Rick Steves South of Italy Tour
Day 1 Rome: After checking out of Hotel Due Torri, we wandered around the shopping area on Via del Corso. I wanted a nice poncho or rain coat for the inclement weather but could only find the cellophane-thin ones. We ate the best pizza for lunch at a small place we’d walked past all week. It was then time to retrieve our luggage from the hotel and take a taxi to Hotel San Francesco in Trastevere to meet our Rick Steves tour group. About half of us were new to Rick Steves tours. Other people had taken six to nine tours. Everyone was very nice and my first impression didn’t change during the tour. We were very fortunate to have long-time Rick Steves guide Tommaso Pante as our guide. After introductions and choosing “compadres”, i.e. buddies, we set out on a walking tour of Trastevere. We ended at Hostaria Luce for our first group dinner. Dinner was delicious and food allergies were accommodated.
Day 2 Rome: Our morning adventure was taking the tram to visit the Capitoline Museum with its ancient Roman artifacts. Public transportation is out of my realm of experience. It’s almost non-existent in Phoenix and inconvenient when it is. The Capitoline was the most uncrowded museum we visited in Rome. As a dressage rider I was impressed by the gigantic statue of Marcus Aurelius on horseback. There’s no other way to describe the Boy Extracting a Thorn statue except as sweet. We then headed to the Jewish Ghetto for our second tour. Our Rome guide Francesca added more understanding about the neighborhood. The brass name plaques in the cobblestones in front of the houses where the Nazis rounded up the Jewish citizens who would die in the concentration camps caused us to reflect on the horror of the war. We were then free for lunch and the rest of the day. Sister-in-law and I mentioned to tour mate Patricia that we couldn’t find the cat sanctuary. She laughingly said it was across the street and showed it to us. After the three of us ate lunch, we wandered back to the hotel to regroup and plan our afternoon. Jet lag and 10 miles a day walking caught up with SIL and me. Our plan to see Trevi Fountain was forgotten when we slept away the afternoon. What we loved about our tour group was their inclusiveness. Around the corner from the hotel was a family owned restaurant Trattoria da Paola where we ran into two tour mates and ate dinner together.
Day 3 Road to Vieste: I set the alarm clock to get us up sometimes too early for breakfast before the days’ tours began. We boarded the tour bus, driven by Salvatore, early to drive to Tivoli and Hadrian’s Villa. After an introduction to the ruins we were on our own to explore the columns, arches and statues and “ooh and aah” at the surviving mosaic floors. We were soon back on the bus traveling over the Apennine Mountains on our way to the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia. I was amazed, especially coming from Arizona, to see snow on the mountain peak. FYI: Prior to the tour I was concerned about potty stops during the drive. It was not a problem. We stopped about every 1 ½ hours at Autogrills. On arrival in Vieste we took a walking tour of the town on our way to Hotel Seggio. At dinner Tommaso learned from one the hotel employees that there was a religious festival in celebration of Santa Maria di Merino. The city square, band gazebo and main road were festooned with colored light arches that resembled stained glass. The local band played a short concert.