Our last week in Italy! What a great place to spend it. The flat we’re staying in is quite roomy and comfortable. The kids have to share the couch again, but they’re almost able to do so without a squabble!

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Unfortunately for Peter, the third metro line is currently being built in Rome, and the diggers are just outside our window! So sleep isn’t so easy!

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Interestingly, the metro has been in progress for a long time – the problem being that when they dig down to put in the tunnel, they often find archeological ruins! We learnt today that after the great fire in Neros reign, the old buildings were covered over and new buildings built on top. So, four meters underneath the recent old ruins, you can find the old old ruins!

Thursday 10th

We visited the Pantheon today, walking there and catching a bus back. The kids got a bit tired, but managed to make it home without a meltdown. They enjoyed seeing the inside of the Pantheon, which is pretty amazing. So old and still just as it was a 1700 years ago.

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Friday 11th

Today we visited the Colosseum. We had to walk because the transport people are all on strike. That was ok on the way – we’re about 25 minutes walk to the Colosseum, but after walking around in the hot sun all morning, we were about one hour walk home, and really tired!

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The Colosseum is huge and crumbly! So fascinating to think of people walking about in there 2000 years ago. I was a surprised and saddened to read that it was financed from the plunder of wars, mainly being the sacking of Jerusalem and its temple. Think of all those things dedicated to God being used for something as barbaric as the Gladiator ring. I guess God sorted it because eventually it came under the control of the Church and became a place dedicated to Christian matyrs.

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A lot of the Colosseum is missing because in the middle ages it was treated like a quarry and a lot of the stones and iron work etc was taken to build other buildings and churches. We had a great time walking around, though we got really hot in the sun.

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(Do we really have to walk home..?)

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Saturday 12th

Today we went for a tour around the Palatine Hill and Forum – area next to the Colosseum where the Emperors had their palaces (Palatine Hill) and the Market place (the Forum). It is all in ruins, so it was great to have a guide to explain it all to us. There was a lot to see and understand.

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On the way home we walked through the middle of a communist rally [Pete isn’t so sure they were communists], and watched kids dancing to “Beat It” (not quite sure how that related).

On the bus we met a family from Taupo, and invited them for dinner as they were staying not far from us. The kids got on well and we chatted till 10.00pm, it was a great evening after a great day.

Sunday the 13th

Today Peter organised a walking tour with himself as the elected tour guide. We started at the Piazza del Popola and walked down towards the Spanish Steps.

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After that we found McDonalds (only for the restrooms really..ok, for a coffee as well). We had a lovely chat to a lady from America there, keeping her company while she waited for her husband to return.

After our caffeine perk we made our way to the Trevi fountain, which was pretty spectacular. We threw in a coin, which supposedly means we’ll return to Rome again. We wouldn’t let Amy throw in two because that would mean she would fall in love in Rome and we don’t want any of those carrying-ons. Luckily Daniel had no interest in falling in love, plus he wanted to keep the coin for himself. Interestingly, the city collects about 3000 euros a day from the Trevi Fountain. They use the money to subsidise a supermarket for the poor.

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After that stop we kept walking past the Pantheon again to Piazza Navona where there were some more really great fountains plus some fun street performers.

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We then made our way across a bridge and kept going west till suddenly we stepped over through a gap in a low chainfence and were in the Vatican City. Daniel and Amy were pretty excited too – they went in and out 3 or 4 times, so now they can say they’ve visited Rome at least 4 times (does that mean we need to throw some more coins in Trevi Fountain?).

Surprisingly the Basilica of St Peters had no queues (it was 6.00pm) so we went inside and looked around. We met up with our friends from Taupo again there, which was great. The Basilica is massive, and awe-inspiring, with lots of gold and statues and marble and paintings.

Tuesday 14th

Not much to say about Monday, except we stayed home and rested, then went out for pizza for tea. Today we had an early start and got the Vatican musuem about 8.15 am, near the front of the queue. The line got pretty long by 9.00 when the doors opened.

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I really loved the museum, so much history in one place! And the buildings themselves were beautiful

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Lots of things we saw related to things we’d studied in our history time at homeschool – it was exciting! I especially loved the cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia and the inscriptions from Assyrian palaces. They were a little old to say the least! The kids ‘liked’ the Egyptian Mummy.

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We stayed at the museum for about 4 hours – pretty good going for the kids, whose favourite thing was probably the run down the spiral ramp just as we left!

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Wednesday 15th

Today we left Rome and Italy and flew to England! After a mixup with ordering the taxi we ended up going to the airport in a flash Mercedes Benz Van with a driver in suit and tie. Cost a bit but we loved it!

We flew into Gatwick and approached the customs man a bit nervously, worried about whether there’d be any difficulty with us having a visa. There was! Peter was fine, but the official had concerns about me and the kids, so we had to go and sit in this fenced off area and wait for him to make some enquiries. He wanted to check that we were really visitors and not just trying to sneak in with Peter while he studied. Seemed to take forever – at least half an hour or more. We were in no-mans land – couldn’t go in, and didn’t know what would happen if we weren’t given permission to enter. One official came over to talk to another customs man, all smiles and laughter, then turning to someone else in no-mans land area, his face instantly became serious and unfriendly! Nervewracking. Thankfully, the official looking into our case came back and told us we could go on. What a relief!

We’d made it – one third of our trip done!

(Week 12B-13A: Wednesday 9 May 2012 – Wednesday 16 May 2012)