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Today is the day for orientation meeting with Mary and the other Untourists here in Rome.  I think Mary said yesterday there were 14 of us, what a crew!  But our instructions are practically step by step, which actually is helpful here, its busy and confusing...  We met at the Chiostro de Bramante, near Piazza Navona.  In fact, Rhea and I went early to make sure we could handle the buses, etc, so we got a couple of machiatti, a croissant, and sat in a nice cafe, then strolled the beautiful Piazza.  The Fountain of Four Rivers, by Bernini, is in the middle.  It was a lively place, musicians playing, artists selling their paintings, mimes and other entertainers everywhere.  It was a chariot racing arena, and you can really tell!

We arrived at the cloister at the appointed hour and met Mary and the other folks for the orientation.  We had a really nice question and answer session and general information upstairs in a salon in the cloister, which is itself a gorgeous Renaissance building.  The church next door features Raphael frescoes, which you can view from a window in the cloister, or go to the church itself.  Such a nice way to meet!  We had coffee, tea, waters and pastries with our session.

After most questions were answered  we walked to  the Castel Sant Angelo, across the Tiber.  This is an imposing brooding fortress, originally the vault for Hadrians ashes, then a military fortress, then a home for noble families, a prison, and finally now, a museum.  We toured with audio guides and saw the construction features of the Castel and heard the stories surrounding it.  There was a special exhibition of art works recovered and brought back to Italy that was also a feature.  The frescoes on the walls of the 1500s Popes apartment were magnificent!  Then we saw and heard the stories of both statues of the Archangel Michael.  At the end, we had stunning views of Rome from the roof, and then went to the roof top castle bar for aperitif and food.  What an amazing spread of food, all so beautiful!  We had prosciutto wrapped nectarines, miniature pizzas, eggplant with tomato crostini, smoked salmon with orange slice on toast, the food just kept coming. And we had prosecco or choice of beer.  This was more, much more, than an appetizer, and we relished every bite!  it had been along time since that croissant! And after all, we are in Rome!  Once we had enjoyed that rooftop and the spectacular sunset behind St. Peters church  for an hour or more, we reluctantly parted ways.  Mary made sure we all got on the right buses and we made it home without any problem at all.  What a day!  We fell into bed, exhausted but very happy to be here.  You should come to Rome! 

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