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Kisses by the Pantheon
Column of the Immaculate Conception

September 15:

At 3 pm sharp, we met at the hotel for group orientation. Tim and I were some of the younger folks on tour, but we balanced that out by being some of the more experienced travelers. Once we got the ground rules out of the way (No grumps. Be on time.) and learned about the buddy system, we set off on our first group activity...a walking tour through the heart of Rome! 

It was hotter and more humid than I expected for September. 
We threw this fan in last minute and it became the trip MVP.
Tossing our coins into the Trevi Fountain
so that some day we will return to Rome! Worked last time!

Colleen did an amazing job leading us through the Heart of Rome! She would lead us through the winding streets explaining the history and then we would turn a corner and Bam! a famous landmark, looking all perfect in the evening glow! Finished off the day with our first group meal - olive tapenade flatbread and pasta carbonara, which was invented in Rome, and tiramisu!

Colleen lead us on an amazing tour through the Heart of Rome.
Did you know that Rome has more Egyptian obelisks than any other city?
I mean come on look at it!
It's so cool!
The angels on the
Ponte Sant'Angelo were  also designed by Bernini
No pictures inside the Sistine Chapel , so have a picture of the Last Judgement poster instead

September 16:

It's going to be a long day with a lot to do. Started off bright and early with a tour inside the Pantheon. It's a marvel. You can understand why the roof captured the imagination of generations of artists and architects. Since we had toured it before, we left Mom with the audioguide and the rest of the group, and went across the square to get granitas at Caffe Tazza d'Oro.

Then because our tickets for the Vatican weren't until the afternoon, we had an impromptu walk from the Pantheon to Ponte Sant'Angelo, with gelato along the way.

When we were getting our coffee granitas, we ran into our friend Austin on the street!  He had to cancel going to Galleria Borghese with us because he was sick, so how cool to just run into him!
We learned that you can tell it's the really good stuff if the gelato is flat in the tin. That usually means made on site, with natural ingredients.
Silencio! No foto! So here is the Sistine Ceiling poster instead
Interior of the St. Peter's dome.
Paintings don't hold up well inside St. Peter's due to the crowds and incense. So instead they keep the paintings in the Vatican Museum and replace them with mosaics. Look at all the tiny tiles!

And of course, if you go to the Vatican, you have to go to St. Peter's Basilica. It's still huge and opulent beyond belief. I stand by what I said the first time I visited St. Peter's - "Now I know why the Reformation happened." But so much cool art! Michelangelo's Pieta is astonishing, Bernini is amazing, and we saw the mural of Raphael's Transfiguration. After all that, we were beat and headed in for the night.

Fought our way to the front of the crowd to get a decent picture with the Pieta!
Outside St. Peter's

Then because our tickets for the Vatican weren't until the afternoon, we had an impromptu walk from the Pantheon to Ponte Sant'Angelo with a stop for gelato along the way. We had enough time to get a delicious lunch at Il Colobri (and enjoy the AC!) before tackling the Vatican Museums.


Wow! That was an experience. I mean I remember the Vatican Museums being crowded when we went through the first time, but not like that. We ended up rushing through a lot of the museum because the crowds were so thick. Our guide did make sure we had a nice long time to appreciate Michalangelo's Sistine Chapel.

Finally saw some kitties hanging out at the Forum
Overview of the Forum entrance

September 17:

Another early day! We packed up our bags because we will be leaving Rome later today. But before we hit the road, we have a tour of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Our guide today was Ilaria, who was amazing! We did the Forum first and since we were so early, we practically had the place to ourselves. Ilaria had so much interesting history to share. I could have listened to her all day.

Admiring the ruins at the Forum
No, you can't tell we are related at all...
Mom loved the Colosseum. 
The wine is so good in Italy!
Photo courtesty of Colleen Murphy

The crowds had definitely caught up to us by the time we hit the Colosseum. But it was still worth it because the Colosseum is tremendously cool and as Ilaria said "Just elbow your way on up" and "Conquer the space!" Of course she also said the guide should find an out of the way space to give their talk, like she did. But my favorite Ilaria saying had to be "The mother of stupidity is always pregnant!"

Tim was working that fan today.
Seriously MVP of the tour.

Now this leads to one of my favorite photo sets from the trip. To the left, we have the three of us getting our selfie with the Colosseum ruins in the background. Above in the middle, we have a snapshot one of the tour members sent us with us in the background taking that exact shot! How cool!

One more picture from the other side before we caught lunch!
So one of the cool things about the tour, we get a full size bus but only have half the people. That means every one gets a window seat!

We finished out Rome with a delightful al fresco lunch at Pasqualino. 

Pizza, wine, and an amazing set of desserts. Just look at that dessert window!

Then we loaded up on the bus to head to Volterra!

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