Day Seven/Eight, April 17th/18th

Day 7
Day 7 was a free day where people chose from different options. Jeff went to Florence with a group of 10 pilgrims, while a bus of pilgrims headed to Pompeii with Emily and several others stayed in Rome with Fr. Walsh.
Excursion to Pompeii
As we drove south along the Highway of the Sun, it became foggy and was a downpour by the time we reached Pompeii. It is one of the most important archeological sites in the world. Pompeii was completely buried in the year 79 AD by one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions of all times by Mount Vesuvius. It was only in the 18th Century that systematic excavations began. Undaunted by the rain and with umbrellas in hand, we toured the streets of this well preserved city. From there we drove around the Bay of Naples to Sorrento for lunch which consisted of three delicious Neapolitan courses. The ride back to Rome was much clearer and we enjoyed the lovely scenery and abundant orange and lemon tree gardens.
Excursion to Florence
We will arrive in the heart of the city of Florence to visit the Galleria dell’ Accademia, where the original David by Michelangelo is kept, Next we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, with the magnificent dome projected by Brunelleschi. After lunch, we went to Piazza Santa Croce.that has the graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini, Machiavelli.
Day 8
We started the day with mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia, a church near St. Peter’s Square. The church has a chapel with relics of St. Faustina and a chapel dedicated to Blessed John Paul II. From there it was a quick walk to the Papal Audience. We were blessed to be on the front row where we waited in anticipation for Pope Benedict XVI to make his entrance through the crowd on his pope mobile. We all were able to be within 10 feet of His Holiness! After his brief address in several languages he blessed us all.
Next we visited the Catacombs, the most famous Christian cemeteries along the Old Appian Way. It was in use from the 2nd  to 5th century AD. The decorations of the catacombs (carvings or paintings of symbolic motifs) are precious examples of early Christian art. Jeff gave a teaching on the mystery of suffering after the tour of the catacombs.
Lastly we visited the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Wall, one of Rome’s largest Churches. St. Paul’s was built on the spot where St. Paul was buried after his martyrdom in 67 AD.
We ended our wonderful pilgrimage with a farewell dinner at our hotel where we said our goodbyes.