Italy in 2022

Colloseum, Italy

Days 0 & 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Days 10 & 11

I took a trip to Italy with my boys. My heart was heavy that Bill couldn’t go. 😢 It was a “school” (not school) trip that I tagged along for the ride 😜 Basically a planned touring trip for high school kids.

The clouds were speaking to me on the drive to the airport. Whispering “come play with us in the sky!”

Days 0 & 1

These were our travel days. We took a redeye out from Denver, Colorado (USA) to Frankfurt, Germany. While this trip was with a tour group, I did upgrade our 3 seats to Business class. I have a tailbone issue that I’m dealing with (haven’t gotten it checked to know if it’s bone related or nerve related), so the thought of 10+ hours sitting was NOT something I was looking forward to. With the Business Class seats, we could lay flat during the night.

We landed in Frankfurt, Germany for our connecting flight to Milan. Sitting on the tarmac waiting for our gate. Hope we don’t miss our connecting flight 😳

I’m looking a bit haggard. We’ve seen better times 😜. Yes, that’s Charlie in the row behind us. Was able to capture all three of us in one shot!

Barely made our connecting flight. They were announcing last call as we ran up to the gate. Whew! 😰 Boys got to experience boarding a plane from the tarmac. First for them at a major airport.

Day 2

This was our first day of being true tourists and there were amazing parts and not so pleasant parts. Let’s start with the amazing.

It was all about Venice today! As we drove from our hotel to the islands, there were vineyards all along the highway like we have corn in America. There are over 300 islands that make up the Venice region, and we got to see 3: Murano, Burano & Venice.

Cars are not allowed on the islands, so we got off our land bus and hopped on a water bus (my term). We passed the area where goods get loaded on boats to be taken to the various islands. You can see DHL has little yellow delivery boats that match their yellow delivery vans and trucks.

Took some pictures of impressive buildings but have no idea what they are.

We started the day on the island of Murano (where the notorious Murano Glass Blowing takes place) and we got to see a glass blowing demonstration. And yes…I got my first souvenirs right out the gate 😜

Next we went to Burano where they are known for their colorful houses. Charlie was so in love with this island that he said he wanted to live there 😍 I can totally support this and would visit him often!

Finally, we went to the proper island of Venice. Here we had a local guide share lots of information on the architecture and history of the island. Our tour ended in the St Mark’s Square.

After our tour we went on a gondola ride! I mean, you can’t go to Venice and not go on one! It must’ve been rush hour in Venice when we went. We kept hitting traffic jams. 🤣

The canals were everything I expected them to be and more. Will definitely have to come back with Bill!!

Now the not so pleasant stuff…..

Our luggage wanted to spend more time in Frankfurt. So it wasn’t in Milan when we arrived. 😭 There were 5 of us in our tour group that checked bags and all 5 were MIA. Fortunately, I had me and the boys pack a set of clothes in our backpacks that we carried on the plane. So we had one set of clothes to wear after 2 days in the same clothes.

While we were touring Venice, I got a call and text from a lady that was on our flight and also didn’t get her luggage. But she was calling me because the airline sent my luggage to her in Lake Como (an hour north of Milan…I was 2+ hrs southeast of Milan 🤦🏼‍♀️). She got my number from my luggage tag. Sent me pictures and sure enough…that was my luggage. She sent it back with the courier that it was not her luggage. Where it is now…I have no idea.

Then late this evening, I get a call from the luggage claim department at the Florence airport that one of the 5 bags was there. Not all 5, but 1. I gave them the number of the hotel we were going to so hopefully the young lady on our tour will at least get her luggage when we arrive in Florence.

When we got back to our hotel (completely exhausted from the day of sightseeing), I drug myself across the street to buy clothes and essentials for me and the boys and the 2 other teenagers in our tour group that had no luggage.

I crawl back to my room to take my second cold shower. Yes, no hot water in my room for the second day. Whatever. After my shower I proceeded to wash the few clothes I had in the bathroom sink. After which the drain plug wouldn’t open. So I would have to scoop the water out with a glass and dump in the toilet just to brush my teeth and wash my hands.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring better times. 🙏🏻

Day 3

I woke up in a tizzy freaking out about our luggage that I spaced wishing Will a happy 16th Birthday 🤦🏼‍♀️ Yes, he gets to celebrate his 16th birthday in Italy. How awesome is that?!?!

The start of today brought us no news on our luggage. But our tour guide did allow us to stop in the store I went to last night to return some things that didn’t fit.

Then we were off to Florence! My clothes weren’t dry from sink washing last night, so the back of our bus became a laundry mat 🤷🏼‍♀️

Today is also Italian Republic Day. So traffic was horrible when we got to Bologna. Plus our delay in leaving due to our store run…things weren’t looking so great 😞

But the scenery after leaving Bologna was quite lovely. It also meant we were in the Tuscany region. Lots of tunnels through mountains and rolling hills.

We finally got into Florence in the afternoon where we had a local tour guide share about his city. We started at The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. And weirdly the pictures I took didn’t portray the true in person beauty this cathedral has. There are armed soldiers with machine guns keeping guard at the front. Don’t see that very often in the US.

We also learned of a big flood that took place on November 4, 1966. The water levels in some parts of the town were a good 10ft or more high 😳

Then we went over to the main square where you can fill water bottles at the public fountain with still or sparkling water. Yeah….sparkling water! How unusual for us Americans!

However, on our way to the square we stopped by the “home” of Dante. I use quotes because our guide said they really don’t know which home he lived in, but a mayor at some point decided to pick a building and call it his home 🤷🏼‍♀️

Then in the main square it is where we saw many statues. One of which is Michelangelo’s David. However, it’s not the original David, but rather a replica. The original is in a museum. There were many other statues in this same area that are originals which were many hundreds of years old.

Next we went off to see the River Arno. And we walked on the merchant bridge which doesn’t feel like you are on a bridge when you are actually on it because there are stores along both sides.

Our local tour guide dropped us off at a leather factory for a talk. Florence is known for its leather goods. Since my luggage is still MIA, I got a small leather day pack so I didn’t have to carry my big backpack around all the time.

Then we headed to our hotel. On the drive there I got to talk to a human about my luggage. I’m really irked that it is impossible to find a phone number to speak to a human about my luggage situation with Lufthansa. I need my stuff!!!

After a day of 90+ degree heat in Florence, I was tired and hot! And this hotel had no AC 😭 I know that can be typical of European hotels, but I was so close to losing my shit without my luggage. This one did have hot water, so I didn’t have to take an ice cold shower. Although to be honest it was a quite chilly one because I was so dang hot!

Washed my clothes in the sink, then went to bed.

Day 4

I woke up to a message from our tour guide that our luggage was in town, just at the wrong hotel! Woohoo! So our bus driver went over to pick it up. As I hastily got ready and went downstairs….to my dismay I learned 4 of the 5 missing pieces of luggage was there. Mine was not 😭

So our fearless leader, Maria (who is Italian), got on the phone to try to find my luggage. Because we leave this hotel in the morning and only stay 1 night at the next 2 stops, she felt the best option was to have the bags sent to Rome where we stay 4 nights. That means I would only have my luggage for four of 11 days. I’m trying hard to keep my spirits up, but it’s waning with each day. At least Will and Charlie now have their stuff!!

Today started off with us heading to the medieval town of San Gimignano which was built in the 1100s. We simply don’t have architecture that old in America. We were literally walking the streets of a different time. And there are homes and hotels and shops in this town. It still blows my mind that people actually live here! I definitely want to come back and stay in one of the hotels in this town. And don’t even get me started on the views looking out from the town. Just stunning.

After a couple of hours in San Gimignano, we headed back to Florence. Will has been super excited to visit this city because of an Assassins Creed game that takes place there. Virtual world intersecting with the real world 🤷🏼‍♀️

Today in Florence the boys once again got gelato (I think they have managed to have it once or twice a day since we got to Italy haha!). Then as we were walking around deciding what to do, we bumped into the other tour group that is doing the same trek as us with the same tour company. They just came from Louisiana/Alabama. They were heading to the Boboli Gardens by way of the Ponte Vecchio (the merchant bridge that crosses the river Arno).

The Boboli Gardens are up on a hill and we got some great views of the Duomo (cathedral) and the rest of downtown Florence.

And as my luck would have it….the leather day pack I bought yesterday broke on me! 🤦🏼‍♀️ I’m beginning to wonder if I was someone like Matilda the Hun in a previous life and Italy is enacting it’s revenge on me. I can’t seem to catch a break!

Then we met back up with our group for a buffet style Italian dinner in Florence. Didn’t get any pictures, but it was fun to experience a different type of dinner (we usually have them in the hotels and they are catered to the budget conscious school kids – read between the lines there 😉). Didn’t get any pics at dinner unfortunately.

I’m averaging 15,000-18,000 steps per day to give you an idea of how much walking we are doing. But to me it feels like 50,000 by time my sore feet get to the hotel 🤣

In luggage news today….as I mentioned above 👆🏻, my tour guide, Maria, talked to a human this morning and they planned it out that the airline should just try to get it to me when we get to Rome as we will be there for 4 nights. Not great for me as we don’t get to Rome for 3 more days 😩

Then I got a text later in the day from the gal who they tried to deliver my luggage to earlier in the week. She had dropped her cousin off at the airport and went to where they hold lost luggage to get her own suitcase. She found hers, but also saw mine sitting there and told them “You need to call her! And get her luggage to her! Her number is right here!” And proceeded to show them. At least I know it still exists somewhere 🥺

The last thing of the day was to wash the clothes I wore today, so they can dry on the bus in the morning 😜. Then crawl into bed to pass out 😴

Day 5

Today we packed up and left our Florence area hotel to travel south-ish to Assisi. Ok, I didn’t really “pack” but rather put the few items I had in reusable grocery bags and headed for the bus. Of course my clothes were still damp, so the back of the bus was once again my drying station.

After a couple of hours driving through the beautiful Tuscany region, we got to Assisi. Just when I think I’ve seen the most beautiful places in Italy, she shows me another gem.

When we first arrived, we had lunch in this quaint little roadside restaurant where they had a pasta making demonstration for us. And Charlie got to do some pasta kneading. Will and his new friend Aiden were up to some shenanigans on the bus. Aiden has been unofficially named my 3rd son on this trip 🤣 Glad the boys made a friend. And he goes to Niwot (same school as the boys). Apparently he and Will had a physics class together last fall too. They just didn’t know each other then.

Next was a trip up the mountain to our hotel to drop off everyone else’s luggage and my weirdly growing number of bags (our rooms were not ready, so we left everything in an alcove of the lobby).Then hopping back onto the bus to head over to the town square.

I can’t possibly do this town justice by remembering all our local tour guide shared with us. The biggest notoriety of this town is it is the birthplace (and resting place) of St. Francis. Born into a wealthy merchant family, he dreamed of joining the army to make a name for his family. Ultimately he claimed God spoke to him to renounce his wealth and live without possessions and honor nature. Oh, and to fix God’s church.

We toured the St Clair Church and got to view her tomb in the catacombs. You aren’t supposed to take pictures in the churches here, but I had taken one before I learned that. Oopsie! 🤭

We also toured the Basilica of St. Frances of Assisi. We walked through the catacomb of St Frances’ tomb, the first sanctuary and the upper sanctuary. The artwork in this Basilica is breathtaking. I really wish I could’ve taken pictures. But you can search online to see it I suppose. And even though I’m not Catholic, it was still moving to see the throne/seat that only the Pope can sit in. There is only one person on earth at any given time that can sit there. That’s pretty impressive. But I’m sure when we tour The Vatican next week, I’ll get more of that feeling.

After that, I got my gelato of the day (1/2 salted caramel and 1/2 cherry). It was the perfect end to a hot tour.

Once back at the hotel, we were able to take our stuff to our rooms. But first I want to backtrack a bit. Remember when I shared I bought a day pack at the leather shop we visited in Florence? Well, when we were walking around yesterday the strap hook broke. And while we were in Florence, I went back to show them but they were closed! So today in Assisi, I bought a much cheaper one to replace the expensive one. When I got to my room, I started putting things in it. And then one of the zippers breaks!!! I just can’t seem to have a single day where something doesn’t go wrong 🙄

A HUGE plus of this hotel is IT HAS KICK ASS AIR CONDITIONING!!!! Since I don’t have a swimsuit (it’s in my suitcase), I ended up taking a power nap with the AC cranked. It was so lovely 🥰 I have a feeling this sweaty mama is going to sleep good tonight!

A downside to this hotel is using the toilet was a bit awkward as my knees would hit the shower when using it. They should’ve switched the location of the bidet and the toilet.

This hotel also had a game room of sorts where the kiddos could just be goofy and have some unstructured fun.

But before I could crawl into bed, I had to take my nightly shower and wash my clothes in the sink. 2 more days. I can do this for 2 more days. If my luggage is not at our Rome hotel when I arrive, look for the headline “American woman goes mad while vacationing in Italy!” 🤪

Day 6

Only one night at this hotel, so we had an early breakfast and back to the bus for a 5 hour trek to Pompeii!! I could drive around for weeks across this country. It is so beautiful.

It’s hard to say I’m excited to see Pompeii as it was such a tragedy when it happened. However, none of those people would be alive today, so by visiting their homes, I’m not being disrespectful. You really felt like you were walking on hallowed ground.

Because so much of their lives were frozen in time, from an archeological standpoint, this area is a true treasure. And it was hot as Hades while we were there. Like 100 degrees or something and zero shade. We were baking for sure. I wonder how hot it was back in 79 A.D. for those living there before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius?

Again, my brain is having a hard time comprehending that I walked the same cobblestone streets that people did in 79 A.D. Basically the streets were sewage drains. Large boulders went across for folks to cross the street without having to go through sewage. And there were ruts in the street for the chariot wheels to run in.

There are also phallic icons all over the place to point men towards the brothels 🙄 I mean EVERYWHERE! On buildings, in the cobblestone pavers. Everywhere. And inside the brothels, there were pictures on the wall depicting the services provided. And these pictures are preserved too. So crazy!

Our guide told us about 75% of the ruins have been uncovered to date. And what you see in all these pictures was uncovered using hand trowels and brushes. It’s some seriously painstaking work.

We saw gladiator training arenas, amphitheaters where plays were performed and elections took place. We saw temples and the main basilica (at least I think that’s what he said). In the small museum at the site, they had some casts of some people that perished during the volcanic blast. One figure was a woman in a birthing position. She was actually giving birth when tragedy struck 😢 Our guide also shared that the average life span of women during this time was 25 (due to childbirth) and for men it was closer to 50.

Then we headed to Sorento for a little free time before heading to our hotel. I found a shop similar to H&M, so I was able to add a couple of shirts and shorts to my wardrobe (as I still don’t have my luggage).

Our hotel this evening was the best one yet. Awesome AC, a beautiful view, and the best dinner of all the hotels thus far. And the toilet wasn’t too close to the shower! Only downfall was the bus couldn’t bring us to the front door, so we had to trek down a narrow street trying not to get hit by traffic lugging all our possessions.

Due to my new clothing purchases, I didn’t have to wash as many items! Yay!

Day 7

Boy, today was such a whirlwind! We had to get up super early (set my alarm for 5:45am) because we had to come down to breakfast at 6:40 with our luggage (or grocery bags in my case). We were to finish our breakfast and be on the bus by 7:15 to catch a boat to the island of Capri. Our group rallied and we got it all done. But we had no bus 😱

Our driver was at breakfast and went to get the bus and then nothing. Now mind you, we had to walk a few blocks to the point he was to pick us up. We were waiting in what appeared a bus parking lot. And we waited….and waited….Our fearless leader, Maria, was definitely working herself into a frenzy. Ironically, the bus driver for that other group (the one from Louisiana and Alabama) said he would take us down to the stairs that lead to the harbor.

So the plan was we would leave all our luggage just sitting in this random parking lot, hop on his bus and go to catch our 8am boat time. I was like “what?!?” Leave what few precious possessions I had in this parking lot?!?! So we did. We got on this other bus and went what was probably a block when our bus showed up. So we got off the borrowed bus and waited for our bus to turn around and pick us up. And we waited….and waited….and waited. I think if it was humanly possible for steam to come out of one’s ears, it would’ve come out of Maria’s.

We were all so completely confused as to why on earth the bus had disappeared once again. Finally after about 20 minutes he showed up. In the meantime, Maria had worked her magic and got us new tickets for a 9am boat. When we got dropped off, we learned the driver had gone to get all our luggage out of the parking lot and that was what had taken so long after we saw him.

So finally at 9am we are on a boat to Capri! We got off the ferry boat and hopped onto a little tour boat. We rode around one half of the island. We saw a few caves and the water was so amazing! We also saw several luxury yachts which had me wonder which famous people were hanging out there today? 🤔

Then we took a trolley thing up to the top square of the island. We went into a flower garden that had spectacular views. If it weren’t for the stifling heat and smothering humidity, I could find myself here often 😍

After taking the trolley car thingy back down the mountain, the kids had a couple of hours to frolic in the ocean. Because I had no swimsuit, I hung out with Maria and had some cream lemoncello 🤤

I asked Maria to call the hotel in Rome to see if my luggage was there. It was not 😭 I’m ready to hurt someone over this. I’m starting to worry I won’t even get my luggage before I leave 🥺

Then we hopped on a 45 min boat ride to Naples. Our driver took the bus from Sorento to Naples to pick us up (hence the importance of having our luggage when we left breakfast). While folks were boarding the boat, I tried calling the luggage people. After being on hold several minutes, I get a message that they have a high number of calls and to try again later and it hung up on me. WTF?!?! Ironically, at the same time, Maria got a call from the luggage people that my luggage is in Rome and I need to come sign for it. NO! The other 4 missing luggages didn’t need this, so why do I?!?!! Ugh!

I ended up sleeping the whole ride to Naples.

The boat arrives and our bus is right there waiting for us. I only saw Naples briefly, but it seemed quite bustling (and where we were, pretty dirty – at least compared to what I’ve seen this far in Italy).

Since we had about a 2.5 hr drive from Naples to our next hotel, I thought I would call Lufthansa (the other call was to the baggage handler company). I finally get a person on the line and they can’t really tell where my luggage is. But I know the baggage handler folks do so I’m not too concerned.

At this point I had to let a little Karen come out (apologies to all the “real” Karens that have had to deal with the stigma of their birth names). I told this poor woman on the other line that I have never had such a horrible experience with an airline. I get it…it may not “technically” be their fault, but you bend over backwards to make it right! And what pisses me off more than anything is I upgraded our tour group plane tickets to Business Class (mainly for my tailbone issues-that’s another story) and it was a lot of f*cking money! I’m not saying other missing luggage isn’t as important or necessary as mine, I’m just sharing how I was already on that flight. They just made more money from me, so do all you can TO GET ME MY FREAKING SUITCASE!

She told me she would make a note (of what I have no idea) and gave me an email address to customer service. So I proceeded to type up an even more “Karen” voiced email when a call comes in and I try to answer it only to have the email disappear. At this point I’m done. Everyone stay away. I try again to send an email and finally get it sent.

Then, in the meantime, Maria gets a freaking customs type form I can fill out TO GET MY LUGGAGE OUT OF HOSTAGE!! This is unreal.

We arrive at our hotel which is in a cute little place, but no AC. And we are here for 4 nights 😭 Dear Lord please have mercy on my soul and make the nights cool. There are no fans either that we can use. We have to leave the doors open, but there are multiple dogs barking constantly. Good thing I have my white noise app.

I’m not washing any clothes tonight. I hope I haven’t jinxed myself. I just can’t do it. Not tonight.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I can’t wait to share what we end up doing!!!

Day 8

Today is a very busy schedule. I didn’t do any laundry last night, and I hope that doesn’t screw me up. I was really hoping I would have my luggage by now 😤

Fortunately my room was somewhat tolerable to sleep in (remember…no AC), but by time I was getting ready I was sweating. I was actually moving a bit slow this morning. I thought I pulled a groin muscle about 3 days ago, but now I fear it could be more hip joint related. It’s not getting better, but does respond to ibuprofen so far.

But ALL that wasn’t going to deter me from staying in a perpetual state of awe today. Today is all about Rome! What history 🤩

We started out the day at The Colosseum! Again I was mesmerized walking around the same structure that ancient gladiator spectators walked! And that this structure is still standing since it’s opening in 80 AD. The ancient Romans were sophisticated engineers. Modern buildings don’t seem to last this long.

And I learned that the reason the Colosseum appears to be falling apart isn’t because it was structurally unsound, it’s because pieces of it were removed to build churches. Because the Colosseum was made of marble, that material was valuable and taken. Also, all the metal nails and brackets and such were also removed to make weapons.

With the arena floors removed, you could see all the cambers and rooms that the gladiators used. It did make me a bit sad thinking of the barbaric nature of gladiator fighting. I mean, it was to the death. Whether it was 2 humans fighting or a human and an animal, one living being was not leaving the arena alive.

Next we walked through The Forum. This was another walk through history. With bits and pieces of Ancient Rome poking up in places.

Then we were off to Vatican City! The smallest country in the world. Years ago they used to stamp your passport, but so many people visit each day that it’s not feasible anymore. Will proclaimed he had been to 3 countries on this trip 😉

I’m not a great student, because I can’t remember all the details our guide shared throughout this tour. In my defense, I was distracted by a lot of things haha! But one of the early Popes started collecting art for the Church, and subsequent Popes continued the tradition as well as procuring and commissioning more art.

It was also a Pope (maybe the same one) that stated no more pieces of the Colosseum could be taken to build other structures, thus preserving what was left.

We went through the 3 galleries of The Vatican (again, I can’t remember what all three were called…the first was statues, the second was tapestries), with the last one being The Hall of Maps.

As you leave the maps, you come to one of the most famous Michelangelo pieces of work: The Sistine Chapel. And it certainly does not disappoint. Sadly, no pictures are allowed in the chapel, so you have to take my word for it that I saw it 😉

Some interesting facts about it. The forbidden fruit tree in Eden is not an apple tree, but a fig tree. And Michelangelo had most figures completely nude. The church commissioned a student of Michelangelo’s (after his death) to paint swaths of fabric over most genitalia.

Next we were off to St. Peter’s Basilica. While pictures are allowed in this church (because all the images are mosaics not paintings), my pictures do not do the church justice. It is truly amazing. AND BIG!!!

I also learned the current Pope does not live in the traditional Pope apartment as he felt it was too much for a single person and had taken up residence in a hotel apartment because he wants “to see common people every day”. While there are still many traditions I don’t agree with in the Catholic religion (and I’m not Catholic, so my opinions don’t matter much), I can say there have been several times that I was pleasantly surprised by the somewhat progressive views of Pope Frances. I give him a thumbs up 👍🏻

Another interesting fact is that the Swiss army is the only army allowed to guard the Pope. And they have to wear these specific red, yellow and blue striped uniforms (rumored to have been designed by Michelangelo). Every hour they have a changing of the guards, but we didn’t witness it.

Then it was a quick jaunt through the Pantheon before dinner. We had dinner in Rome, so we didn’t get back to the hotel until almost 10pm. I had to shower and wash clothes (yes….still no luggage). I was super tired.

And now I’m starting to panic if I will ever see my luggage again. I feel helpless and that I have no resources or support to help me get my luggage. Emails don’t get returned, phone calls don’t get answered. It’s absolutely deplorable.

But tomorrow is another day. Fingers crossed 🤞🏻 I get it before I leave the country.

Day 9

I think I finally hit my breaking point today on this trip. I went to sleep around midnight (after showering and washing clothes in the sink….again) and woke up at 4am freaking out that we are leaving in 48hrs and I still don’t have my luggage. 😭

Yes, frustrated tears were shed. I have tried really hard to be as upbeat as possible, but I’m exhausted trying to act like all is fine. I have seen some truly amazing things and I am forever grateful for that, but it ultimately did not turn out to be the fabulous trip I envisioned. Simply because every single day had energy taken to try to find my luggage.

I was the first out for breakfast and our tour director greeted me. There wasn’t a smile to be shared. I’m really bummed this morning. She immediately got on the phone and spoke with whom I have no idea. I didn’t have the energy to ask. After a few minutes she asked for the papers I carry around religiously in hopes someone will call me about this (just the missing luggage form/receipt). She ends her call and says the luggage will be delivered today by 6pm. I’m not holding my breath. I’ve heard this before. I’ll believe it when I see it.

This morning we are off to see some Catacombs. I think our guide said there are something like 64 catacombs throughout the area surrounding Rome. The one we visited was Catacombe di Santa Domitilla, which they said is the largest of all that are known. There is always the possibility there are more that are unknown.

This one has over 8 miles of tunnels and is 5 levels down. The temperature is a constant 65 degrees. We only went down to level 3 with most of our time on the second level. This is also the only known catacomb to have a church built underground. Really amazing to see. Sadly, no pictures or videos were permitted 😢, so you will have to check out their website.

And better than seeing these catacombs, as we got back in the bus going to our next location…..Maria came walking back to me to say that my suitcase was at the hotel!!!! I can’t believe it! We should be getting back to the hotel around 6:30pm, and you better believe I will be hugging this contraption that holds my clothing 🥰

Next on the agenda is the “recently” rebuilt church of St. Paul. On our drive to the St. Paul Church, we drove past an Egyptian pyramid that was built in 12 BC. 🤯 Pyramid of Caius Cestius. I’m blown away. I need to pay attention to what the guide is saying.

Ok, back to Paul…..The story our guide shared was that the St. Paul church was built over the tomb of St. Paul and the St. Peter church over the tomb of St. Peter (the one we saw yesterday).

I say “recently” because this version of the church was built in the 1820s as the original church burned in 1823. The original church was finished in 324 AD.

There was one cool chapel in the church that had malachite which was donated from Russia (a long long time ago) as a symbol of friendship at that time.

This church also has paintings of all the past Popes. And yes, Pope Frances is already up there. They just don’t have the length of his papacy yet.

Next was a guided walking tour, but honestly, I can’t remember all that he told us. It was dense with history. I just took pictures 🤷🏼‍♀️ We did stop at one fountain that was the first one built from the first restructured aqueduct. All the ancient Roman aqueducts had been completely destroyed. So a new water system started being created in 1612. The red car was offering champagne service to a couple celebrating something.

We then strolled through the Jewish Grotto. Which in Rome doesn’t have the same meaning as in America. It’s actually a nice part of town.

After that, we got 3.5 hrs of free time. First stop was some gelato and me squashing a chair 😭 It must’ve already been compromised because Will weighs more than me and he didn’t crunch a chair. I should’ve had someone take a picture of me on the ground after falling into the planter 🤣

Me and the boys then joined up with a couple of other family groups and we all went to check out the Mouth of Truth at the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church.

Then our mini group went to the top of the Vive Museum to get panoramic views of Rome.

And one of the best parts of the day….when we got back to our hotel MY SUITCASE WAS THERE!!!! It certainly looked like it went on a journey of a lifetime 🙄. I get 36 hours with my suitcase before we leave.

Days 10 & 11

Today was pretty mellow. We got to sleep in a bit AND I didn’t have to wash clothes last night. Yay!! I was also quite excited to be able to wear not washed in the bathroom sink clean clothes. 🥰

It was another morning in Rome starting at the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) built around 1723. At the base is the Fontana della Barcaccia which means “ugly boat”.

We then walked from there to the Trevi Fountain. Built in the mid-1700s, it’s the largest Baroque fountain in the city.

Next up was lunch at a large 4 story grocery and eatery facility. While the flavor of my dish (Carbonara) was delicious, I’m not a fan of barely cooked pasta, but ate it anyway.

Then it was off to get our Covid tests to make sure we could come back to the states. Sadly, one of the students tested positive. The scary part is he was one of Will’s roommates this whole trip. 😳 Will tested negative, but we’ll definitely need to monitor him the next few days.

We went to another Italian restaurant, but honestly I was so exhausted I can’t tell you much about it. Then it was back to the hotel.

I got everything packed up before bed (no laundry washing in the sink!) because we had to wake up at 4am 🤪

Thought I’d do a two-fer today. 4am came really freaking early. Left the hotel at 4:45 for the airport. Yesterday I did buy a carryon piece of luggage to accommodate the added items I was leaving with (ie all the stuff in the grocery bags I kept carting from one place to another).

So we get to the Italy airport and I check my previously lost blue luggage. I sure hope I see it later today! And we head off to our gate with my backpack and carryon suitcase.

The trek home involves a layover in Munich, Germany. This time a 2 hr layover, so plenty of time for my suitcase to make the flight! And it’s through Germany we go through customs.

I almost couldn’t get through with my kids! The agent was asking me if I had a letter from their father that I could travel with the boys. Yikes! I understand where the agent was coming from as a form of “protecting the children”, but the tour agency nor customs coming INTO the country said anything about this. And I’m heading back to the US. She went on to explain she witnessed a case where a parent was taking a minor child to Egypt to marry her off. I’m most definitely NOT marrying off my boys. It was so bizarre, but nothing surprises me now. Nevertheless, we got our stamps and they let us through.

We got to our gate and they announced it was a bit delayed in getting it cleaned and restocked. That was fine with me as it meant my luggage had more time to get from plane 1 to plane 2!!!

While the trip was amazing (and painful) in so many ways, it will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight 😴

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