What is more exciting than waking up early in the morning knowing that in just a few short hours you will boarding your flight to an exciting destination like Italy? The thrill of travel is in the air, and the time clock is ticking for a fantastic trip!
Even though I took this trip a few months ago I felt it needed to be writen about how much fun it is to travel with an escorted tour. Although I have traveled Europe for years with my job, I always avoided taking what I thought would be a boring, crowded, fast paced tour. Another reason I never wanted to take a tour is that you would have no time for yourself. Heaven forbid, that there would not be enough time to SHOP!!! Oh the horrors! Along with that you would not have enough time to really experience those cities, attractions and ruins you’re visiting. After all the reason you travel, is to get to know these destinations intimately.
The morning of my flight I double checked my list to make sure everything I needed was packed, picked up my bag, threw it in my car and headed for the airport. I always leave early just to make sure I have plenty of time to make the flight. Don’t want to find there is an accident that brings traffic to a standstill, or that my car blows a tire along the way. Grabbing a coffee on the way to the gate, I find a seat, pull out my laptop and wait for boarding.
The seating on the Lufthansa flight has plenty of legroom and the food is actually pretty good! The flight attendants are attentive but not in your face. I like the way they come by with baskets full of fresh fruit and candy bars during the flight.
Arriving into FCO (Rome Fiumicino Airport) after picking up my bags I am greeted by a Trafalgar Tour Greeter who told me I just missed the last transfer into Rome. NOT HAPPY…..but I have had worse so I decided not to let this get to me, and decided to make the best of this trip. I went to the Taxi stand, struck up a conversation with another single traveler and asked if she wanted to share the price of a cab. Yep! No one wants to pay full price if they don’t have to. We had a great time talking along the way and promised to get together one night while in Rome.
Driving up to my hotel, The Grand Hotel Tiberio, I was thrilled that it was in a quieter part of Rome, with the ambiance of local living, and all the conviences you need just around the corner. The Grand was beautifully manicured outside with vibrant flowers everywhere, and lovely on the inside. In fact the staff made you feel at home from the get go! They directed me to our Tour Escort Franco who gave me some quick information and a time to meet for our first sightseeing tour that night. I actually had a whopping 15 minutes to get ready, so I through my carry-ons into the room, freshened up real quick, grabbed my video cam, and literally ran to the bus!
The group was all there energized and ready to experience the exotic nightlife of Rome. I have to say our group was great, most introduced themselves to me and a few made sure that I would never be alone. (unless I wanted to do my own thing…thank goodness!) That was a very good start. After a short drive past the most momentous sites, and Franco giving us the not so heard of (but most interesting) background. We were dropped off near the ingeniously designed and magnificient Pantheon. A marvel for its time, this ancient building was built without beams or structures to hold up the ceiling. The inside is a large room with beatiful mosaic art, statues, marble and columns that adorns each tomb including the famous Raphael. Next we walked down the narrow streets to Navona Square where we cold get a bite to eat and indulge into our first gelato of the trip. Got to give a big yummmmmmm to that!
Navona Square is an amazing piece of antiquity. Once a stadium built by Domitian in 86 AD, you can still see part of the ruins on the North side. Also known as the main food market when first constructed it is now it is a lively piazza. The square is filled with eateries, gorgeous Bernini Fountains, and an assortment of interesting shops. The tiny markets have colorful fruits and vegetables enticing you to come inside and see what other interesting foods they have to offer.
The piazza has one of the most wonderful pieces of art in all of Rome, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. (Fountain of the Four Rivers) First of all the fountain is huge, with lifelike statues of 4 men sitting on craggy rocks and 7 symbolic animals scattered throughout. Built in the mid 1600’s the fountain depicts 4 famous rivers on 4 continents: the Danube, Ganges, Rio Plata and the Nile. Each river is characterized in the form of a man represented as gods. The 4 gods that are on each corner surrounding the tall obelisk in the fountain.
The Rio Plata sits on a mound of coins that symbolizes the riches. But the snake that seems to scare the Rio Plata epitomizes the fear of losing ones wealth.
The Nile has a cloth over his head which meant that the people had no idea where to find water. It is rumoured that Bernini and his rival Borromini were in competition for work so it is said that the cloth was so he could not see the church Borromini was building.
The Danube is holding up the Papal crest of Pope Innocent X Pamphil. Also the Danube is the closest river to Italy.
The Ganges is holding onto a long oar that shows the river as navigatable.
The square is absolutely enchanting at night. Soft lights enhance the fountains as people stop to admire the beauty. Local artists are set up to sell their paintings as you watch them create new ones. The cafe’s have coverings over tables that are filled with tourists and locals alike enjoying the night with an espresso, pizza or tasty gelato. As we sit with our ice cream happily chatting about how great Rome is, a musician comes near us with his accordian seranading us with songs we actually know and we join in just for the fun of it. As they say…..When in Rome…….
So, making new friends and seeing some of the amazing sites that only Rome can offer has made for a great start to an unbelievable trip! I just can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. Isn’t travel awsome?