Rick Steves Best Of Europe

September 28th - October 11th, 2009

Welcome to Florence

Rome, Italy

October 9th - 11th

There were bittersweet feelings running through us as we pulled into Rome. We were excited to get out and explore this ancient metropolis, yet saddened to know that this would be our last stop with our group. The weeks had flown by and we hadn’t anticipated that saying farewell would be so difficult. As we drove into the city the song “I Gotta Feeling (toinght’s gonna be a good night)” played on the radio and we knew that the lyrics were exactly right. Sad as it may be, these last two nights as a group were going to be good ones, this trip deserved a grand finale and Rome was the perfect place for it.

Below: Some of our favorite shots of the Coliseum, the group admiring the great structure, cross inside the Coliseum, Nicole basking in the sun in Rome

Ruined, Not Lost

We arrived in the late afternoon and began exploring, as a group, almost immediately. As we stepped off of the metro and emerged to see the Coliseum just steps away we knew that Rome would be more than we had bargained for. Throughout our trip our weather had been phenomenal and continued to be so until the very end. As the sun faded towards the horizon we explored ancient ruins with our group and our favorite local guide, Francesca. The ruins and Francesca made for an absolutely captivating evening.

Below: Various sculptures and structures in the Roman Forum, Jeanne drinking from a fountain in the Forum, Kevin listening intently to Francesca in the Forum

The Holy See

We toured the Vatican City with our group and were glad we did. To try and navigate this independent territory on our own would have been completely overwhelming. It may be the smallest country in the world, but it encompasses enough to make it feel immense, even for an experienced tourist. We followed our guide through gardens, museums, crypts and the Sistine Chapel before we eventually arrived at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Below: Statue in the Vatican Museum, St Peter’s Dome outside, St Peter’s dome inside, Kevin resting, Papal ware, Jeanne resting next to a statue, St Peter’s Square

A Roman Holiday

There is so much to see and do in Rome that we were thankful we planned on staying a few extra days. It gave us the opportunity to really explore the city at our own pace. We used our hotel map, just as we had done in Paris, and set out to see the highlights that weren’t on tour. We walked the entire city a few times, ate at our favorite pizza and gelato place numerous times, shopped in the fancy boutiques and from the street vendors, had a gourmet dinner and even saw a movie (a completely different experience from the states!) Like so many other cities on our tour, we had fallen in love with Rome and were distraught when it came time to say goodbye.

Below: Church in the Jewish Ghetto, views of Rome from atop Castel Sant’Angelo, La Bocca della Verita

Where In The World?

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The Unfinished Dome

We explored The Pantheon as a group and true to Roman fashion, it did not disappoint. The columns and the great dome were beautiful and seeing the sunshine through the opening at the top was a vision.

Above: Castel Sant’Angelo, George and Jenny in front of the Pantheon, Pantheon dome

Colorful Still

One of the first things we learned from Francesca was that the Coliseum and many of the great ruins in Rome used to be vibrant and colorful, not the muted grays we see today. But, if you look around, you can see that Rome’s color isn’t gone, it is simply in different places.

Above: Stairs into Castel Sant’Angelo, homes near the Jewish Ghetto, metro train, map of Rome atop Castel Sant’Angelo, Egyptian Obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo

From the Piazza Del Popolo to Prada

The more time we spent exploring, the more we felt like Rome was a playground, ours for the taking. We spent our free time exploring churches, drinking from fountains, eating gelato and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Above: Nicole shopping along the Via dei Condotti, the Spanish (kissing) Steps, Kevin filling his water bottle in the Spanish Steps Fountain, Kevin at the Piazza del Popolo, flowers for sale at the Campo de’Fiori

From Sea to Shining Sea

Feeling emboldened by our weeks on tour we decided that we would leave the city for the day and venture out west. We hoped on a train and found ourselves splashing in the Mediterranean Sea in no time at all.

Above: Various shots of the Mediterranean Sea, ruins at Ostia Antica, clouds above the trees at Ostia Antica

Ciao Bella!

Our final night with our group was filled with grappa and tears. While the grappa made the tears more bearable it didn’t numb the pain of knowing our vacation of a lifetime was really ending. Looking back we know we are blessed because while all good things must come to an end; not all things end this good.

Above: Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Novana, Gloria, Bonnie, Lorna and Colleen at our final dinner, The Trevi Fountain, us throwing our coins into the Trevi