Day 2 began early with a 6 AM wake up call and we headed down to our first breakfast of the trip. It was a "continental" breakfast and our first real taste of Europe.
The milk was warm. Mrs C did not like the milk.
By 7 we were on the bus headed back to Rome and the bus dropped us off at the base of a set of stairs at the top of which we could see the walls of Vatican City.
Someone in the group said "these must be the Spanish Steps" but I highly doubted this since they looked like a flight of steps one might see at a public school or a mall. Very plain. Clearly these were not the "Spanish Steps"
When we got to the top we saw the line forming.
This would be another theme. If you go to Italy and Greece in July, expect crowds. We made our way to the back of the line and Jason attempted to contact "Eros" our tour guide for the Vatican tour. We were late and Eros was nowhere to be seen.
I also made a strategy error right about here. I brought my tripod for my camera thinking about low level light conditions inside but not thinking about the 1972 episode where a man took a hammer to the Pieta statue in the basilica of St Peter. I had no intention of smashing any statue with my tripod.
We were waiting for Eros and our tickets just a minute too long. I it made through security and was wandering around the waiting area waiting for my group when a Vatican security guard approached me and gestured for me to check my tripod at the coat check.
I would never see it again.
Another lesson. When you are with a group, the group moves on no matter what. It would turn out that there was no way to retrieve my tripod from coat check since we would be on the other side of the "country" of Vatican City by lunch and the group had to move on.
Jason and I attempted to take a taxi to retrieve the tripod but found out that there was a taxi strike that day. (as an aside when we were waiting for a taxi that would never come, we watched a sixty something woman stamp her feet like a six year old over the frustration of the taxi strike. Traveling can be very frustrating)
I wrote earlier of the absurd Sistine Chapel - but it was beautiful.
At lunch we were pretty much forced by time to eat at a cafeteria in Vatican City. It was so-so food for a lot of money. I think I spent 80 Euros (about $100) for lunch - I don't like Italy so much.
In the afternoon we headed over to the coliseum and the forum.
I was hit with an unexplainable and sudden painful need to find a bathroom. Like doubled over in pain painful. I explained to "Eros" that I needed a bathroom a couple of times but he was only interested in explaining the mundane detail of some ancient artifact or picking up trash. He picked up trash the whole time he was talking to us. He would be telling us something about some statue on the "whispers" headset and picking up empty water bottles and placing them on overfull trash cans at the same time. (A whispers headset allows the tour guide to talk wirelessly to all the tour participants who are wearing listening set).
Finally, I told Jason that I needed to go NOW and he explained there was a public bathroom on the far side of the coliseum. I could hear "Eros" in my headset the whole time so I really didn't miss a thing.
The "WC" was purple. It had a purple skylight and the toilet area was purple. Purple. Why? I have no idea. But there I was listening to Eros, bathed in Purple light thanking God for the bathroom. In another stroke of Italian ingenuity, the roll of toilet tissue was at the furthest possible place from the toilet, making for an interesting reach at the end. When I finished and opened the door my eyes were used to the purple and now seeing regular white light made everything orange.
After hiking around the coliseum and paying 5 Euros for some guy with really bad teeth to pose with the kids in a Roman Soldier costume, we hiked up the hill to the forum where we saw our first set of ruins and columns.
Little did we know, but ruins and columns would fill our days for the next few weeks.
At about 5:30 we had our first "Free Time" of the day. We spent it walking over to a square where we had a gelato and watched mimes perform.
We were exhausted.
As it grew dark it was time for dinner and we had ours in an "air conditioned" restaurant. We had our simple dinner of roast beef and pasta. For dessert they brought out what could only be described as gelato samplers. They were tiny. Microscopic.
That night Italy played Germany in the World Cup semifinals. Rome was deserted.
By time they won the match we were safely back at the EuroHotel in Fiono Romano.