The day started with a guided tour of some parts of Rome as we headed for the Collisseum, where we began the walking tour. Roberto was our local guide for the day, and his English was excellent.
The Collisseum is every bit as impressive up close as it looks in the guide books and post cards. Even with its missing sections, you can imagine the spectacle that it must have been in the time of the Roman Empire. Modern football stadiums may be built bigger, but there is a certain class about the Collisseum that hasn't been lost to time.
Onwards then to the Trevi fountain, one of the finest of Rome's many fountains set in the front of a building at the intersection of three roads. The fountain looks more like a stage setting than a fountain, and has a local tradition attached to it: if you throw a few lira over your shoulder in to the fountain, you will return to Rome. It worked for Manda who had done just that five years previously.
The guided tour ended at the foot of the Spanish Steps (a bit of a misnomer given that the area was very much designed by the French). From there, we followed our instincts which lead us up the steps then west alongside Villa Borghese and its gardens. Eventually we came to a great look-out point over the Piazza del Popoli and its imposing obelisk. The sun was beating down at this point, and the plaza below was deserted as people sought any shady spots they could.
From the plaza, we then headed back in the opposite direction along the Via del Corso, one of the main shopping streets, in the direction of the 'wedding cake'. Although officially known as Il Vittoriano, the building is better known as the wedding cake on account of its many levels and the extreme whiteness of the marble (not common to other sites around Rome). It is not an ancient monument - unlike much of Rome - and was in fact built over ancient ruins itself.
As we got nearer to the wedding cake, the whiteness of the building was in stark contrast to clouds forming in the north. Another downpour was on its way, and these clouds were looking VERY black. As we climbed each level of the building, the clouds got closer and blacker until we were at the uppermost level and the heavens opened.
Despite being under cover, the wind still whipped the rain in sideways through the gaps in the columns, soaking everybody as we huddled against the rear wall in a desperate bid to stay dry. To my right I could see rain coming in by the bucket-load. Sideways. Out front, the roads had emptied as the cobbled streets flash-flooded and became too dangerous for drivers. Then, almost as suddenly as it arrived, the thunderstorm ended leaving blue skies. Had that really just happened?!
With the weather improved, we carried on our sight-seeing by walking alongside the now very sodden remains of the ancient Roman forum (Foro Romano), with the Collisseum as its backdrop.
Another change of direction took us towards the Pantheon with its huge domed roof then beyond to Piazza Navona, where artists lined the pavements, painting portraits and Rome's famous scenery. These were quick visits, as we needed to meet the rest of our group to catch the pre-arranged coach back to Fiano Romano for the evening. At the top of the Spanish Steps we swapped downpour stories, discovering that some people had the misfortune to be in the Roman forum as the rains came down with nowhere to take cover. They were still sopping wet hours later!