Visited the Colloseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, and the Pantheon.
Carmine drove us on a simple tour before our actual venture through Rome by foot. We were able to see many sights from the comforts of the air-conditioned bus, Rachel talking non-stop, sharing her wealth of information with us… mocking Italian laws all the while. The bus emptied onto the sidewalk adjacent to the Colloseum and the adventure begins Whispers plugged into our ears and Rachel’s voice in our heads. Every view is picturesque and we took as many as we could before moving forward. The group gathered at the designated spot and eventually left Mississippi who willingly waited in a long line for an Italian bathroom. Our guide was full of information but lacked enthusiasm or personality, we left her and did our own thing… which was taking more pictures. Ali’s camera fascinated us with its panoramic capabilities.in the ColloseumThe Forum
The heat increased exponentially as we walked to The Forum. Those of us that took this tour in 2009 found new information with the informed questions and responses of others. Out came the umbrellas (parasols), providing shade for our hot, sticky selves, while others rolled their skirts up enough to show us their skivvies, yikes. Amanda enjoyed the fresh water fountains when available.
Our group has yet to gel, though we had begun our own investigations and name memorizations. The bus transported us to lunch and the Vatican. Utah girls split for the first time. Some picked up food at an out of the way sit down restaurant that allowed take-away while the rest resisted killing each other and made it to a pizza place that lacked American style order. In the chaos, Mandy finally made it to a place of ordering food among the pushing and shoving Italians. Tanya, Chelsea, and steph ended up with what we thought was pineapple pizza - turned out to be potato pizza. Interesting, but delicious to our starving selves.
Another purchase of water for all of us and onto the Vatican. Tanya, remembering the hot security guys from last time, pulled out her makeup and primped a bit before entering to the enjoyment of the rest of us. We melted for longer than we expected and finally made it inside with only slight delays. Our guide spoke with magic, we loved her. Vatican City buzzed with people, but significantly less than I remember, we were able to stay with our umbrellaed leader and learn all there was to learn along the corridors and statues. The Sistine Chapel is being restored and looks amazingly colorful. Steph took an illegal photo of the ceiling while we asked questions and learned about the individual stories painted by Michelangelo above us.
St. Peter’s Basilica amazed us as the rays of sunshine cast a romantic ambiance through the cathedral. As the guide explained one painting, in particular, as a mosaic she immediately recognized Mandy as a non-believer and called her on it – “Doubting Thomas” go see for yourself – it was truly a mosaic, wow. The clouds came quickly, threatening rain, but allowed time for pictures of the Pope’s window, the Piazza, and the basilica. As the rain came down, we tourists purchased Nativities in the shops meant to be religious souvenirs to be blessed by the Pope later. The bus finally arrived to pick up our tired, wet group. We thought the night was over, but no, more walking. We traipsed through the quaint Italian streets as the sun diminished. We arrived at a closed Pantheon, but enjoyed live accordion music and romantic ambiance only Italian sunsets can provide. We retraced our walk under Italian street lamplight and called it an evening upon entering the bus yet again!
June 15 - Pompeii to the Ferry to Greece
Mandatory early departure with bagged breakfast – consisting of chocolate filled sad-excuse-for-a-croissant, nutella we stole from the breakfast room, and a juice box. Fernando, our new bus driver, safely drove us 4 hours to Pompeii. Rachel spent the morning on the phone, rectifying our tardiness and the theft of Tanya and steph’s iPods the previous night. Rachel assured us a wonderful lunch with her friend, an Italian mobster if we chose to… it was unanimous. All 46 of us sat among friends in the fanciest restaurant we’d yet experienced. Lunch satisfied our hungry stomachs – fries especially. Fernando and Rachel called me pee-pee (for pippi longstocking), but it didn't sound like pippi...
Roberto, our Pompeii guide, used sarcasm and humor to keep our attention before we even departed for the entrance. This older gentleman kept us laughing as we hiked through the ruins of Pompeii. The rock and chariot driven streets led us to the center of commerce, the bakeries and their modern brick ovens, mansions, bath houses, and the like. The time came to see the ash preserved part of the city. We stood in awe as Roberto explained the petrified artifacts and petrified living creatures – a dog, a pregnant woman protecting the unborn child, small children, and grown ups – all preserved in their final living states of horror.
Tents of souvenir shops drew us Americans in. Tanya searched for a jersey, the salesman gathered random men to find the perfect fit for Tanya’s dad, “is he this size? How about him…” while Sandra used our new friend, Tracy from St. Louis, to help her haggle the price of a necklace down to 10 Euros – “Her husband won’t give her the credit card”. Back to the bus. 5 more hours. The race to beat the other EF group to the Ferry in Brindisi begins. We win.
We head to the Ferry (the Ionian Queen) with our luggage in tow. The security boys (literally young boys) did less than just wave us through, a very thorough security check. Ha. Semi-trucks were being easily backed onto the Ferry like sports cars and we were finally guided up the same ramp as the trucks into a doorway and up two escalators to a line of waiting EFers and lounging truckers – many ABFs and SBFs were being called out! Our rooms were nice enough and we immediately turned the coolers on… to no avail.
The air kicked on once the boat moved. We took our cameras an explored this ferry. We ended up doing the wave with some others from our bus and made friends with the 70s man and his three boys, who were older than we thought. We were exhausted. Dinner was at 9pm, nothing to write home about. Ali and Tanya somehow talked us into a nightlife even after we had showered and were in our jammies. Mandy and Amy were smart enough to go to bed.
Tour group bonding begins. Sitting on the top deck overlooking the sea off the back of the boat, we met our new friends from St. Louis. Sandra and steph said goodnight and others joined them in retiring around midnight, but they were sidetracked with music coming from the discotech. We gathered the others and we danced our little hearts out until Tracy introduced the idea of a flashmob. We learned the quick little dance and couldn’t wait to teach others. Finally we went to bed, exhausted. Our AC worked far better than expected and most of us froze through the night. We woke up in Greece!