• Rome & Tuscan Highlights (Part 2 of 5)

    6/3/2019 6:21:31 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment

    italy, rome, trafalgar, tuscany

    St Peter's Basilica Tours (Viator)

    The walk from the Sistine Chapel to St. Peter’s Basilica brought forth feelings of eagerness and anticipation. We slowly walked by THE HOLY DOOR. We learned that it is only opened every 25 years. All the faithful who walk through it during that year are in expiation of their sins.

    Entering St. Peter’s Basilica one is struck by the grandeur. It is the largest church in the world. It is not only the architecture and decorative elements that are so impressive, it contains some of the most solemn and sacred items in the Temple of Christianity.  I leave those details to experts. I will point out a few that stood out for me. The Chapel of “La Pieta” contains the famous marble statue of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ. Michelangelo’s work during the 1400’s depicted such a moving scene so beautifully.  Many, including myself, stood in line to wait for a turn to stand up close to The Statue of St. Peter. It is a bronze statue that is believed to be dated back to 1200’s. Many choose to touch his right foot along with a prayer or with a photograph. Moving forward in the immense church, there is so much to see and take in including the chair of St. Peter (the first Pope) and the spectacular dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. We had plenty of time to meander through the church and our guide moved us outside to St. Peter’s Square to the area where the Pope speaks to the public. Last time I visited Rome, I did not have a guide and I must say that having a local specialist on this tour was very valuable.

    We moved on to the Colosseum! It held about 50,000 people and it was used for centuries. There is a long history of uses one of which were for Gladiator battles in order to fight for their chance of freedom.  There is so much more to see in Rome and we visited more of those sights at the end of our tour.

    Tuscany:
    The next day we began our Tuscany segment of the trip. After just 30 minutes of leaving Rome, the terrain began to change to the rolling hills with tiled rooftop farm houses. We drove 4 hours north on a spacious motor coach to a town west of Florence called Montecatini. Our wonderful Tour Director and Driver always made stops where appropriate throughout the drive times. We stayed here for 6 nights and went on day trips in the beautiful Tuscany region. We really enjoyed Monetecatini for our home base with it’s pleasant town square and quaint restaurants, bakeries and chocolate shops.  Our 4 star hotel was located just 2 short blocks from the square and it included a spa with all the services. Every morning we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast 5 stories up with a wide view of the town and with mountains as the backdrop. 

    Our first day in Tuscany, we were set to visit an old market in Florence. We met Chef Libero and his assistant. We were divided into groups where each group had a short shopping list and some money. Libero asked us to go into the market and bring back the fresh ingredients where we would then travel to his place to prepare a meal for all 32 of us. We all had a great time using our broken Italian to purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables etc. Going to the market and cooking is one of Trafalgar’s Lifestyle Experiences that is included in the tour. Chef Libero’s Ristorante is located on his family estate where we would learn to make our own pasta and enjoy the wine and olive oil that they produce. We were greeted in such a genuine way, complete with a music trio playing guitar and a welcome toast. Then on we went “to work,” said Libero with Italian gusto. Many of us gathered around several long tables where pasta stations were set for us to participate in making our own pasta dough, then to shape and cut and fill our Ravioli. It was work and we had a lot of laughs working together. Other groups gathered in the kitchen preparing sauces and soup and salad. After the preparing phase, the staff switched us in to the wine tasting phase of the day along with hors d’oeuvres. Then on to our meal that was served family style by Chef Libero’s friendly staff. The music continued with some singing and dancing that brought us all closer as we became a traveling family. Join along with me for the next day which was to visit the rugged coast of Cinque Terre, Italy. 

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