7/3/13 - 7/20/13
Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.
As hard as it was to believe, my I-finally-have-a-PhD trip was coming to an end. The ship was back in port and I was disembarking for the final time. Fortunately, my flight did not leave until that evening, so I still had one day left to explore Rome. To take full advantage of the little time I had left, I booked a full-day tour with Rome Driving Tours. My tour guide, Luca, picked me up from the port and would later drop me off at the airport. Luca was a fantastic guide. His enthusiasm for the history of Rome was apparent as he shared his extensive knowledge while driving me throughout Rome.
My first stop was the Vatican Museum. I had elected not to hire a private guide for the Vatican, but was still able to get inside without waiting in line because Luca had already purchased the ticket. I could have literally spent days exploring the Vatican. It was incredible, although I had to repeatedly remind myself of the reasons why all of that history was in one place. The highlight of the Vatican Museum may be the Sistine Chapel (where, of course, one cannot take pictures), but truly the entire Vatican is one giant piece of art.
Typically, in order to access St. Peter's Basilica from the Vatican Museum, one must either exit the museum and then wait in another really long line or be with a tour guide who can exit from the Sistine Chapel and go straight to the Basilica. I did not want/have time to wait in line, so Luca had suggested "mingling" with a tour group as they left the chapel. That I was willing to break a rule speaks to my desire to see the Basilica - not many things can entice me to do so. Of course, the group I happened to mingle with was from China. That may not have been the most subtle choice. I just nodded my head and pretended to understand Mandarin as we exited the chapel. Despite my less than successful attempt at blending in, I was able to get into the Basilica unaccosted by security.
It was so worth breaking the rules.
After a whirlwind tour of the Vatican, my next stop was one of the catacombs. Pictures were not allowed to be taken inside, but it was a fascinating tour. Plus, it was a great opportunity to get out of the heat for a bit.
We drove along the Appian Way, getting to see what little is left of the original road. My tour guide, probably sensing my nerdy excitement about history, added a couple extra stops to my day. One such stop was the Church of Domine Quo Vadis. There is a legend that the church was built on the spot where Peter met Jesus while fleeing persecution in Rome. The footprints (which are now a copy of the original footprints), are said to be the miraculous footprints of Jesus, although there have been other explanations, as well.
Another bonus stop was the Pantheon. Being there on a rainy day, I got to watch raindrops fall through the top of the dome.
For lunch, Luca took me to one of his favorite places in the Campo de Fiori. It was a bit too rainy to enjoy strolling the market, but my sandwich was delicious nonetheless.
After a final stop to take in one last view of Rome, it was sadly time to head to the airport.
I can highly recommend Rome Driving Tours, whether you are spending a day in Rome or looking for an option for a shore excursion. My guide was knowledgable and clearly passionate about history. I had one last, perfect day in Rome to end an amazing vacation.
How does one sum up a trip that included 18 days away from home, 7 countries, 6 flights, 5 time zones, and 1 eleven-night cruise? Honestly, I do not know how to adequately end this series of posts, although it certainly took me long enough to write it. As I have reflected on the trip during the months since it ended, I've realized that in many ways, the trip marked a time of transition in my life - certainly a time of endings, but hopefully new beginnings as well. And so, I end this post with another beginning: I am making a change related to my blog. Lately, I've been more thoughtful about travel and especially about what it means in my life. To more fully explore this going forward, I am beginning a new blog. It will continue to be focused on my trips, but will have an increased emphasis on my philosophy of travel and ways to make travel more meaningful. I hope you will continue to read my blog at thewanderingmind.net.