We got an early start from Sorrento in the morning and got to Rome about noon, where we had a "picnic" lunch at a roof terrace above the hotel where some of the group stayed.  (Others stayed at a nearby convent.)  We met a local guide who took us to the Vatican Museum, just a block away.  We had a tour of many of the rooms of the museum and got to the Sistine Chapel just before it closed.  So we had a good look as the crowds were small and we had to constantly move towards the exit.  What an awesome sight that is, and is so hard to imagine that one man, Michaelangelo, painted the whole ceiling in about 4 years.

There is also much sculpture in the Vatican Museum and here are two examples, the Laocoön group and the Belvedere Torso which Michaelangelo admired.

In some rooms the ceilings were as interesting as the paintings on the walls.

That evening David took the group for a bus ride across the Tiber to an area where we walked to a few piazzas to see various buildings.  We stopped in one where there were a number of restaurants for dinner.  After dinner, we continued our walk to see the Piazza Navona where the Fountain of the Four Rivers was.  The walk continued to see the Pantheon at night, which was impressive, and then on to other places of interest in that area.  At various times, people left this tour to take a taxi back to the hotel.

In the morning, David took us for a walk which began at the  St. Peter's Square.  Then we went inside the Basilica and were impressed by the size and beauty of the interior.  There are  many monuments and statues, the most famous of which is Michaelangelo's Pietaô. The Great Altar is also impressive, as is also the interior of the dome.

There is a great picture of the dome from the roof at the Great Buildings website.

The group next took a bus to the area of the Pantheon and visited a number of churches.  First was the Church of St. Luigi del Francesi, the first French church in Rome.  There was a wedding taking place so we couldn't see the famous paintings by Caravaggio there, although some members went back on our break for lunch and saw them.  Then we walked to the only Gothic church in Rome, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, so called because it was built over a pre-Christian temple to Minerva.  It had beautiful stained glass as well as a statue of the Risen Christ by Michaelangelo.  Next we went to the Church of St. Ignatius, a baroque church.

We then went to the Pantheon, originally built by the Romans to honor all the gods, forbidden for use by the early Christians until pope Boniface IV dedicated it in 609 to the Virgin Mary and all Christian martyrs. The height is the same as the diameter(142 feet) and it is lit only by a 30 foot dircular opening at the top.

After breaking up for lunch, we met again for a walk to the Capitoline hill for a view of the Roman Forum, which we soon entered.  That was also impressive-the remains of many large buildings, basilicas, and temples. Some of the group even walked to the Palantine Hill while others rested in the shade.

We all walked to the Coliseum, built in 80 AD and a classical piece of architecture.  Many climbed the stairs to the second level to get a better view of it to imagine a crowd of 50,000 Romans there.


Finally, some of us walked to one more church, the church of St. Peter in Chains.  The main attractions there were Michaelangelo's statue of Moses and the relics of the chains which bound Peter in prison.


It was a tired group that returned to hotel, rested for an hour or so and then met again for our final dinner together on the rooftop terrace of the hotel.  It was a good meal, good company, and a time for final conversation and goodbyes.

A few people stayed on in Rome for a few more days, but most left for home the next morning.

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