours all the way back to our hotel. We saw many things we would not have otherwise seen like The Spanish Steps. This evening, we met for our last group dinner at an underground restaurant called Ristorante da Pancrazio built over the theater of Pompei’s ruins where Julius Caesar was murdered. All of our group dinners were fantastic but this one was the most special. We were served an artichoke as an appetizer, pasta with a light tomato sauce, eggplant parmesan and for dessert, a pastry crust torte with cream filling and berries. A man with a guitar played and sang for us while we dined. We said our goodbyes to each other and took the bus back to the hotel.