Sunday, October 12, 2008

Italia...Day One


First, I want to say that I am going to take the time to write in, what is to me, a good bit of detail about what we did while we were in Italy for my own pleasure and benefit, and so that I have a record of things somewhere other than in my journal…in going through our photographs I’ve remembered things I didn’t journal about while there. All that to say I realize I’m normally pretty long winded…so skip these or settle in and get comfy, ‘cuase there will be several posts and each will be plenty long.

It’s been surprisingly hard to summon the energy to write about Italy. Why? I think because a nine full days, with a day for travel on either end kind of trip should be nothing but romantic. I should come home glowing and blushing…it should be the most perfect trip ever! And in many ways, it was…but, I wondered, do I tell people we got in an argument that lasted three days (off and on, mind you). Do I admit that I’m still sore over an extravagant purchase, made by my husband, against my desires, for me, that is hanging in my closet? Do I admit that by day three my eyes were bloodshot and my forehead was broken out due to lack of sleep, and that my attitude and outlook on things were less than stellar? That the words I barked as we packed our bags to leave Rome make me blush with embarrassment and regret? All of these things have plagued me…I felt such pressure to come home and report that Italy swept me off my feet and was picture perfect…that we fell in love all over again…that we never even thought to say a cross word to one another...and then I confided in my sister. I told her about our three days of off and on fussing. Her response: “If you spent 11 days together and got along perfectly, something would be wrong with you.” She made me feel better. Then I confided in another friend, who shared with me that she and her husband had gone on an extravagant trip overseas where they got in an argument that kept them arguing until 2am…she then went on to point out that a trip like that is a recipe, of sorts, for a good fight. You don’t speak the language. Something as simple as ordering something to eat becomes overwhelming…you’re way off your time zone…nothing is familiar…you’re sleeping in a different place…your diet and schedule are different….you’re dealing with transportation that is new and unfamiliar and is again, in a different language…and you are with one another 24/7 without any breaks…and being the sinners we are…a few “livin’ in the flesh” (as in, not being controlled by the Spirit) moments are pretty sure to happen. So, with that said, and before I dive in, I want you to know that it was the most amazing trip I have ever taken. It was extravagant. My husband is extravagant. I have never been doted on or pampered like I have been by him and it is wonderful. I am so happy I got to see Italy with T. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This was one of those trips we didn’t totally agree on…and it was one of those areas where I stated my reasons, and he said, “I understand. I love you. I respect you. We are going.” And so we went. And for the record, we did fall even more in love. Italy, or rather, T in Italy, did sweep me off my feet. I have precious and tender memories that I'll treasure in my heart forever.

Ahh…I feel better now. I just wanted to tell you those things. ‘Cause it was romantic and wonderful! And it was two sinners traveling together…and I don't know why, but I feel I've got to share the bad with the good...

So with that last post leading up to this, I’d left off with Mom telling us goodbye and suddenly we were alone…at the airport. We made it through security fine. (Which made me SO anxious!) The guards working the scanning machine got a kick out of my 50lb backpack that T was carrying…filled with the last few months worth of house and garden mags…sweet hubby!) We got lunch at a “subway” type deli and got charged extra for putting a slice of cheese on our sandwiches. We sat at a booth, just the two of us. There were no children running around or tugging on us. We ate. We laughed. It was strange.

We stopped in the bookstore and T picked up Obama Nation (catch that play on words), I picked up a book, and then we headed for our gate. The trip to Atlanta was uneventful. We arrived in the Atlanta Airport and saw hundreds of men and women in uniform. Some were on their cell phone, others were on the pay phones. One man sat with his wife and two daughters. The oldest couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4. She sat beside him, playing with the dog tags he had around his neck. He held in his arms his newborn baby girl. His wife cuddled close. I saw them and my throat closed up and tears filled my eyes. Oh the sacrifices…that mama will be dealing with a three year old and getting up at night to feed a newborn and crawling back into an empty bed, while her husband serves our country…that puts a lump in my throat. I wanted to applaud and thank every single one of them. I wished the people passing by would stop and join me so that we could applaud these soldiers, but no one seemed to notice them. I am embarrassed to say that I said nothing, I thanked no one. T thanked one guy for his service to our country. The soldier told him they were all deploying to Iraq. Wow. They’re leaving to fight, we’re leaving for a romantic getaway…it was humbling.

On the flight to Rome we sat beside the window. We flew through the night. T stayed up most of the flight (he got hooked watching the movies). I, on the other hand, pulled out my black mask, put T’s coat over my head and upper body, stretched my legs out across his lap, and slept for about four or five hours…what a sweet guy. I didn’t see any other husband allowing his wife such luxuries!

I woke to people crowding around the windows. We were flying over the alps! It was AMAZING! All I could think about was the book Alive, about the passengers of a flight, mostly all rugby players, that crashed in the Andes…different mountains, but man, it gave me a little perspective on a plane crash in the mountains. Wow. To see the cracks and crevices from thousands of feet up…to think on the majesty and creativity of God…it was breathtaking. It was inspiring. It was wonderful.

We flew over France! She looked so quaint, with little villages tucked into the foothills of the mountains…very romantic. And then, finally, we flew over Italy! And as we descended for our landing, I was overcome with what we’d done and where we were…

Ahhh…we got off the plane and as we headed toward baggage claim I spotted a family, reunited after time apart…a young family, with little ones. And I teared up AGAIN!

So we picked up our bag (and wait, I’ve got to tell you, T INSISTED we pack light! And we did – we only checked ONE bag. We each carried a backpack (like the ones you carry to school, not for hiking), I carried my purse, and T had a “carry on” bag. That was it. I had so carefully planned that I actually counted out how many Q-tips I would need. T neglected to pack his own Q-tips. When I discovered him using mine, my entire plan was blown. Because we all know how much space Q-tips require!). So we got our bag and headed out into the pick up area…there he was…the guy with our sign!

And thus began the Roma experience. He was dressed in a business suit and was talking on two cell phones. He carried (or, rather, rolled) my bag and T and I followed him to the van…a Mercedes van. We were his only passengers. In our delirious state we broke out the phrase book and practiced a little Italian on him. Hmmm…I minored in Spanish. I was very good at conversational Spanish when I graduated from college…Spanish and Italian are supposed to have many similarities…well, let me tell you…speaking Italian was SO HARD for me! I botched it every chance I got and had to ask T like a hundred times a day how to say “thank you” or “excuse me” or other totally easy things! Ugh! So we habla-d (that’s Spanglish for talked) a little Italian. We almost got in about fifty wrecks. We almost killed several men on motorcycles on several different occasions. I think I grabbed T’s thigh about fifty times…in shear terror. They drive like maniacs over there! My Mom and sister get a little spooked riding with me…honey, I ain’t got nothin’ on those Italian mamas! Get outta the way!

We arrived at our hotel…which was most romantic! Yes, the décor was a bit 70s…but it was glamorous. For some reason, being in a city that is hundreds of years old, surrounded by buildings that were hundreds of years old…well, it was just wonderful and romantic! Interestingly enough…it proved to be the most American and in many respects our favorite because:
1. it had one large bed (as opposed to two twins)
2. the mini bar was reasonably priced
3. the bathroom was HUGE
4. the shower curtain went all the way around the tub
5. breakfast….ahhh…breakfast!

Um…let me veer off on breakfast at this most fine establishment. Oh…it was SOOOOO good! T and I are big coffee drinkers! I drink coffee 365 days a year – unless I am throw-up sick. We actually have a line in our budget titled “beans.” On summer days when a hot beverage is unbearable, we pour her over ice. WE LOVE COFFEE! Ok, so this hotel served breakfast in this amazing room – now I wish I’d been the tourist dork and had brought my camera in to photograph it! First off, it was in a huge room – perhaps an old ballroom, but the dark paneling made it feel more library-ish…the floor was light green marble tile and the ceiling was white with dark wood beams each held by a hand carved corbel – all different mer-figures (as in, mermaid or mermen). The windows were leaded glass in light shades of green and lilac…it was old. It was a most romantic setting. The chairs were old. The tablecloths: white and crisp. The air was saturated with the smell of fresh coffee and breads. We entered and picked a table and proceeded to the spread…breads – white and wheat, rolls, pastries, ham, salami (I’m not a fan of either – prepared the Italian way…), fruits, yogurts, hazelnut (nutella) spreads, cheeses, lots of cheeses, agua frizzante (that’s water with gas, or carbonated water – ahhh! I LOVED IT!), orange juice, eggs, candies, and on and on…but our favorite thing which also made this hotel stand out in our minds above all the others, was the cappuccino machine. She sat to the right side and had about a million buttons – espresso, latte, cappuccino, macchiato, etc. To her right side was a warming basket with three drawers full of warm mugs. All you had to do was choose which drink and push a button and whirl….it came out in your cup in a matter of seconds…the espresso, the milk – steamed to perfection…oh wow! It was delicious! Amazing! Ahhhh….sweet!

So anyway…moving on to the city and what we did…the day we arrived we dumped our gear and headed out for lunch…at La Mediterano…recommended by Frommers (guide book). Oh baby! It was FANTASTIC! We squeezed into a table for two and got our menus…in Italian. No one around was speaking any English. We both ordered pizza and these HUGE pizzas came out! Everyone around us was laughing – I suppose at the looks on our faces. I thought we’d ordered two medium size pizzas…oh no, that is just the way they do pizza over there. Let me tell you, their way is WAY better than our way! The crust was as thin as a crepe and there was a thin layer – about three crepes thick, of fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce and sweet onions…oh, I can still taste it. It was magical. I don’t even remember what kind of pizza T ordered, only that he loved it!

Art was everywhere! We rode on the bus…craziness! And passed by these gigantic, amazing doors and sculptures. Decorative pieces atop doors, etc. Door knockers! It was amazing. I couldn’t stop taking pictures!

I was also bowled over by how much “soft porn” was plastered everywhere we turned. It seemed every other store window…every spot for advertising…every newspaper stand, etc. was FULL of it…it made me sad. It also made me angry. Very angry.

After lunch we walked over to Vatican City and got the lay of the land there. Wow. St. Peter’s Square is HUGE! The sculptures…HUGE! Massive…in quantity and quality! We decided that was too much to do at that time and opted instead to visit the Castle Sant’Angelo…

However, on our way, we stopped for our first gelato! It was so good! I thought I was getting banana and chocolate…it was actually pineapple and chocolate…oops. It was still fabulous! I think that’s when T decided he really liked Italy…the gelato sealed the deal!

So the Castle Sant’Angelo was AMAZING! Really, totally amazing! There were few furnishings, but to walk through a castle with that kind of history…to know I was entering rooms where others had lived out their days hundreds of years ago – well, I just love the mystery in that. It certainly gives one a sense of how fleeting our lives are. Here’s the “history” scoop: it was originally commissioned to be a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his family. It was later used as a castle and prison and fortress (for the popes…) and is now a museum. It was very cool! As T and I walked the perimeter of the castle, we saw prison cell after prison cell that were literally cut into the rock of the base of the castle. As in, you could look in through a small grate on the door and see rough, jagged rock. It gave new meaning to prison cell…

Here you see the Tiber River with the Castle Sant’Angelo to the left.

It seemed that everything was done beautifully there! Check out this banister cap! Um, I’ll take one!

Even their “keep out” poles - as in, the physical boundaries they imposed with railings, were made beautiful…again, check out this end cap. There were hundreds of these! GORGEOUS! I’ll take a few of those, too!

The view from atop the Castle Sant’Angelo…

The view from atop the Castle Sant’Angelo…enhanced.

The statue atop the Castle…

A cool burled wood door inside the Castle…

A stone sign that made me look twice…hmm….I just might have to sketch around with that…

After touring the castle we rode the bus back to the hotel. T couldn’t stay awake. Literally, he was sleeping on the bus. I was fighting sleep as well. I was terrified I’d fall asleep and we’d miss our stop! I did doze off and was rudely woken when my head slammed back into a bar behind my seat…I nudged T and finally we made it back to our stop. We headed back to the hotel and went to sleep…without even eating dinner. We were exhausted. We slept eleven hours.

And that brings me to the end of our first day in Rome…with a seven hour time difference and with very little sleep…we made the best of it!

Here are some random, but beautiful things we saw on our first day.

The “dreads”…and we saw MUCH worse later in the trip…and by the way...this doesn't fall into the "beautiful" category!


Lovin’ it!

An alley view of St. Peter’s Basilica…and some random guy's back...

I adore these bars…yep, that’s what they are. They came down over shops that were closed, etc. Why can’t America make her “closed bars” beautiful? I can so see that as a pattern on some stationery or the background of a design project…hmmm….

Mmm…this is amazing and beautiful…delicious!

I am smitten with this fixture…and the columns to the right…and here’s the crazy thing…this kind of thing was everywhere. I’m telling you – Italians make things beautiful! They made the most utilitarian things beautiful!

Later, day two in Rome…


  1. I want to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been waiting for these posts to begin! I knew you would have great pics. Whata trip of a lifetime! Miss ya,

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  3. Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

    Can someone help me find it?

    Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

    Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.