Rome
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According to common belief, Rome was founded in 753 BC. by Romulus, who according to tradition, was raised by a she-wolf together with his brother, Remus.   By 264 BC,  Rome was well on its way toward becoming THE power of the ancient world.  But nothing lasts forever.  By 400 AD, the Roman Empire was rapidly declining, both culturally and economically.  In 476 AD, the last Roman emperor was deposed, and barbarians controlled what little was left of the empire.

Traces of the empire can still be seen in modern Rome, a city of 2.7 million population, and the capital of Italy.  The Circus Maximus, where chariots once raced, is now just a field.  But some of the ancient forum has been uncovered, and much of the walls of the Colosseum are still standing.  The arch of Constantine still stands, as does the Pantheon, and parts of the walls of old Rome can still be seen.  It was somewhat mind-boggling to walk a stone path that was laid almost 2000 years ago.  Then, there is the treasure that is Vatican City, a country within a country.  We visited the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica and square. 

We checked into the Albani hotel, and on our first night in Rome, we enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant.  I can almost swear that this was the same restaurant where I ate on my first visit, 24 years ago.  The lady entertainer shown in the first photo had a lovely voice, and the second picture shows a waiter presenting flowers to one of our group.    

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Here are some photos of the Colosseum and excavations of the Forum of Imperial Rome.  I cheated a bit here - several of these, nos. 1, 4 and 5, are from postcards.  The background buildings in all the forum photos and the tall white structure in the background of No. 3 is not a part of the forum.  The white  structure is the top of the monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

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Now, the Vatican Museum and St. Peters.  (No picture taking is permitted inside The Sistine Chapel.)  The sixth picture shows the entrance to the stairway that leads below the church to the tomb of St. Peter.  Behind the marble railing can be seen the altar, flanked by twisted bronze columns, which is used only by the Pope. 

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Here are the ceiling, and the wall behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel.  These are from a Web site.  Both paintings were done by Michelangelo - the ceiling between 1508 and 1512, and the wall, depicting the Last Judgment, between  1535 and 1541.  

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Notice the building behind the arch in the middle photo below.  The Pope's residence is on the top floor at the right end.  The door shown in the first photo is one of the entrances to St. Peters.  It is only opened every 25 years, being last used during the 2000 Jubilee Year.

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Here, from a postcard, is the monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the King of Italy at the time the country was united in 1870.  I had to use a postcard here because we saw the monument only during a night tour of the city. 

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Our second evening in Rome, we headed up into the hills outside the city for a dinner in Tivoli, and a visit to the famed water gardens of Villa d'Este.   There are said to be 500 fountains throughout the gardens, and everything is fed by natural water pressure.  There are no pumps.  For a complete description of the gardens, and some beautiful pictures of the different fountains, visit this site.

The last photo below shows some of the plants growing in the garden.

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And so, the next morning we headed north toward Pisa, and it's leaning tower, before arriving in Florence.  

Continue to Pisa and Florence.