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We arrived in Rome in early afternoon of Day 5, and were immediately met by Italian customs inspectors, who yelled for everyone to open their luggage quickly.  But before most of us could respond, they yelled to close it again.  A great welcome to Italy.

Our group was made up of a mix of Americans, Canadians, and several people from South America.  One gentleman was originally from a Baltic country, I think Lithuania.  I mentioned that our tour director was English.  Our bus driver was Italian, and he and the director constantly argued over the entire course of the tour.  I must say that the drivers and directors got along well on all of the other Globus tours I have taken.  The only other time I saw such bickering was in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a tour operated by a different company.  There, our Russian city tour guide argued long and loud with our Russian driver.  (Berated would be a better term, since the driver only shrugged, which incensed the red-headed lady guide even more.)

We were in Rome for several days.  We stayed at the Hotel Fleming, which was in a residential area some distance from the tourist areas of the city.  That establishment has recently been renovated and is still in operation.  One day in Rome was free.  One evening, we did the optional excursion to Tivoli, where we had dinner, just as on the 2001 tour.  We also saw the gardens of Villa Este that night after dinner, and we were able to walk the slippery rocks behind the waterfall.  That's not done anymore.  Here are some of my photos of the sights of Rome, the excavations at the old Forum and Vatican City.  The plain building with the balcony is where Mussolini addressed the crowds, and the large, ornate monument was erected in memory of Victor Emmanuel, the first leader of a united Italy.  We only saw it at night on the 2001 tour.  (This structure, and the Coliseum, were were seen disintegrating in the recent movie "The Core."  That was painful for me to watch.)  

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Here are the Vatican pictures.  If you were there in 2001, or remember the photos I posted from that later tour, St. Peters may look different from the outside.  The exterior  was given a thorough cleaning during the 1980's.  The one photo I took inside the Sistine Chapel is also before the massive restoration that was later done to Michelangelo's masterpieces.

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We also went inside the Pantheon, an amazing structure dating from Roman times.  I wonder why that visit wasn't scheduled on our 2001 tour?  

On Day 8, we headed for Florence.   On the way, we drove through Siena, stopping there for lunch.  This is a fascinating old walled city. I don't recall a lot about our visit to Florence, except that several members of the group got into an argument with the local guide, who was "badmouthing" the Communist government of the city.  They didn't want to hear about local politics.  Here are the few photos I took in Florence.  The third picture is of my Aunt Jerry, and our Elkins friend, Mil King.

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We stayed the night in Florence, at the Residence Firinze Nova , and on Day 9, we headed for Venice.  We did not go through Verona or Pisa on this tour.  We arrived in Venice in the afternoon.  The hotel, the Al Sole Palace wasn't that great, but then most low and moderate priced tourist hotels in that city are nothing to write home about.  I can't believe the place is still in operation, but it appears to be.  Here is a quote from their web site.  "Venice Hotel Al Sole : 'a precious gem of Venice: Palazzo Marcello.' In the heart of the oldest part of Venice, Al Sole hotel is a first class Hotel, located in a marvellous XVth Century Palazzo."  Uh huh. I will have to agree that when I was there, it was like stepping back into the 15th Century.  I wonder if the same cat (or its descendents) still stalks diners in the hotel restaurant, waiting for morsels to drop from a table. 

Those who were on the 2001 tour may remember we left the bus in a parking lot and walked northward to the canal, then turned right to get to our hotel.  In 1977, we went in the opposite direction leaving the parking lot, then turning left along a smaller canal.  Here are my pictures in Venice, the first being the hotel we used, and the next being part of the facade of the Giotto cathedral .  Most of the others are in and near St. Mark's Plaza.  The last shot shows part of our group at dinner one night.

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The morning of Day 10, we headed north, toward Vienna.