Saturday, May 24, 2008

And last of all...Rome

Our trip ended in Rome. (To see the start of our trip and work your way to Rome, go to the side where it says "Blog Archive", start at London and work backwards to Rome. Sorry about that.) Here we went on a walking tour of Imperial Rome, saw the inside of the Colosseum, tossed some coins into Trevi Fountain, and saw the Pantheon.

Trevi Fountain, built in 1792
tossing coins, and making a wish!
the Pantheon - originally built in 27 BC and rebuilt in 125 AD. It is still used as a church today.
On our guided tour walking through the Roman Forums.

Inside the Colosseum

The arch Constantine built after his conversion to Christianity.
On the Spanish Steps.On our last night, we had a farewell party. Our tour manager had asked all of us to buy a Venecian mask while in Venice, but she didn't tell us why. She had us all wear them to our farewell party, just for fun. It was an awesome trip!

Vatican City

Vatican City...the world's smallest country and home to the Pope. Here we saw St. Peter's Basilica and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.

See the dome in this picture? Yes, we climbed 566 steps through narrow, spiral stairs to get an amazing view. It was barely 1/3 of what we climbed at the Eiffel Tower, but it was a lot more exhausting because it felt so claustrophobic!

Here are our views from the top of the dome.

Florence, Italy

In Florence, we took a guided walking tour to learn about some of the history in the morning, and then the rest of the day was free time to explore.

This is a replica of the Statue of David. The real one was huge and amazing, but we weren't allowed to take pictures of it. The detail was awesome... you could see the veins in his arms and hands and the pupils of his eyes are hearts. It is supposed to represent a contemplative David after his victory over Goliath and was completed in 1504.
The Duomo is the 4th largest cathedral in the world, and the first one completed in Europe. This was probably my favorite cathedral we saw. The inside was breathtaking and filled you with awe.

The view overlooking the city.

That evening we visited the Tuscan Hills Dinner Feast with our group. It was one of the most entertaining nights! There were a number of locals there, and we had live music and Italian dancing all evening. Pictured above, Chad is taking a dance lesson from some of the locals. The food was amazing as well!

San Gimignano, Italy

San Gimignano was another bonus stop. It was a very cool mid-evil city in the heart of the Tuscan region. There, we enjoyed a gelato shop voted the world's best! Gelato is similar to ice cream, only better and with way more flavors! We tried the gelato everywhere we went in Italy. Yummy!

While we were there, it started to rain a little. This was the only time we got rained on in the 2 weeks we were in Europe. How amazing is that!?!

Verona, Italy

Another quick stop while driving through Italy was Verona. Heard of Romeo and Juliet? Yes, well, the balcony pictured below is said to be where the inspiration came from to write this story. It is Juliet's balcony.

One of the last 3 standing colosseums in Italy is in Verona, pictured here. The largest and most well known one is in Rome, of course.
Random shot of the countryside while driving through Italy. There are lots of castles on hilltops.

Venice, Italy

Venice - now that's a city to write home about! It's one of the most unique cities in the world. It is built on water (literally) with no traffic except the human variety, and gondolas of course. It has 400 bridges, 150 canals, and endless twisted, narrow streets. We visited a glass-blowing shop and the last and only lace-making school in Venice. There were lots of fun shops to visit here!
Our "driver"
On our gondola ride!

Pisa, Italy

The leaning tower of was cool to see, but there was really nothing else to see or do in this area. So, you resort to taking dorky tourist pictures. :)

Bonus stop - Innsbruck, Austria

On our way from Germany to Italy, our tour manager allowed us to stop at a place that was not on our itinerary - Innsbruck, Austria. This was another quaint mountian town full of life! We were in the city square where there was a random band playing music and 3 wedding parties marched through in the time we were there.