Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rome, Italy

Our cruise ended in the port city of Civitavecchia, about an hour from Rome by car, depending on the traffic. Arriving on a Sunday morning, we had clear roads and was at our hotel, Hotel Fori Imperiali Cavalieri, around 8:00 a.m. I had chosen this hotel because of Jerry's one main interest: the Colosseum. I subscribe to International Travel News, a newspaper magazine written by travelers which I HIGHLY recommend, and had recently read a recommendation for this hotel and its close proximity to the Colosseum.

Being too early to check into our room (as I expected) we left our bags and walked out of the hotel, turned left, and at the next cross street looked right and we could see the Colosseum. I had prepaid tickets bought from the web site and we only had to wait a short time because the site didn't open until 8:30 a.m. We discovered that there was a lift to the second level and we wandered all the way around. And then we did the same on the first level. I have been here before but it was a new experience for Jerry and I think

Since our Colosseum ticket was also good for the Roman Forum and the Palintine Hill, we decided to head over there also. After more wandering, and reading literature I had printed off at home, we had some lunch and then back to the hotel to check in and collapse.

Jerry in the back seat of our Rome golf cart
Our next day was going to be special. I had booked a golf cart tour of Rome. Our guide/driver, Roberto, picked us up at our hotel at 9:30 a.m.

St. Peter in Chains Church
We left the day in his hands and we had a wonderful, very special day, touring Rome, both well known places like St. Peter's Square, to relatively unknown places like the St. Peter's in Chain and the Basilica of San Clemente, where we climbed down two levels to walk on floors estimated to date from 50 A.D. We wandered underground some more at the Catacomb of San Callixtus, where it is estimated 500,000 Christians are buried.

Lunch was at Hostaria Da Franca, a little family owned place on the Appian Way, with no menu ... just need to ask what is cooking that day.

Piazza Novana
And so it went, from the plaza with the oldest farmers' market in Rome Campo de' Fiori, to the only plaza with three fountains Piazza Novana. Up and down streets too narrow for cars. We made a stop that allowed us to walk around St. Peter's Square and the Pantheon. With a final stop at the Trevi Fountain (under restoration), we then headed back to our hotel.

Overall, a very special and fantastic day.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pisa and San Gimignano, Italy

October 24, 2015

Today we got lucky with the weather. Beautiful sunny day, cloudless sky and perfect touring temperature. We had another tour booked with Rome In Limo and, with the help of the Roll Call on the Cruise Critic forum, there were 8 of us in the van. Stacie and Karen from our Amalfi tour were with us, plus two couples traveling together, Peter and Brenda from Maine and Rose and Trevor from Great Britain. We introduced ourselves to each other and to our driver who told us what our day would be like and asked us about thoughts for lunch. He suggested a winery in the Tuscany hills. If this interested us he had to make reservations. We all said Yes, he made the call, and we were on our way.

Our drive took us through the rolling hills of the beautiful Tuscany region. When we got to the area of Pisa with the leaning tower, we were totally caught off guard. Thinking all we'd see is this old tower sitting in a plaza, what we actually saw was this beautiful green courtyard with the tower, church and duomo. It was absolutely beautiful and we spent a lot more time there than we thought we would.

Our next stop was the winery. The cost was 30 Euros per person and while we got some food with the tasting, what we really paid for was the wine. We had samples of 14 wines, which if purchased for shipping home went as high as $131 per bottle. We also sampled extra virgin olive oil, truffle flavored olive oil and very aged balsamic vinegar. Most of the wines were red and we were all given generous samples. I am not a wine expert by any means, and prefer white, but this was certainly an interesting experience and I'm glad we did it.

From there, there more rolling hills, we headed to San Gimignano, an old walled city on a hill top, known for its many towers. We wandered there for a while, took some pictures and then back to the van for the return ride to the ship. Overall a great day giving us a feel for the beautiful Tuscany region, another item that has been on my bucket list for a long time.