I know what you're thinking--wait, wasn't the incentive trip to the Greek Isles?? yes, BUT the cruise started and ended in Rome, so many of us demonstrators either come in a little early or stay a while afterward and take advantage of having had the airfare covered. Some chose to visit other countries or do long layovers on the way home, but to minimize expense we stayed for six days in Italy and traveled by train. So here's a few of the best pictures from the second half of our trip, with a grateful nod to both sets of grandparents, who stayed with the kids while we were away celebrating our 22nd anniversary!
First, we came in one day early before the cruise part of the trip, to help adjust to the time change. We arrived at the hotel, napped a bit and then took a shuttle to the city center to wander on our own for several hours. We got to see a bunch of smaller sites like the Piazza Navona, Castel San Angelo, the Travestere neighborhoods, the Isola Tibertina island in the middle of the river, and the Mouth of Truth made famous by the Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday (a favorite).
The next morning we got up right away and got ourselves on the Metro to a site called Ostia Antica, the ancient port of Rome. It was virtually empty and spectacularly preserved, with stunning mosaics everywhere we turned. You can get an idea of how important the city was by the size of its main street, below.
Our first truly freaky moment happened as we were dashing back to the hotel to catch the shuttle to the ship. Mike and I got separated when he got on the Metro and didn't realize I wasn't right behind him. The doors closed in his face and I yelled "It will be ok!" as loud as I could from where I was stuck at the turnstile. The Lord was really with me in that moment, because that could have been panic attack territory for sure. He also protected me from a pickpocketing duo who were using a distraction technique to try to relieve me of my purse! Thankfully, another train came along in ten minutes and my solo ride was without further incident. Whew!!
After the cruise, then, we were on our own in Italy. I had booked us a nice hotel near the train station and within walking distance of several things Mike could go see on his own in case I wasn't feeling well. Praise the Lord that was not a problem! and to our delight the room was absolutely gorgeous, with a beautiful private terrace garden. We felt so ritzy! and the view from it was just amazing.
Some highlights of that first day off the boat were the Spanish Steps, which had been under construction on our previous visit, and the Borghese Gallery, which was truly out of this world. And of course, pizza and gelato!!
The next morning we set off early for a "hidden" tour of Rome that was spectacular--we started in the sobering Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, where many of the cobblestones have been replaced with special gold ones with the names of Holocaust victims who lived there, and the date and place of their deaths. Our guide did a fantastic job of sharing the good stories about the resistance, ingenuity and unconquerable spirit of the people whose faith only grew under persecution.
Next we visited Hadrian's theater, which is like a miniature Colosseum, and then headed outside the city to the Appian Way. Walking on those stones was a highlight for Michael and I! You could see the ruts left by the wheels. And the funeral stele and shrines were fascinating. But we didn't linger long--there were aqueducts to visit next! We couldn't believe we were seeing these things we'd read about for so long.
After that tour, we took a train to Florence for four days (another post!) so our time in Rome was chopped up into little chunks. When we returned to Rome for the third and final time right before flying home, we visited the Baths of Diocletian and a section of the Museo Nationale Romano. There are so many museums in Rome you could go to a different one every day of the month and not visit the same one twice!
Some of the highlights of that day were a mausoleum that had the painted interior completely intact, the sheer size and immensity of the Baths of Diocletian (3,000 could bathe at once), and seeing the funeral stele that have been removed from all over Rome and housed inside the Baths. Part of the Baths had been ingeniously repurposed into a Catholic church, with a cloister designed by Michelangelo. It was really cool to see how Romans live with their past all around them, surrounded by the dead and yet still creating the vibrant city of today.
Rome was just a "bonus" part of our trip--our main plans involved Florence. One more travel post and then I'll quit boring you and get back to stamping! Jet lag has been a BOOGER this week and I've been working full speed ahead on Scrapbooking Summer School and 31 Pages in 31 Days, neither of which you can see until August 1st! But sit tight, I'm back in the saddle again : )