Saturday, 1 August 2015 – Day 7 – Venice Area – Assisi – Rome – (Day 53)

Saturday, 1 August 2015 – Day 7 – Venice Area – Assisi – Rome (334 miles/535 Kms)  – Day 53

Today was an early wakeup at 6.00, cases out at 6.45 and on the road at 7.30 after breakfast. We followed the canal and many fields of corn. The countryside was quite flat as we headed south wards across the Po plain.  Lots of agricultural fields – bamboo, sunflowers and we came across a lovely lake.

We had a stop at Pomposa and then headed towards another stop at Porto Giogio and about ten minutes later we were stopped by the police – checking for illegal immigrants!!!

The weather was getting quite hot 32-33.

The drive started to get very hilly and we climbed higher and higher and then thick vegetation and more fields of sunflowers for the oil and fields of tobacco.  Went through several tunnels and each time you emerged, you didn’t know what to expect.

We went through the gentle Umbrian hills to Assisi a town of Umbria region in central Italy, where St. Francis was born in 1181/1182 as Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but nicknamed Francesco; and started the Order of the Franciscans. Francis of Assisi died on October 3, 1226, at the age of 44, in Assisi, Italy. Today, Francis has a lasting resonance with millions of followers across the globe. He was canonized as a saint just two years after his death, on July 16, 1228, by his former protector, Pope Gregory IX. We visited the world famous Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi which is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Order of Friars Minor—commonly known as the Franciscan Order. The basilica is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage in Italy. With its accompanying friary, Sacro Convento, the basilica is a distinctive landmark to those approaching Assisi. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000.

The basilica, which was begun in 1228, is built into the side of a hill and comprises two churches known as the Upper Church and the Lower Church, and a crypt where the remains of the saint are interred. The interior of the Upper Church is an important early example of the Gothic style in Italy. The Upper and Lower Churches are decorated with frescoes by numerous late medieval painters from the Roman and Tuscan schools, and include works by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and possibly Pietro Cdavallini. The range and quality of the works gives the basilica a unique importance in demonstrating the development of Italian art of this period.

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It was 35 degrees now and stopped for lunch and then headed towards Roma. We left the green fields and fields of sunflowers. The drive was very picturesque – hills all around with villages high up the sides.

We got to our accommodation at NH Carpegna about 5.30.  We freshened up and commenced the excursion Treasures of Rome night and dinner.  We had a local guide,  Enrico who drove us up to the Centre and saw where the Trevi Fountain was but couldn’t throw our coins in as was closed for renovations.

We drove past the  Piazza Venezia. The one landmark dominating Piazza Venezia is Il Vittoriano. It was built between 1885 and 1911 to celebrate the uniting of Italy as a nation, and dedicated to the first King of all Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II. The construction of the immense white marble monument was built on the side of the Capitoline Hill in the early twentieth century.

We stopped at Piazza Navona and saw the Santant’Agnese in Agone a 17th-century Baroque church in Rome, Italy. It faces onto the Piazza Navona, one of the main urban spaces in the historic centre of the city. We saw the Fountain of the Four Rivers in the centre of the piazza, dominating the scene with its powerful presence and figures that seem to come alive from the sound of the rushing streams of water. The four giant nudes that form the statue are the personification of the principal rivers of the continents known at the time: the Nile represents Africa, with its veiled head because the source of the river had yet to be discovered, the Ganges Asia, the Danube Europe and Rio de la Plata, the Americas. I couldn’t resist putting my feet in the water at the fountain.

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We then went onto restaurant for our dinner.  The meal was terrific. Our entertainment was a flautist and guitarist. One of the waiters asked me up to dance and then Britt and I danced. Later in the evening the waiter gave me 5 roses and we pretended we became engaged. Before the evening ended, every lady was given a rose. It was a great group here tonight and it was really a fabulous fun night.

Because Enrico was held up in traffic coming to get us, he took us up to St Peter’s  Square to see Rome by night.

Saint Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church, is the centre of Christianity. The imposing structure was built over a span of more than one hundred years by the greatest Italian architects of the era. The church is built on Vatican Hill, across the Tiber river from the historic center of Rome. The location is highly symbolic: this was the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and where he was buried in 64 AD. St. Peter is considered the first pope, so it made perfect sense for the papacy to build the principal shrine of the Catholic church here.

We finally got back to the hotel at about 11.15 and Kevin and Susan went into the pool in their clothes. I went back to the room to get into my swimmers and just got into the pool when the security guard came out and wanted us out.  The pool hours were only until 7.00 but we said we couldn’t read the Italian. I honestly didn’t see the guard come up to the pool.  At least I did get myself wet. Enrico came to our rescue and then next thing for fun he lifted me up for the obligatory photo.

Once more, another terrific day even though it was long and hot as it was 33 degrees.