Now about the bus! A bus tour is very different from cruising. First of all, everything is time managed. Bags out your room door by 6:45, breakfast done and on you’re on the bus by 7:45. Then there are things to remember like, “Where do I sit today?” based upon the daily seat rotation chart. Then you ask yourself, “Should I take the steep steps at the back of the bus to get to my seat quickly,” or “take the easy steps up front and then push my way through to my seat?” Keep in mind you have your backpack with you, a camera, and the ladies have purses! Very touristy. A sense of humor is required and perhaps more than one cup of coffee!
The bus is ultra comfortable. All the creature comforts you can think of are on board: restroom, seat trays, armrests, wide seats, seat belts, leg rests, and nice wide clean windows. You could easily fold up a pillow or sweatshirt and take a nap if it was to be a long day of driving. Most of us on the bus were over fifty and a few pushing eighty! We napped! Our thirty-something guide would use his soft, Italian voice over the microphone to say “Wakey, wakey,” when it was time to gather our “stuff” for either a comfort stop (pee-pee break) or time to see our next site.
All 48 of us were pretty good about scooting off the bus pretty quickly…especially for those “comfort stops!” This scenario repeated itself every two days. When you travel via bus, the hotel bed covers are not turned down with chocolates left on the pillow! Definitely not the comforts of cruising!
We got up nice and early and headed back toward the Vatican Square and then passed the Castle of St. Angelo, which runs along the Tiber River. This castle was originally built as a home for the Pope if he needed to escape from the Vatican during times of upheaval or threat. Located in the lower level is the tomb of Emperor Hadrian.
We kept walking until we arrived at The Spanish Steps. IMPRESSIVE! This magnificent structure was built in the 1700’s to house the Spanish embassy to the Vatican. It is a tourist attraction today as the embassy is located elsewhere. The view from the top of the 138 steps is breathtaking.
But let’s not stop there! We continued on our hike to Trevi Fountain. We have no fountains like this in the USA. It is massive in size and made of gleaming marble carved with mythical sea creatures, fish, and ornate spouts. It is said if you toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain you are sure to return to Rome. Keep reading, our adventure is just getting started!
This was another LONG day of walking (1 7,774 steps). We found a great little street-side ristorante to eat a meal and head for a gelateria on our way home. So far our favorite gelato is vanilla and dark cherry in a cone – not a cup!
Out the door nice and early to walk to the open-air market at Campo de Fiori. You could buy everything from fresh food, clothing, olive oil, to pastas. This was a fun place to browse and people watch. Everything was so enticing.
From the Campo we walked to the Pantheon, which is right in the heart of Rome. It is Rome’s best-preserved monument. It was constructed in 27 BC, but updated in 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian. The dome itself is so high and remarkable that it provided inspiration for the greats like Brunelleschi and Michelangelo. Originally, it was a temple where you could come pay respects to all the pagan gods (primarily pan). Think of it as a one stop-shopping house of worship! During the middle ages it became a Christian church dedicated to all the martyrs. Today the Swiss Guard, just like the Vatican, watches over it. What a beautiful monument this was!
Next, we hailed a cab and headed toward the outskirts of Rome to see the Catacombs de Priscilla. Seriously, Catacombs! Down in the tunnels there were over 40 thousand people buried! Through the years tourists and thieves have robbed the bones. It is believed that the oldest fresco of the Madonna and Child is painted on the walls. There are frescoes and carvings all over the walls and ceilings depicting redemption through Christ and the resurrection. Many martyrs were buried there although it was not a hide-out for those being persecuted. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures inside to share with you. Today it is an active monastery. We finished off the day with a total of 14, 010 steps and a gelato. Are your feet and legs aching yet?! What happened to retirement was supposed to be relaxing?
Want to hear more about our Italian adventure? Keep reading this series!
We started our long-awaited vacation in Rome and managed to walk a mere 18, 798 steps, on our first ½ day. The plane landed before noon and rooms weren’t ready until 1 p.m., so off we hiked to explore around the Vatican. Right away it became apparent that I would not be the navigator as I managed to take the four us on the “long and scenic” route around the outside perimeter of the Vatican! Well, it got our circulation going after the 12-hour plane flight! We found our first gelato stop and made it back to the hotel in time to shower and rest before heading out to find dinner. Pizza along the Tiber River was a great way to end our first Italian experience.
To celebrate our 40th Anniversary, Dan and I took off on a tour of Italy via a Trafalgar bus tour. Usually we like to cruise, so this was a departure from our usual mode of travel. Every two days we packed up and moved locations. It was far from a “relaxed” vacation, but it was WONDERFUL! According to my trusty Fitbit we walked 82 miles over a 12- day period. We drove 1, 183 miles and experienced, heat, drizzle, rain, cold, and humidity. Oh yeah, and a few mosquito bites along the Tiber river! A couple from our church joined us as they were also celebrating a milestone event, and had always wanted to see Italy. So the four of us, and 44 new “friends” hopped on a tour bus with fabulous Italian guide named Gianmarco.
This is the first in a series of posts that will take you on our journey through Italy just as we saw it. We will spare you the thousands of pictures we took, and include a couple of favorites. We hope this series will inspire you to embark on your own adventure. Being retired is wonderful!