Italy Tour

Day 1           Athens to Rome               Hazy – smokey/blue skies & hot

 Our taxi, arranged by Globus, picked us up at 5.30am to take us to the airport for our flight to Rome.  We checked in and got through all the formalities with no hassles whatsoever.  We were told that we had to be there 3 hours before, but for quite a while, we were the only people sitting in the departure area. 

A Globus coach picked us, and several other people from our tour up and took us to our hotel in Rome, which was a 40 minute drive.  We finally arrived at our hotel at about 1.15pm.  Sandy finished off the postcards, while Richard had a rest.

The tour group were taken out to an authentic Italian restaurant for a lovely meal, to get to know each other.  There are 43 people in our tour group – the ones we have met so far are really lovely.  Most of them come from Canada or America, with a few from other places – we are the only Aussies.

 At the restaurant, we were entertained by two Italian musicians, who sang and played the guitar and a flute.  After a couple of vinos, we were all singing along and having a really good time, with much laughter.  RJ has discovered Italian beer – he is trying to try the local beer from each place we visit.

 Day 2           Rome                     Blue skies    hot

By 8.15am we had breakfast and we were in a very short queue at the Colosseum. Travelling with Globus has lots of advantages – as happened in the Greek Islands, we seem to be able to get into areas first.  This is really good because we are getting to see areas like the Colosseum without thousands of other tourists being there.  We met our guide, Stefano, who was using a system supplied by Globus called “The Whisper”, which is a system where the guide has a microphone and the rest of us have a small radio receiver attached to a lanyard worn around the neck.  The radio receiver has an earpiece, which means that we can all hear what the guide is saying, while he can continue to walk in front of us, saving huge amounts of time as we don’t have to stop and gather around him to hear what he has to say.

The Colosseum was amazing.  The stories and photographs that we have seen in our history lessons don’t come anywhere near to showing the size and former grandeur of this ancient architectural masterpiece.  The walls in the outer ring are 50 metres above ground and more than 100,000 cubic metres of travertine were used to build it.  The amphitheatre took 10 years to build and was used for ceremonies and games.  It could hold approximately 70,000 people, who came to watch the gladiators in combat.  The eighty arches at ground level led, via a system of internal corridors, to the 160 outlets that took the visitor to his place on the steps of the cavea, which was borne by arches and vaults.

We then went out to the Great Square of the Colosseum and passed under the Arch of Constantine to the Roman Forum, which was the commercial, religious, political and legal centre of the city, to the Square of the Roman Forum, through an Olive Grove to the Arch of Severus and viewed the valley of the Forum, where our guide explained what it used to look like.

We saw the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Temple of Venus, before heading across the River Tiber to the Vatican City to St Peter’s Square.  After a short wait to get through the metal detectors, we were able to go into St Peter’s Basilica, which was absolutely beautiful.  Again, the size and grandeur need to be experienced as our photos will not be able to show it properly – as well as the fact that there were quite a few people there and it was hard to get photos.

Standing before the altar was a moving experience.  Outside the Basilica, we were able to get a photo of some Swiss Guards having a chat to a priest.

After lunch and a short rest, we were taken back into the city, via the old Roman Wall – there is only 9 miles of it left.  Firstly we walked down the Spanish Steps to the lovely Fountain at the bottom and then on to the Statue of the Virgin Mary, before continuing our walking tour to the Trevi Fountain.  Both of us tossed a coin into the fountain – 1 coin to return to Rome, 2 coins for a new love, 3 coins for a divorce, or so we were told!  The Trevi Fountain was bigger than we thought it would be and there were hundreds of people gathered around to toss coins and take photos.

We then continued on past Hadrian’s Temple to the Pantheon, where we could only get a small glimpse of the interior through the gap in the doors as it was closed – very disappointing as we can remember how impressed Katharine was with its interior.  It was built in honour of all the Olympian gods, in about 27AD.

After a short break to get a large Gelati ice cream – the best we have ever tasted – we had a look around the Piazza Navona, which was built on the racetrack of the emperor Domitian. We saw the Church of St Agnus and the Fountain of the Four Rivers, before being taken back to our hotel, the Albani.

A group of us then went for a walk to a little local restaurant, where we had a lovely meal and enjoyed the company of some of our new friends, before returning to the hotel and falling into bed, exhausted after a wonderful day of sightseeing in Rome.

 Day 3           Rome to Florence             Blue Skies    Hot

 Because the Vatican Museum was closed yesterday, we left the hotel early this morning and went to the Vatican Museum, where we saw some ancient tapestries, sculptures and paintings which lined the corridors leading to the Sistine Chapel.  Once again, Globus had arranged for the group to get into this area of the Vatican one hour before normal admittance time, so we were able to move through the corridors leading to the Chapel and view the Chapel before it became crowded with other tourists.

We were not able to take photos – Richard was not game because of the number of guards and that the whole group could have been evicted.  The ceiling that Michelangelo painted is truly a masterpiece and we could have spent hours there to be able to look at each individual fresco in depth.  The upper segments of the walls tell the story up to the time of Moses and the other side tells the story up to the time of the Last Supper.

Then we all piled on he coach to head to Fiorenze (Florence).  We stopped at a Services (a roadside café attached to a petrol station) for lunch and they had great freshly made sandwiches, pizzas etc. 

Our next stop was at the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Sandy’s sister, Maria had told us how commercialised the area was and how it took ages to actually get to the Tower, but even that didn’t prepare us.  We were overwhelmed by the huge number of street vendors along the pathway that led to the Tower and also the number of tourists that were there!

We went through the entrance gates, Porta Santa Maria, where the view was great.  We could see the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, lawns with people either sitting or lying on then just looking at the Tower, and many people visiting the street vendors.  We were given time to take photos and have a look around, before we had to make our way back to the meeting place, to board our little train, which took us back to the parking area – there is no parking anywhere NEAR the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

We continued on through Tuscany, arriving at our hotel, Hilton Metropole, at about 6.45pm.  We had a nice leisurely dinner in the hotel restaurant with the others, before heading back to our rooms at about 9.00pm to download photos and get some sleep.

 Day 4           Florence                          Sunny & Hot

 We left the hotel just after 8.00am for a walking tour of the centre of Florence.  The tour took us through the narrow streets, to the Academy of Fine Arts, an unassuming very plain building, which houses the original famous statue of David, by Michelangelo, together with some of his other sculptures and a number of prized paintings.  Michelangelo died in Rome, aged 89, and was brought home to Florence to be buried.

The statue of David was created in 1504 when Michelangelo was only 26 and is a masterpiece of the Renaissance period.  It was moved from its original position outside the Town Hall so that it could be preserved.  We were taken with the size of the statue and the attention to detail shown by Michelangelo, who had studied anatomy – you could see the veins on the back of his hands as well as on his neck; the muscles in his legs, arms and abdomen; and even his ribs.

This was something that Sandy had wanted to see for a while now and she was very moved by the experience.

We walked leisurely through the streets, following our guide, Andreas, (who was using the Whisper) to the Piazza del Duomo – the cathedral which was quite amazing with its white, green and pink colours – which stand for Faith, Hope and Charity.  We saw the Baptistry door made of Bronze and Gold too.

We then went to the Piazza Della Signoria where we saw a sculpture of the Doubting Thomas at the church of Orsan Michele on the way.  The square has an open air display of statues made of marble and bronze and they had a copy of the statue of David in its original place outside the entrance to the Town Hall.  There was also a statue of Hercules and a Bronze and Marble Fountain with Neptune at the centre of it, called The Neptune Fountain.

We then walked to the Piazza Santa Croce (the Holy Cross) where we saw the Holy Cross Basilica.  We were taken into a leather shop where they talked to us about leather clothing and some people bought leather jackets, bags etc.

We had lunch with another couple at a lovely little outdoor café overlooking the square where we had lasagne, which tasted great – Richard had an Italian beer and Laurie and Dennis had wine. Dennis is an American entertainer and motivator and a very funny man.  He and Laurie are just delightful.

Then we headed back to the hotel to do our blog and have some quiet time before getting tarted up to be taken out into the Tuscan Hills to enjoy a traditional Florentine meal, in a picturesque setting, with musicians to entertain us.

2 Responses to “Italy Tour”

  1. Janet says:

    Hey Mum and Dad

    Sounds like you’re still enjoying yourselves. It’s great to be able to compare your stories and photos with the ones from when we were there this time last year.

    Hope it’s not too hot for you – must be nice to be able to retreat back to the bus for a while each day 🙂

    Lots of love
    Janet xoxo

  2. Maria says:

    I am enjoying looking at all the photos – Grant has set up one of his computers so I can use it – just had to comment re parking in Rome. Obviously they have some rules now because when we were there a few years ago, there was a row on the footpath, another at the side of the road and if not enough room then a third row parked on the road – AND in the higgledy piggledy way Sandy and Richard show!! Was interesting to get your car out at times!!!

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