Trip to Italy, Part 1
I love traveling. If I won the lottery and had millions and millions of dollars, I would spend a good part of it on traveling the world. Plus, then I would have enough money to fly first class and pay for people to take care of things and, thus, bypass the worst part of traveling — the actual travel part.
The only negatives I brought back from my husband’s and my trip to Italy occurred during the traveling, such as airports and flight delays and security checks. But once we arrived in Rome, made our way through customs, met up with our driver and arrived at the hotel, everything else just feel into place. (Okay, I’m being overly romantic here, but for the most part nothing to complain about.)
We decided to take this trip about a year ago. Being the money-management nerd that I am, I had been stashing away a little every month for the past few years, hoping for a chance to get away with my husband. We know that starting a family will be in the not too distant future for us, so we wanted the opportunity to do something fun, just us, before we have to deal with all of the responsibilites that come with parenthood. Our original plan was to do Disney World/The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, since you can’t enjoy it in the same way when you’re with a bunch of youngins as when you’re adults by yourselves. But once I started crunching the numbers, I realized that for the same price of doing that, we could do a real trip. I realized this right around the time I had my first surgery in 2012 and I was spending a lot of time at home watching movies, including Eat, Pray, Love, which made me want to jump on a plane right then and head to Italy. So this trip was a long time in the making. And there are so many stories I want to tell, but I will try to keep this brief. Even so, I have divided it up into three postings. (Sorry, I’m not being very good at editing today.)
We started off our trip in Rome. We stayed in a hotel right in the heart of the city, just a block away from the Trevi Fountain. We quickly discovered just how busy and crowded this city is — and how crazy the roads are! Seriously, you have to just walk out in front of moving vehicles or else you’ll never make it across the street. They’ll stop, but it takes some getting used to to not worry that they’ll run you over. We flew overnight and arrived at about 8:00 in the morning. We had limited time in the city, so there was no time to rest and we got straight to exploring. We saw the fountain and the Pantheon and meandered our way down some back roads in search of our first Italian meal.
I am very thankful that I had a friend who had been to Rome just a few weeks before us and I had asked if he could provide some recommendations of places to eat. Well he sent me this amazing list of all of the restaurants he visiting, plus information on what kind of food and atmosphere he found at each one. This was a life saver! Especially starting out, since we had no idea where we were going or what we were doing. We found a place he mentioned though and had a delicious first meal of pasta and wine at 12:30 in the afternoon. We also found that the Italians eat at different times. Lunch is usually 1-2:00 and they don’t do dinner until 8:30 or 9:00. Our first day there, we tried to go out at 6:30 only to find that everywhere was closed for at least another half-hour.
We had what I think we both consider our best Italian meal in Rome, at one of the places recommended by my friend. It was back by Campo de’ Fiori and had a woman sitting the window hand rolling pasta. We were literally the only people in the restaurant who didn’t speak Italian, and our server knew very little English. Thankfully, I’d been doing some studying beforehand and was able to bring out enough to glide through the meal. I got the pasta carbonara and my husband had tortellini with tomato and basil and it was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. I would definitely go back next time I’m in Rome (which I hope I actually will happen at some point).
We tried to stay away from too much touristy stuff. There are so many amazing things to see in Rome that you could easily spend every day jumping from one tour to the next. But you know that old saying, “Can’t see the forest for the trees”? That’s how I feel about tours. I feel that you’re walking around having all of the “significant” things pointed out to you, but meanwhile, you miss the beauty of the culture and day-to-day life of Italy. Our favorite memories are simply walking through the streets with gelato (which is a must and you eat it twice a day!) and becoming a part of the city ourselves. But we did take one tour while we were there through the Vatican. I am glad we did the tour for this because the line was wrapping around the building and it was getting pretty hot out. We were able to just check in with a group and he guided us through the complex. Plus, there are so many amazing things in this museum that it’s hard to know what are the most important pieces to take in, so I did not mind having someone there to guide us through. Everything there was so beautiful. Seeing these paintings and sculptures from hundreds, even thousands of years ago was incredible. I laughed to Jarrod at one point that it didn’t seem real. It almost looked like we were on the set of a movie, rather than seeing the real thing.
At the end of the tour, we were herded in to see the Sistine Chapel. The artwork really is incredible and it’s so surreal to think that you are in the presence of such amazing art. Unfortunately, it stays so busy in there that it’s hard to take the time to really appreciate it, since you’re being pushed and bumped into and stepped on. And I get fairly claustrophobic in those situations. The Vatican would be a great place to visit in the offseason, when you really have the place more to yourself and can take the time to enjoy it and take it all in.
Our last day in Rome we spent doing some shopping and visiting the Roman Forum and the Coliseum. The Coliseum is one of the more dramatic things that you will see there, mostly because of what it stands for and what you know when on there in the past. (Plus, I had a mild obsession with the movie Gladiator when it first came out. At one point, I’m pretty sure I could quote that entire script.) It is the height of irony to see the building now adorned with crosses and to learn that some of the stones from the Coliseum were used to build St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. Jarrod mentioned that it was sad that something so significant is crumbling and falling apart, but I actually think it is very appropriate. Anything that signifies something so brutal and terrible does not deserve to stay standing untouched. In my mind, that building deserves to crumble, if only to remind us that evil will not win.