Day 18: Rome, Vatican City

The last touring day.

We woke up this morning and met our tour guide for the day, Antony, in the lobby of the hotel/basilica. He distributed radio receivers and earbuds so that we could hear him on the tour without any shouting. As a system, it worked pretty well.

We left on the bus for our scheduled tour of the Colosseum. Arriving, it looked a bit different in the day from the way it looked at night: it was illuminated by the sun instead of by spotlights.


Without waiting for too long, we were admitted to the inside of the Colosseum. Antony told us quite a bit about the history of the Colosseum (including the fact that it was not originally called “the Colosseum”) and then set us loose to look around. I spent some time in the museum on the second floor before going out into the interior. I got a lot of great pictures including the only surviving stone seats as well as continuing archeology.




Following our visit to the Colosseum, we left for Rome’s city hall and saw one of the earliest surviving bronze statues. After grabbing some water, we did not go to the Forum (as it was too hot), but were led to an overlook to see a good view of the city and some ruins.


We then got back on the bus and went to the Vatican. Antony took us inside St. Paul’s and I was pretty impressed by the size and decorations. I thought my mom would really like the dome above the altar.




Antony left us after St. Paul’s, so a few of us decided to go through the Vatican Museum and see the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum was long and they made you walk through the whole thing before getting to the chapel. When we got to the chapel, I was disappointed by the total lack of crowd management; it was jam-packed and every 30 seconds the employees would be yelling “no pictures, no pictures!”

After grabbing a quick lunch, a few of us went out in search of the catacombs. Unfortunately, we were given bad directions and by the time we asked someone more knowledgeable, the catacombs were closed.

Dinner was at a traditional Roman restaurant, complete with live music. While we ate our (really salty) food and drank our wine, we were serenaded by a guitarist who spoke very little English. It was fun to see everyone and sad to think that this was our last meal together as a complete group.

When we returned to the hotel, a large group of people went on the roof. While looking out at the city, we said our goodbyes and enjoyed the company of everyone for the last time.


Day 17: Florence, Rome

We awoke this morning and went downstairs for breakfast. EuroPython (a conference about the Python programming language) was going on at this hotel, so I was able to easily see the people present for the conference. After breakfast, we all boarded the bus bound for Rome.

Along the way we stopped for food at a gas station/rest stop. This place was a little weird in that you paid for your food, then brought the ticket over to where the food was given out. I paid for a slice of pizza, but when I got back to the food area the last slice was being given away. The woman behind the counter quoted 10 minutes of waiting, and since I had 20 minutes before I needed to be back on the bus, I consented. Ten minutes later, no pizza, and an updated quote of 15 minutes. I declined and there was some confusion. I ended up with a plate of penne in marinara sauce with about 2 minutes left before I needed to be on the bus. Bolting some down, I ran outside for the bus and was very unsatisfied with my lunch experience.

Eventually, however, we arrived in Rome. We’re staying in a hotel connected to a Basilica, which is pretty unusual. My guess is that the rooms used to be used for people living at the church, but that’s only a guess. My room is decent even if it does appear old. I think this hotel has the second-best shower of the trip, behind the hotel in Lucerne. We had some trouble with the safe, but the front desk was able to resolve it.

Meeting in the lobby, we decided to head out into the city. This marked our fourth Metro and seemed to be reasonably nice. Rome’s Metro consists of only two lines: A and B. Line A has modern cars with air conditioning, automated announcements, and screens showing the upcoming stop. Line B has fairly old cars literally covered in graffiti with none of the modern features found on Line A. Both lines are powered by overhead wires rather than a third rail; this is the first underground Metro I’ve seen with that configuration.

When we arrived at the Spagna station, we walked out and found the Spanish Steps. After climbing and enjoying the view, we set off for the Pantheon and several fountains. Each of these were nice to look at. I thought that my mother would like to have the Pantheon’s dome in our house, but I’m not sure how it would match the rest of the architecture and decor.



We grabbed a quick bite to eat at a restaurant advertising happy hour. The food was decent and the waiter was the best one that I’ve had in Europe, so I actually left him a tip (tipping in restaurants is not really part of European culture). After dinner, I finally tried my first Italian Gelato, which was quite good.

We then decided to check out some of the other historical sights while it was dark out. After a quick Metro ride, we arrived at the Colosseum. Seeing it at night, in real life, was as mind-blowing as seeing the Eiffel tower.




After looking at the Forum from a distance, we journeyed back to the hotel and turned in for the night.