Monday morning, after breakfast, we strolled through the Campo dei Fiori. I am always a sucker for those flowers, and the beautiful produce!
Next, we made a stop at my favorite Rome church, Santa Maria della Pace. This is the sweetest, most peaceful little church. I lit a candle for my mom, and enjoyed a few quiet moments.
We wandered along the streets near the Pantheon for a little shopping. I bought two pair of shoes.
We decided to skip lunch and have gelato instead, so we stopped at Della Palma...of course!
At a little before 3:00, Tony came to our hotel for the private tour we had arranged. We all piled in to a beautiful Mercedes van and took off.
Our first stop was the Basilica of San Clemente, which is really three historical churches on top of each other. The church in the photo was built in the 12th century on top of a 4th century church. Below that, during excavations, a 3rd century Mithraic temple can be explored. Mithras was a sun god of Persian origin whose cult was for men only and involved secret initiation rituals in small, cave-like structures. The upper church has beautiful mosiacs, and in the lower church, many faded frescos survive.
Next, we stopped at a park with stunning views of the rooftops of Rome.
My favorite stop on the tour was the "Keyhole". I had heard of the term, but didn't really know what it was or where it was. Did you know the headquarters of the Knights of Malta is in Rome? Italy recognizes them as a sovereign country. We arrived at a cul-de-sac on Aventine Hill (Piazza Cavalieri di Malta on Via di S. Sabina), and Tony directed us to a large arched gate/door. We lined up like school children to look through the keyhole.
Each person stepped away after gasping, "Oh!" or "Oh my God!". You bend down and look through, seeing not a house or building, but a beautiful garden path with green bushes framing an archway.
At the end of the archway, is a clear shot of the dome of Saint Peter's! Of course, you then stick your camera up to the keyhole and zoom, to try to get THIS shot!
You are actually looking across three countries: The Knights of Malta, Rome, Italy, and Vatican City. How cool is THAT?
During the last hour of our tour, we drove down the Via Veneto, the Vatican, and by many famous Rome landmarks. Can you name them all?
Tony's tour was a great way to spend the afternoon! Afterwards, Brad and I spent some more time, tasting wine with Tony at his favorite wine bar.
We met Maureen, Itz, Jan and Les for MORE wine (I had a glass of prosecco). A bowl of chips helped get us "sobered up" for dinner with Maureen and Itz at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali. Afterwards, we took them to the Hotel Forum for a nightcap to share the stunning night views.