Subject: Italy travelogue
Hi, everyone, We arrived home from Italy on Monday evening and am just now getting back to normal. We had seven full days which wasn't nearly enough but gave us a good flavour of the country and we know that we definitely want to return.

We started our trip in Rome where a limousine sent by Giorgio from Hotel delle Muse picked us up and delivered us to the hotel in the Parioli district of Rome. What a lovely area and so nice and quiet and removed from all the noise of the traffic. We were greeted by Giorgio Lazar (the Lazar family owns Hotel delle Muse) who is a real charmer and such a very nice gentleman. The hotel supplied us with maps and a page of helpful hints regarding busses, tours and buying bus tickets, etc. and also offered us a free safety deposit box. The hotel has recently and is still undergoing extensive renovation. We were very pleased with our room which had a private bath and cable TV (all the comforts of home). After a short one hour nap, we went for a nice long walk to check out the local neighbourhood and came back to the hotel where we enjoyed a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant.

Tuesday saw us up for breakfast in the hotel dining room (it's included in the room rate) and included rolls, croissants, jams, cheese, yogurt, coffee, juice, etc. Then we got our bus passes and made our way to the Vatican Museums. We bought tickets for a guided tour for 33 Euros for the two of us (about $33 U.S. or $49 Canadian). It took about two hours and ended with a visit to the Sistine Chapel - everything was spectacular - miles and miles of artwork on floors, ceilings, and walls. We had lunch at a sidewalk cafe near the Vatican which turned out to be a real ripoff (live and learn) and proceeded to St. Peter's. The line appeared to be long but it only took about 20 minutes to get in - they are conducting security checks on everyone entering. By the time we were done at St. Peter's, it was late afternoon. We returned to the hotel and because the food in the dining room was so good the previous night, we ate there again. And they also have very friendly waiters.

The hotel booked a trip for us through Carrani Tours to Naples, Sorrento and the Isle of Capri. We did want to see some of the area south of Rome and because our time was limited, this seemed to be the best way to do it. We got as far as the entrance to the Blue Grotto on Capri but could not enter because of the high water level. We were taken by bus up a very curvy mountain road to the village of Anacapri where we enjoyed a very nice lunch. The boat then took us back to Sorrento where we had a short tour of the town and then headed back to Rome. It was close to 10PM when we got back and we hadn't had dinner, were tired and didn't want to go back out. The kitchen was closed in the hotel restaurant but our waiter from the previous night made us some very nice ham and cheese sandwiches which were very much appreciated.

Thursday, we changed hotels and moved to the Rome Cavalieri Hilton to meet up with the group we were joining but not before Giorgio told us if we ever needed anything while in Rome to call him directly and that he was family and could be counted on. That's the difference between Hotel delle Muse and the Hilton - on site friendly management - if I ever get back to Rome, you can be sure that I will be back to see Giorgio.

The Hilton of course was gorgeous! We met up with several members of our group who had just flown in from Canada and took the shuttle bus to Piazza Barberini. They were all very hungry so we ended up at Planet Hollywood (not my choice!) for an early dinner. We had an early night.

Friday morning, we had a half day walking tour of Rome and saw numerous piazzas, churches and fountains and I got to throw my coin in the Trevi Fountain. After that tour concluded, we stayed downtown and headed to the Forum and Colosseum, one of the trip highlights. What a sense of history!

Friday night at the hotel, we had an Italian Marketplace night with little stands with red and white awnings all around the Hilton ballroom with various food stations - antipasti/salads, meats, pastas, desserts, etc. and all the red and white wines you could drink. My husband made the mistake of going to their cash bar for a rye and ginger ale (typical Canadian drink) which set him back 16 Euros. Beer was 9 Euros - ouch!

Saturday, we took an all day tour to Florence - I could have stayed there for a week - we barely got the flavour of Florence but did see Michelangelo's statue of David - beyond description and certainly more than spectacular. Our visit ended with dinner in Orvieto, a hill town in Umbria where we enjoyed a great meal, all 70 of us - again, the wine flowed freely.

Unfortunately, I was forced to spend Sunday at the Hilton with my feet up, badly swollen and not able to get shoes on. My husband went with two friends and another couple back to St. Peter's where they saw the Pope and heard the papal address. He was quite moved by that. I enjoyed a lovely lunch in my room of cream of artichoke soup with lobster and a club sandwich which set me back 29 Euros - ah, lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Sunday night, our final night, was Caesar's Feast. We were greeted at the door of the ballroom by Roman centurions. We sat at low tables on benches and they showed the chariot scene from Ben Hur on a huge screen on one wall. When that concluded, the doors to the ballroom burst open and in came a Roman chariot pulled by white horses - it was unbelievable. We also had a fire eater and belly dancer and the pasta was served from a huge copper kettle which had been carried in and set in the middle of the ballroom. There were also several other courses and the meal concluded with a dessert something like Baked Alaska.

Alas, all good things must come to an end. We flew home on Monday via Heathrow to Pearson in Toronto, me in a wheelchair all the way. I have been to the doctor and am on medication and the swollen extremities are slowly recovering. Arrivederci Roma - we hope to return again. Pat