On our first day in Italy, we met Kevin and Ericka in Rome and took a tour of the Colosseum. We booked our tour through Caroline Wallace and our guide took us down side streets to see unique churches before arriving at the Colosseum, an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is the largest amphitheatre ever built of travertine, tuff, and brick-faced concrete and was completed in AD 80. Going with a tour guide we did not have to wait in the long lines. Once inside you could see the enormity of the amphitheatre, it is estimated to hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, and executions.
There are four arcaded stories, the first three each have eighty arches, framed by beautiful columns. It’s hard to believe that walking on the cobblestones around the Colosseum, we were walking on the same stones the ancient Romans walked on over 2600 years ago. After our tour we went to see the Roman Pantheon, near our apartment, the crowds were minimal so we were able to get inside and see the Pantheon’s dome, the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the central opening (oculus) to the sky and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 142 feet. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings because it has been used as a church. We had dinner at restaurant in the square in front of the Pantheon called Piazza della Rotonda. Click on thumbnail to view images
Rome Day 2
We arrived in Rome with Eric after the Dore’s wedding and walked for hours chasing Eric all over the Ancient city. We started at St Peter’s Basilica, crossed over the Ponte Sant’Angelo, meaning Bridge of Hadrian, that spans the Tiber River with five arches. The bridge is now solely pedestrian, and provides the scenic view of Castel Sant’Angelo. We walked through the Piazza Navona, built in the 1st century AD, stopping to see the Fountain of Neptune, finally completed in 1878, adding the sculpture of Neptune fighting an octopus, and also the Sant’Agnese, a 17th century Baroque church. We had to stop at the Trevi Fountain, (built in 1762), it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous statues in the world. We could not leave without throwing a coin into the fountain to ensure not just a speedy but a safe return to Rome. Then on to the Spanish Steps, a monumental stairway of 135 steps, built in 1723-1725, leading up to the Trinita del Monti church. Finally we stopped to eat dinner at a wonderful restaurant with the best homemade Tiramisu for dessert. We crashed at the Airbnb we had rented while Eric continued to party-on with friends in Rome. The ancient architecture and statues in this city are unbelievable and so unforgettable, I highly recommend you put this city on your bucket list. Click on thumbnail to view images
We saved the best for last- the Vatican City! Again we had a tour guide to take us to visit the Vatican, arranged through Caroline Wallace, it’s expensive but well worth every penny. The Vatican City, a city-state surrounded by Rome, Italy, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. We met our guide outside the Vatican and walked past all the people standing in line waiting to go inside. We started the tour in the Vatican Museums that displays works from the immense collection amassed by Popes throughout the centuries. The first purchase was 500 years ago of the marble sculpture, Laocoon and His Sons, by Pope Julius ll, and now there are roughly 70,000 works of which 20,000 are on display. Walking down the long hallway filled with art work and classical sculptures was so overwhelming but our guide pointed out the important masterpieces of Renaissance Art on display and discussed their significance. There are 54 galleries in total with the Sistine Chapel, which we went into last. However no photos were allowed, so we walked to the back and found a bench to sit on to stare up at the magnificent Sistine Chapel ceiling painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. Then on to St Peter’s Basilica where we said farewell to our guide and spent time wandering around this amazing cathedral. We finally went outside and walked around St Peter’s Square amazed by the Tuscan colonnades defining the piazza and their colossal scale that suit the space and evoke a sense of awe. What an experience of a life time! Click on thumbnail to view images
Rome Day 3
We returned to Rome after our VBT bike tour staying at the Le Meridien Visconti Hotel for one night. Some of the group went out for lunch and walked more around Rome looking for gifts to bring home and stopping at bars to refresh with the Italian cocktail, Spritz. Our final farewell to Rome was a beautiful sunset view of St Peter’s Basilica dome across the Tiber River. Click on thumbnail to view images