Wake up call at 4:44 am. Made instant espresso and out the door singing the "Birthday Dirge" to Jonas and the Danes as we walked over to the main hostel together to climb on the bus to Roma. If you don't like reading negative things, delete this post now. Almost everything about the trip to Rome and Rome was pretty terrible. The bus was completely full, and the seats were tighter and smaller than airplane seats. Also, there was no toilet on board.
Staring out the window at the waning gibbous moon conjunct Jupiter was lovely, and driving through the Tuscan Hills at dawn reminded me of driving down the California Coast with a little SF fog thrown in in patches along the way. As dawn broke and the Moon set over the hills and fields of grapes, corn, olives, even sunflowers and pear trees, I thought it might be a good day.
But then we pulled into an "Autogrill" for breakfast. They even had a Burger King - whopper and fries for only 7 euros, but they weren't open yet. The line for coffee was 20 people deep, and the bathroom was on the other side of the airbridge over the freeway. I bought some lemon shortbread cookies from the magazine side with no line and headed back to the bus. Passed the time editing the Latvians paper for correct English and grammar. I did a lot of that for people. Had NO idea it was a 5 hour ride (again, the Italians said it was only a few hours!)!!!
On that happy note, I was even more overjoyed to learn it was going to be at least 35 degrees (That's almost 100 F. - I'll be using the metric system - it's fun to complain in it.)
Just outsided of Rome, they told us we would be stopping at a Temple of Minerva for a short ritual. There was a small restuarant nearby, too, and they told us it was half the price of what it would cost in Rome. O joy. Capucino and cherry gelato. I spent time entertaining people with stories of Athena (whom they call Minerva).
By the time we arrived in Rome it was sweltering and crowded. The Indians all wanted to follow me after the Italians dropped us off the bus under what they said was a statue of a man in a chariot, and I told them it was the chariot of Apollo. (You can see where my day is going.)
They traipsed us over to the Forum and told us we'd have plenty of time to buy souvenirs later (another lie). I found out it was going to take 2-4 hours to look at the Forum and the Coliseum in the blazing Sun and we only had to pay 12 euros each for the privelege. About a third of us said, "no thanks," and decided to walk around the Coliseum and arch of Constantine on our own (and do our own shopping). Well, of course they spent too much time in "Death Valley" as Jonas called it (he and Surinder are over 70 and were admitted for free), so the places to go in the shade were greatly curtailed. We only spent 10 minutes in the Pantheon since they were closing, and less than an hour at ruins of the cult place of Mithras under San Clemente church (that's because we were all starving and fled to the nearby cafes across the street for the worst Italian food I've ever had). Andras had told me about the best gelatto in Rome near the Pantheon and we went there instead of the Trevi Fountain. I had 3 scoops of the best ever including Andras' favorite Blood Orange.
It's good we didn't go to the fountain. One of our party actually did go in the fountain and was almost arrested and those of our group who went were all treated like Mexicans in Arizona. While waiting for everyone to show up at the meeting point for the 5 hour journey back, Andras took me around the corner to show me some beautiful statuary and an ancient bust of Isis. It was a quiet and somber ride back, and just to make it even more memorable, once again we stopped around midnight at another Autogrill.