On the way from Florence we made a quick detour to the small town of Pisa. What can I say about Pisa? Well, there’s the infamous leaning tower (not a good advertisement for Italian architects and builders) set in the cathedral complex of Piazza dei Miracoli or the Square of Miracles and the ubiquitous souvenir stores … acres and acres of stalls all selling the same over priced, substandard memorabilia that we all regret buying the instant we return home. Needless to say, I fell prey to the Italian charm of the salesman and now have a small plaster replica of the tower to store in my top cupboard! After my limited efforts to boost the economy in Pisa and a delicious gelato, it was back in the coach and off to the Eternal City of Rome.
They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but our tour guide tried her best to make sure we saw it in one! The morning was taken up with a fascinating tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Square and Basilica by a very knowledgeable local guide. When we arrived at 8.00 am, the queues were already epic, but this is where the cost of doing an organised tour really pays dividends as our guide had prebooked reservations and we not only moved to the front of the queue, but also gained entry a full hour before the general public. In addition, we were allowed to take shortcuts that saved us over 1.5 km of walking, a real bonus. After (another) gelato break it was off to the Colosseum and the Roman forum before lunch. In the afternoon, we toured the sites and squares of medieval Rome, the Spanish steps (luckily we walked down, not up) and the Trevi fountain. Here, after yet another seemingly addictive gelato, I tossed the obligatory coin over my left shoulder into the much monied fountain to ensure my return to Rome. Amazingly, last year alone over €900 000 was recovered from the fountain and donated to an international charity. Maybe the coins actually do make some dreams come true!
Rome is a frenetic, crowded, noisy city that effortlessly combines both the ancient and the modern. Nothing I can write will do justice to the wonderful sights we saw, so I’ll just say, if you can get here, do … you won’t regret it. Just be sure to bring comfortable shoes!
Bucket List #3 to be continued. Next stop Venice.