May 12, 2014
This morning I woke up to that dreaded tickle in my throat that told me I might be getting sick. I was trying me very best to avoid the “Contiki Cough” I’d heard so much about, so I downed an Emergen-C packet over breakfast and prayed for the best. I didn’t want to be sick for a minute of this trip!

After breakfast, we checked out of the Hotel Princess Roma, and drove to the Vatican City for our tour. This was an Optional Extra, ringing in at 34€, or $45 USD.

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Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, is a walled community in the middle of Rome, and walking in feels like entering another world. I was born and raised Catholic, so stepping inside the Vatican felt particularly important to me. Visiting the Vatican felt similar to visiting an American embassy, in a sense. Not necessarily like coming home, but like visiting a familiar spot in an unfamiliar country.

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View from the Vatican looking out over Rome.

We were able to go into the Sistine Chapel to see the famous work of Michelangelo on the chapel ceiling. It was pretty crowded in there, and no photos were allowed, but it was incredible to see the art I’d studied in school books on the ceiling right in front of me!

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Next up on the tour was St. Peter’s Basilica, an absolutely beautiful structure (although I preferred the atmosphere of the Duomo in Florence).

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The outside of the Basilica was even more beautiful than the inside. It is the centerpiece of St. Peter’s Square, which is famous for being the site where Catholics (and media) gather to await the selection of each new Pope, as well as where each Pope makes his first appearance to the people upon selection.

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After the Vatican tour, we walked just outside Vatican City to the popular stop-and-go restaurant, Alice Pizza, where we stuffed our faces with even more amazing pizza for lunch.  After all of this top-notch pizza, the American version will never again taste quite right.

We bid farewell to Roma as we jumped onto the bus and went north, back to Florence, to pick up our driver Kev. Coach drivers in Europe are required to take specific breaks, including some 24 hour+ breaks throughout the tour. We were driven by a temp driver while Kev took his break for a couple of days.

Soon, we arrived in Venice! …Sort of. We stayed outside of the city in my least favorite hotel of the tour: Hotel Garden Venice. The lobby and grounds were all nice, but the rooms, and particularly the bathrooms, were the smallest we’d experienced. Our toilet was actually inside our shower.

We went to bed fairly early that night to prep for our big day exploring Venice on Day 12…and what a fun day it would be!

Next up: Gondolas and waiter brawls


Check out my other Contiki posts:

Introduction: An American Girl in Europe
Day 1: Oh hey, London
Day 2: Bonjour, Paris!
Day 3: Parisian Adventures
Day 4: Lookin’ Good, Switzerland
Day 5: All Things Swiss
Day 6: Switzerland, Italy, France…oh my!
Day 7: Bond. James Bond.
Day 8: Buongiorno Italia!
Day 9: When in Rome
Day 10: That’s Amore
Day 11: Vatican City to Venice
Day 12: The Last Italian Adventure
Day 13: Hop-fer-gerten
Day 14: Soaring Over Austria
Day 15: München
Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
Day 17: Vienna to Prague
Day 18: Ahoj, Prague!
Day 19: St. Goar, Rhine Valley
Day 20: Amsterdamage
Day 21: Even more Amsterdamage
Day 22: Back to the Start
Day 23/24: The End of a Great Adventure
Contiki in a Nutshell: Know Before You Go
Contiki: What Should I Pack?