Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lizzie's War: Inspired by writings from the past

I haven't blogged in awhile because I've been busy writing my new book, Lizzie's War.  When the book opens, Lizzie is an 11-year-old Franklin,Tennessee girl, and as you'll quickly learn, is a member of a family divided by the war. It was often said that the war pitted father against son and brother against brother. In this case it was mother against son, and brother against sister.

After the first chapter, which is set on November 30, 1864, the day of the Battle of Franklin, we return to 1860 and Lincoln's election. From there we see how the war unfolds, from Lizzie's perspective.

I am constantly reading and learning about the nation's greatest conflict. A lot of information is available about the war. In fact, more books are written about the Civil War than any other subject. Locally, in Franklin, we've had many accounts written over the years. One description--and it may well be the first one aside from a few newspaper stories--came from 19-year-old Fannie Courtney, Lizzie's sister. Fannie, like her mother, supported the Union. In April, 1865, she was asked to write a report about the condition of the hospitals in Franklin for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. We know the basic story of the battle, but it's writings like Fannie's that fleshes it out.

"About half past three I was sitting at the dinner table, when I heard the roar of artillery...I ran into the yard to listen...The bullets were falling so thick it was unsafe to remain any longer...I hastened to the cellar with the rest of my family...."
You get a real mental picture from passages like that.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful illustrator for the book, Sam Whitson. He was able to capture the essence of my writing. Amazing, as I think you'll agree. He also did the cover art.

Here's the passage that goes with this illustration:

Lizzie walked toward Main Street where the streets swarmed with soldiers, horses, supply wagons and big guns such as cannons. A stranger, a boy about 12 years old, sat on the ground, leaning back against the low stone wall around the Presbyterian Church.
“You must be a drummer boy,” Lizzie told him, noticing a snare drum on the ground next to him.
“Yes,” he said listlessly. “I’m trying to sleep. We marched all night and the day before to get here.”
     “Would you like something to eat? My mother will feed you breakfast.”
     “I’m mighty hungry,” the boy said, suddenly wide awake. “But my brother told me not to leave this spot.”
"I’ll bring you food. Wait right here,” Lizzie offered.
The boy sat up straight as Lizzie ran home. She returned a few minutes later with two ham biscuits.
“Here. Take this. If you need more, my house is right there.” Lizzie pointed behind her. “My mother will give you whatever you want. I’m going to visit a friend.”
The boy grabbed the food and wolfed it down. The last time Lizzie looked, he was running towards her house.
Lizzie's War is suitable for children grades 3 and up. Adults have told me they liked it too--that it wasn't too juvenile for them. Here's what Rob Cross, from the Battle of Franklin Trust, wrote:
"At last, a literary masterpiece has been written on Franklin, Tennessee's Civil War story, from the necessary perspective of a child. Margie's work interweaves fact-based stories from the children who lived in Franklin, from the time the Civil War begins, all the way through that 'day of days' November 30th, 1864. Lizzie's War gives readers of all ages (especially children) a remarkable, tangible story that arrests the imagination and never lets go." 
Lizzie's War is available in Franklin at Carnton Plantation, Carter House, Lotz House and Landmark Booksellers, and on Amazon. 


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Belgium: Better Than The Waffles

Belgium--like many countries--is a beautiful place with its own unique quirks. My observations (through a lens) on a few of them:

Belgium's weather: cloudy, sunny, about to rain, raining, just stopped raining, cloudy, sunny, etc. Each phase lasts about 10 minutes. 

These pictures were on top of a man-made memorial hill at Waterloo. 

I took Mark's picture, handed him the camera and he took mine. From the clouds, it looks like a completely different day.

Random shots: a girl and mom at an outdoor cafe.

Big hoo-ha in the town square the afternoon of the game. I didn't get a good shot of it, but they enlisted two elderly English ladies to bang the drum. Unfortunately, Cypress lost.

Cypress (fans in yellow) soccer team playing Belgium. 

This nun may appear to be praying at the altar, but she was actually arranging flowers. 

Not that she doesn't do a lot of praying.

English scouts in Belgium on a one-week camping trip.

Mike Wolfe and Bill Powell would love this shop.

A better picture of the Atomium. 

The Belgian flag is flying at the top. We went up in it, but don't bother if you ever happen to visit.

Oh, yeah, how could I forget? The Mannekin Pis--Belgium's most famous landmark. It's a nekkid little boy taking a leak into a fountain. 

Below is a replica dressed as Elvis. But you knew that, didn't you?

Belgium's now checked off the list. Where next? Depends where we get that great deal. Happy travels!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Belgium: Not Just Brussels Sprouts

Mark and I just spent a week in Belgium. See that thing in the background? It's the Atomium, a scale model of an atom that was created for the 1958 Belgian Exposition. We learned about it watching The Amazing Race, a pretty educational program.

Why Belgium, you say? And I say, why not?

We'd never been there before--that's a good enough reason for us. And scoring a pretty good deal on airfare and hotel sealed the deal. 

We spent seven nights in Brussels--and didn't see a single sprout. Moules--mussels--yes. Sprouts, no. Moules and frites--fries, and don't call then French fries--seems to be the national dish. Brussels Mussels-- that's it! 

Lots of seafood and we love love seafood. We just really enjoyed the street life and al fresco dining. 

Europe has lots of cathedrals. I'm thinking they might get more attendees if they had comfortable chairs. These double as kneelers, turned around. Try leaning back in one. 

Our pews and kneelers are waaaay more comfy at St. Philip.

Spent a couple days on the road to Ghent and Bruges, the latter of which is entirely charming. I took a bike tour there. Based on guide Jos, I may have to add a little standup to my own tour. 

Here Jos is emoting.

Ghent was nice too--here's the view from the Belfry. Just occured to me why some towers are called belfries. There are bells in them.

Ypres is not to be missed. We wished we had spent more time there. Now spelled Ieper, it's the famous "Ypres salient" from WWI. Four major battles fought between 1914 and 1918. The whole town was destroyed--completely leveled--and then rebuilt after the war. The "In Flanders Fields" museum just reopened two months ago and is amazing.

The museum is named for this famous poem about WWI by John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
They mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead, Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
     In Flanders Fields

... and that's why poppies are a symbol of Veteran's Day. 

Below is the Menin Gate leading into Ypres. It's inscribed with the names of 55,000 missing British Commonwealth soldiers, bodies never found. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands in marked graves.  

The next day, Waterloo. This is where Napolean got his comeuppance. More great loss of life, 100 years earlier than Ypres.

Well, that's it for your history lesson today! Over the weekend we'll post more fascinating--but random--aspects of Belgium. Stay tuned for more! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cannon Census, or it's easier than you think to lose a cannon.

For no reason except that one day about a month ago I noticed we have a lot of cannons in Franklin, I started counting them. I got up to 11. Seriously, I had no idea. 11.  I forgot about it until today when I thought about it again and decided to take pictures of all of them.
Here's where I am on the cannon count.

Everybody knows there are four cannons on the square. These are on loan to Franklin which the mayor discovered in 2004 when contacted by the Department of the Army inquiring as to the whereabouts of the cannons loaned in 1906. Fortunately, he was able to provide exact documentation of the cannons' location: 

Cannons 1-4

Heading west, I spotted this one. It's at Veterans Park at Five Points. Historic markers there relate the visit of President Andrew Jackson meeting the Chickasaw Tribe under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 but I don't believe this cannon had anything to do with that.

  Cannon 5

I parked at the archives to take close up pictures and discovered this one sitting undercover near the entrance to the archives. Fortunately it's not loaded or those folks would be in trouble.

Cannon 6

Walking around to shoot (ha! no pun intended) the second one from the top, I spied this guy. I guess it's a cannon--I don't claim to be any kind of an authority on heavy artillery so I'm not sure. But it's close enough.

Cannon 7
Heading south on Columbia Avenue, is the Lotz House cannon accompanied by a pyramid of cannonballs. (Next hunt: cannonballs). They brought this here in 2008 when the museum opened.

Cannon 8

Carter House also has a cannon but I didn't get a picture of it. That would be Cannon 9

 This is the cannon at Winstead Hill, Cannon 10.

Which leads me to, where's Cannon 11? Did I miscount before? And I'm actually missing 2 cannons since I didn't see Cannon 7 the first time I counted.
Hmmm...where are those two pesky cannons?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Franklin on Foot is now Franklin on Food!

We had our first food tour today in downtown Franklin and it was a success, if I do say so myself. Four visitors from Michigan (and one local) sure thought so. But don't take my word for it. How 'bout I let the pictures tell the story!
First stop: Chapman's II for Southern Hospitality Salad with grilled shrimp, edamame, watermelon, mandarin oranges and a hoisin vinaigrette dressing. Corncake madeleine. Gwen added a fruit cup with poppy seed dressing as a surprise.

Next stop Papa Boudreaux's for gumbo. Yumbo is all I can say! Guy, the chef, told us about the super secret recipe he developed. Kristie, who was born in New Orleans and just moved to Franklin, said it's better than anything she's had there. That's high praise!

 Next to Franklin Mercantile with host Graeme--like Guy a Louisiana native. Those Louisiana boys know how to cook! The Merc serves soup, salad and sandwiches so sampled Southern specialties pimiento cheese and chicken salad with fruit tea.

55 South is next on the menu with chargrilled oysters and garlic bread. Sam is our main man there and is always entertaining.

Puckett's! Of course. Our not-to-be-missed restaurant on 4th Avenue (and Nashville, and soon in Columbia, and another one on Main Street).  Pork barbecue slider with cole slaw and fried green tomatoes. Does it get any more Southern than that?
Actually it turns out fried green tomatoes aren't originally Southern at all. But since the famous book by the same name, they've been adopted by Southern restaurants. Max makes sure everything comes out just right--and it always does! 

Dessert! Chess pie from Merridee's. The best! Our happy visitors went home with full bellies and happy memories of our wonderful Franklin restaurants!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

I was always taught not to brag, so this is really hard...

But not impossible!

The Williamson Herald features "Faces of Franklin" every Thursday, and this Thursday I was that face. Here goes:

Twenty-five years ago, Margie Thessin was a lawyer. She says the feeling that floods her at the end of each day was the motivation behind co-founding the guided tour company Franklin on Foot in 2003.

“I always remember that the worst day giving a tour is still better than the best day practicing law, at least for me,” Thessin laughs. “But there really are no bad days giving tours.”

Franklin On Foot provides a special blend of education and entertainment for Downtown Franklin, offering more than a dozen tours that cater to a wide range of ages and interests. Thessin leads many of the tours herself, and you’ve probably seen her around town: in front of the oldest Greek revival building in the state with a gang of Girl Scouts or standing over stones in Rest Haven Cemetery, telling the story of the unknown Civil War soldier. She’s become a familiar face outside of downtown buildings and an expert storyteller, putting her special stamp on Franklin’s history for each group.

“I’ve gotten to know just about everyone in Downtown Franklin, and I meet so many amazing people—locals and tourists—on these tours,” Thessin says. “People are drawn to this place for the history that lies behind its beauty.”

Franklin On Foot’s tours aren’t just for the Civil War buff or general history enthusiast—the company offers several options that reveal Franklin’s sometimes-seedy past. The most popular tour is the Haunted Franklin, a six-block ghost tour that uncovers 200 years of the unfinished business of soldiers, socialites and spies, among others. Murder and Mayhem is equally captivating, peeling back Franklin’s charming exterior and exploring the town’s gruesome past.

“Franklin seems picture perfect, so people find these tours fascinating,” Thessin says. “I like to say that a lot of the history is just 100-year-old gossip.” 

Now, the small business owner is expanding: she recently launched Franklin Bike Tours & Rentals, another tour option that offers small, guide-led bicycle tours and short rentals in downtown. Thessin says she also plans to begin a Southern-style food tour in May, one that will explore restaurants in a five-block radius and the history behind each featured dish.

“I think Franklin is gaining a reputation as a hot destination spot. Everyone loves it here, and these new tours are expanding the ways people can experience it,” she says.
Thessin says her fascination for the past has stuck with her since college, and has carried over into both her personal and professional lives. She earned a history degree from the University of Florida before getting her juris doctorate from Catholic University in Washington D.C.

Since moving to Franklin 24 years ago, Thessin has held a number of positions that led her to Franklin On Foot: she spent three years as the director of group tours and special events at historic Carnton Plantation, and served as its interim executive director in 2008-2009. From 1998 to 2004, she helped introduce thousands of school children to Franklin’s story as a teacher for the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County’s Heritage Classroom program, and she recently returned to that position. She also serves on the City of Franklin’s Battlefield Preservation Commission.

“History has become my life. This is what I love to do,” she says. “There’s something special about how rich and wide-ranging Franklin’s heritage is.”

In 2008 Thessin also became a first-time author with “Ghosts of Franklin: Tennessee’s Most Haunted Town,” a book of ghost stories that expands on Franklin On Foot’s Haunted Franklin tour. In the fall, she’ll publish a new historical novel that focuses on children’s lives during the Battle of Franklin. Many of the names—the Carters, McGavocks, Lotzes, McEwens and Courtneys—in Lizzie’s War will be familiar to locals.

“I’ve prepared by reading documents written by Franklin children who lived during that time, and I was struck by the way they could give detailed accounts of that day, even years later,” she says. “For them, November 30, 1864, was their personal 9/11.”

Thessin says that beyond the town’s history, Franklin On Foot’s success is due in large part to the area’s atmosphere. 

“Visitors want to come here because the local people treat them well and there is a certain energy,” she says. “This is what I love to do, and I know there isn’t another place I’d rather do it than in Franklin.”

To learn more about Franklin On Foot, visit its website at or call 615-400-3808.
This is part of a series on merchants in Downtown Franklin. To read more,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Does your child have an imaginary friend? Are you sure?

Imaginary friends? Dreams? That's what a Franklin woman thought until she heard our story about a three-year-old boy who told his parents he saw a "bloody man" in a Franklin business one day. Mom was standing right there and saw nothing--no man, no blood--but the boy repeated his story over and over without budging.

Afterwards, the woman related her own story about her two-year-old daughter telling her there was a man in her room at night. The details got more and more specific (down to the name and the color of his clothing: blue) over several months, but the parents just concluded it was a dream. But when they heard the story about the bloody man, they began to wonder....

And then later when another Franklin woman (who lived in the same neighborhood as the first woman) heard the story, she about fainted, because when her daughter was age two she also said there was a man in her room, and some of the details were similar.

And by the way, all these incidents took place on the battlefield of Franklin. But if you want to hear the stories in more detail, come on the tour.

However, I will share a couple from out-of-towners.

Last night a family came from Illinois and the 12-year-old daughter brought her friend. The friend said when she was 3 her father, who had just died, often visited her at night and would kiss her forehead.  

A mother and her teenage daughter came on the ghost tour last summer from Cincinnati.
After the tour, the mother told me this story:

"I'm a nurse in a pediatric cancer ward. I had a sweet little girl named "Kaci" who was a patient for many months, and who died from cancer at age 3. Her mother and I had grown very close, and after her child died, she gave me a picture of her. I would note that in the photo Kaci was wearing glasses.

"I put the picture on the refrigerator, and my own daughter, also age 3, pointed to it one day and said, "That's Kaci!'

"I was shocked and asked her, 'how did you know that?' I had never talked about her to my own daughter.

"She said, 'She comes to see me at night sometimes. But, mommy, she doesn't wear glasses anymore!'"

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tell Me Your Ghost Story. I'm Safe

I am that one person who is guaranteed to listen thoughtfully as you tell me all about that weird experience you had at age 6, or 16, or even last week--and not laugh at you.

Before I started leading ghost tours, I had no idea that so many people out there have had their own brush with the supernatural. For one thing, I never had... at the time anyway.

But since then, I have become the go-to person for folks to share their story. For example, when I worked at Carnton, and occasionally led ghost tours there, I got an email from a man who had visited the site 17 years earlier and believed the ghost of Carrie McGavock followed him home. He told only close family members until he found me and emailed me the story, and even allowed me to use it in my book Ghosts of Franklin.  

Just the other day I reconnected with an old high school friend on facebook (where else?). He messaged me his ghost story--and it's a good one. 

"Joe" collects old firearms, especially Revolutionary and Civil War guns.  One of the guns in his collection is an old flintlock horse pistol from about 1750 to 1775 that he bought from a man who said it had been in his family for centuries. However, the man did not like guns and had no children to leave it to. 

After Joe paid and they shook hands, the man said, "Oh, by the way I feel I have to tell you something else about the pistol. I did not want to say anything before you paid me because I wanted to 'be paid for the pistol not the story that went with it.'"

The seller went on:
"I have no proof of this but my father told me this gun was in the American Revolutionary War and was given to his great- great- great-grandfather on the field of battle by a French officer as he lay dying from a gunshot wound in the stomach. The officer said something in French that my ancestor could not understand and gave him his loaded pistol. He seemed to be in terrible pain from his wound and the American later thought the officer wanted him to 'put him out of his misery' with the pistol. The officer died not long after anyway." 

Joe continued:
"Well now here comes the rest of the story. He told me that strange things have happened around this pistol over the years. It could not be hung on a wall. It would always end up on the floor and it would not stay in a dresser drawer. If you put it next to the bed on a nightstand it would always stay there--no problem. His family felt that somehow the spirit of the old officer is somehow attached to this gun.

"I tested the wall story by putting it on the wall above my bed on a couple very long nails used to rest it on and sure enough at 3:45 a.m. that night ka-thump it fell off the wall and landed in bed next to my left arm. About scared the crap out of me for sure. I got up and locked it in my small gun safe I use for pistols that is at the foot of my bed. I take it out every so often to oil and wipe it down as I do my other pistols and last year I took it out for the first time and set on my bed getting ready to wipe it down it shocked me so hard I dropped it to the floor! Since then when I clean it I may get a tingle or two but not a shock. And from time to time in the middle of the night I will hear a thump-thump from my pistol safe. I am not afraid of it but I do respect it for what it is and feel I am now the caretaker of the pistol and what ever is part of it. I could never sell it and will hand it down to one of my sons one day. 

Interesting, huh? And then Joe said, as I have heard so many times:

You are the first person outside my family I ever told this to. My friends would think I lost my mind if I told them."

Yep, people will think you're crazy. I won't. I'll share it!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Now I can die happy, I've seen India

Eleven of us at the Taj Mahal (Webb stayed on the bus because he'd
 already  seen it) plus our Indian guardian angels,
Mr.. Joachim and Fr. Prasad.

I never had any interest in visiting India. I love to travel, having visited 49 U.S. states, parts of Canada and Mexico, even Cuba as a young child, and many Western European counties, but India...well, it just wasn't on my to-do list. Nevertheless, when my church's Indian pastor, Fr. Bala, planned a trip to India, I decided to go. And now I can't wait to go back. For a month next time.   
India is amazing. It's hard to put it into words, but I will try. Pictures will help.

Fr. Bala's a Franciscan priest "on loan" for 5 years to the US, and St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin won the lottery on this one. Unfortunately, Fr. Bala could not come with us at the last minute because of an immigration snafu, so the 12 of us, 11 women and one man, ranging in age from 42 to 84, were in the capable hands with Frs. Prasad, Sleeva and Bhaskar, also Franciscans.

Part of the trip was sightseeing, and that's the part I'm going to talk about first.

Everything you've heard about the Taj Mahal is true: it's the most beautiful building in the world. No, I haven't seen all the buildings in the world, but I have seen quite a few and nothing even comes close. It's impossible to take a bad photo of it, and I'm really good at taking bad photos and even I couldn't manage it here.

We took in quite a few Muslim mosques and fortresses and Hindu temples and palaces. The temples aren't my cup of tea, although interesting, but the Muslim architecture is quite spectacular. The red sandstone is stunning. 

What's coming in that they needed these giant doors? In the year 1500?

Qutb Minard (tower) in Delhi.

 Another red sandstone mosque. They often incorporate water into the design--this was true at the Alhambra in Spain too.
The palace at Mysore was built in 1898. The women's saris are as beautiful as the palace.   

 Love, love, love the turquoise and coral with gold accents in the palace. That old maharaja had some style.  

Girls on a school trip at Hindu temple in Mysore. This temple is home to dozens of monkeys, who make themselves at home on the temple walls.

Stay tuned...more to come soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why the worst day giving a walking tour is still better than the best day practicing law.

 The typical walking tour customer is:
  • These people are not at an appointment with their lawyer.
     See how they're smiling?
     On vacation
  • Relaxed
  • Interested in what you're saying
  • Self-selected
  • Happy to be there
The typical lawyer’s client is:
  • In some kind of trouble
  • Feeling trapped
  • Desperate for help
  • Wondering how to pay your fee
  • NOT happy to be there 
How do I know? Because I’ve done both. And believe me, it’s not even close. And here’s the thing. This typical lawyer client and walking tour customer could be the exact same person, just on a different day and in a different situation. And therein lies the difference.
Sorry about that “therein.” Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

There's No Statehouse in Franklin, Tennessee

But that doesn't mean people don't come to Franklin looking for one.
It's happened twice that I know of.
Here it is, right in the middle of everything.
I'm in the middle of one of my walking tours on the town square by the Confederate memorial, when someone interrupts, asking, "Where's the statehouse?"
I answer, "Nashville's the capital, it's there."
No, they insist, "The statehouse of the state of Franklin."
Oh, that statehouse.
When I tell them they're about 300 miles away from it, they get very disappointed.

What they're looking for is the capitol (or statehouse) of the "Lost State of Franklin." Yes, there was such a place. For four years, from about 1785 until 1789, four counties in western North Carolina broke away and tried to form a separate state. Approval by Congress failed by just two votes. Ben Franklin didn't think much of the idea, even though its proponents tried to curry favor by naming it for him instead of their original idea, "Frankland."

Nobody ever used to ask me about any statehouse. The only reason they do now is because of a History Channel show "How the States Got Their Shapes." 

We like to think there's a Franklin State of MInd. Once, there really was.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grave Matters in the Cemetery Raise Funds for Preservation

 Franklin on Foot, Heritage Foundation Partner to Share Stories Behind the Tombstones

It’s the personal stories of everyday life and important events that make history matter, and Franklin’s Rest Haven and Old City cemeteries are full of gripping tales and touching anecdotes from the citizens who founded Franklin, experienced the Civil War here and were a part of other key moments in the town’s history.

Twice in 2011, local walking tour operator Franklin on Foot partnered with the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County to offer guided tours of the cemeteries, including costumed re-enactors portraying the most colorful, historically important and often tragic souls buried there. The popular events attracted hundreds of people, and in December, Margie Thessin of Franklin on Foot presented a check for $2,000 to the Heritage Foundation. Proceeds from the events will support the Heritage Foundation’s efforts to preserve history in Franklin and Williamson County.

“It’s so important that we include the people who shaped the future of Franklin as we share the stories of what’s happened here over the course of 200 years,” says Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. “Through Franklin on Foot, Margie Thessin does a phenomenal job of bringing those stories to life.”

Franklin on Foot offers guided walking tours year-round. For more information, visit

Founded in 1967 by a group of citizens with vision who wanted to protect the historic resources that make Franklin and Williamson County a special place, the Heritage Foundation has played a major role in keeping Franklin and Williamson County from becoming “Anywhere USA.”The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving our historic resources.  Programs include the award-winning Main Street Program, and the Downtown Franklin Association which promotes and revitalizes the 150 unique places to explore in the 15-block downtown National Register District. To learn more, visit

Monday, January 2, 2012

The best way to understand a place

If you really want to get to know a place, walk it. Sure, you could drive around with a guidebook and a map. Or you could hop on a tour bus where the driver doubles as the tour guide. Maybe even a big red double-decker bus with a fresh air observation deck. Or you could fly over in a commercial jetliner at 33,000 ft. You just don't get that much out of it. 
Trevi Fountain, 2010

My most memorable experience visiting an unfamiliar city was Rome, 1976. I was attending a junior year abroad program in Florence. Art History Professor Gunther Stamm announced a field trip to Rome, and directed us to meet at the train station at 6 a.m. When 6 a.m. arrived, I was the only one there...well, besides Gunther. So Gunther and I went to Rome, just for the day.
We walked the entire city, from the train station to St. Peter's, to the Colesseum and Roman forum, and the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, Piazza Veneto and the Spanish Steps. It was my first time to see the Sistine Chapel, and it was before the ceiling was cleaned. We descended into the Forum, and stood on the spot that Brutus stabbed Caesar, checked out the poured concrete at the Pantheon, and ascended the Spanish Steps. All the while my tour guide/professor Gunther gave me a semester's worth of education in one very long day.

I didn't go back to Rome until 2010. But it all felt familiar. Because of that one very long day back in 1976.
By the end, yeah, my dogs were barking. But there was plenty of time to rest on the train ride back to Florence.
You gotta walk.