Jan. 15 - Rome
On Tuesday, the most packed day of the trip, we did Rome. You might think it's not possible to "do" Rome in a day, but we saw an astonishing array of sights on our last day in Italy. We started the day with a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel with our city guide, Antonio. He took us through some of the dazzling riches of these museums.
Our next stop was St. Peter's Basilica, overwhelming in its size and grandeur. It's the largest church in the world, and the paintings, artwork, chapels, and sheer scope of this space are not things we'll forget. We were also grateful to have sunshine for part of our last day.
After St. Peter's and a short lunch break, it was on to perhaps the most famous Roman icon of them all, the Colosseum. It's hard to imagine that this monumental stadium was completed in 80 A.D. It's a fascinating place to explore.
From there we walked (and walked) to St. Peter in Chains, the 5th-century church that houses Michelangelo's Moses. The church is named for the chains displayed near the altar, said to have been the actual chains in which St. Peter was bound in Jerusalem.
Most of our party then walked through the Roman Forum to the Trevi Fountain. Marv and I met the group at the fountain in order to have a brief break from walking (that cab ride was well worth the 6 Euros!) At the Trevi, we tossed coins into the fountain in order to ensure our return to Rome someday.
We walked some more after that, to St. Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century church filled with rich frescoes and a beautiful dome. Then we went on to the Pantheon. It's an astonishingly well-preserved structure built by Hadrian in the 2nd century A.D. Originally dedicated as a commemoration of all religions, it has been a Christian church since the 7th century. Its immense dome has an open "skylight," meaning that when it's raining outside, it rains a bit inside, too.
By the time we walked from the Pantheon to the Piazza Navona, it was raining pretty hard and was dark and getting colder. Despite the valiant efforts of Colin, our tour manager, to show us a few more sights, we all expressed a desire to get back to the bus and head for dinner.
Our last dinner was in a delightful Roman cafe with live entertainment from two singers who performed opera highlights and a few other tunes ("That's Amore," "Moon River," and more). The food was delicious, and the strains of "Arrividerci Roma" serenaded us on our way back out into the Roman night.