I never had a desire to travel abroad. There’s too many places I still need to see in America. Then I got an opportunity to visit Italy up close and personal. It’s been 13 months since Shannon and I traveled to Italy. And I’ve written a whopping 4 sentences about it. These were snippets that occured while I was there. It was a wonderful 12 day trip with my daughter, and inexcusable why I haven’t written at least one story about my trip.
|The Coliseum literally took my breath away. June, 2016…|
I wasn’t ready. I know, that’s lame. I knew about Italy months in advance, yet still felt unprepared when I left. Much of my anxiety/apprehension was because of a health issue, which is kinda funny. When Shannon asked me to go, she worded it this way, “mom, you really need to come. You’ve never been to Europe and we’ve never taken a big vacation together. I want you to go while you’re still ambulatory and have all your faculties.” (she has such a warped sense of humor) Well ‘most’ of my faculties were hovering nearby, but it was the ambulatory part which was given me fits.
|The Coliseum is enormous…|
I hurt my left leg behind the knee 4 months earlier. Just walking. Felt a burning, searing pain and instead of turning around and limping home, walked another mile. Tried to tough it out but after a month of swelling and hobbling around I went to see my primary care doctor. He thought it was a Baker’s cyst and sent me to an orthopedic guy who didn’t think so. Had x-rays, an MRI, physical therapy and a couple of prescriptions over the next 2 months.
By Mother’s Day, 3 months after the initial boo-boo, I had a baseball size lump on the left side of my knee. I was starting to panic about going to Italy. I was in constant pain, limping with every step. In my detailed trip itinerary was this troubling sentence: we’ll do a lot of walking, bring comfy shoes. No where did it state, make sure you have 2 good legs (guess that’s a given). I didn’t want to embarrass Shannon or hold up the group. About a week before we left, the ortho doc gave me a cortisone shot in the knee. It helped quite a bit. Still I was a huge drain on our little 17 non-related American family in Italy, especially Shannon. It was Shannon and one of the leaders of our group, a great guy named Doug who often helped lug my suitcase up and down the stairs, on and off busses, trains and the airport. Ah, water under bridge, or in the canal. By the way, when you see those charming canals, the way humans get over them without getting wet is a bridge. A curved sloped bridge, usually with steps. Many, many steps. Which I had to take one-at-a-time with my purse, carry on and suitcase, unless one of my guardian angels saw my pitiful grimace. Oh, I was a slow-moving-sloth-drain. OK, enough about my temporary disabilites. (It took my knee a year to heal and I still have to be careful when I twist, pivot or use the stairs, but it is loads better)
|Christy from our group near The Coliseum, 2016…|
First stop. The highs and lows of 3 days in Rome. I might have been expecting too much. Rome-holy-city-Pope. Nope. OK, it wasn’t all ethereal. It’s a huge city, so there’s some trash in the streets, slums, even graffiti on abandoned buildings. But when you visit their ancient artifacts, they’re absolutely pristine. They know how to care for the things they revere and honor.
Our hotel in Rome was the nicest of our 4 stops. Breakfast was included everyday with all our hotel rooms. But Rome! Yowza! The dining area had a huge room where they served the breakfast buffet. Not chintzy American hotel fare either. Wafer thin slices of prosciutto which is dry-cured ham, homemade crusty breads and rolls, butter, a dozen varieties of cheese. Eggs, meats, fresh fruits. Their breakfast feasts resembled a fine lunch or brunch buffet. Coffee was strong and delicious. Real china plates, coffee cups, silverware and cloth napkins. The salt & pepper shakers were miniature. Salt shaker had 3 tiny holes, pepper had 1. So cute. Hubs would still be sitting at the first table, the first day, shaking condiments on his eggs. Thirteen months later.
|Look at the itty-bitty holes on condiments. When in Rome….|
We toured Pricilla’s Catacombs. Underground, narrow, dark, uneven surfaces. These catacombs were used as burial grounds from the 2nd to 4th centuries for Christians. It’s the only thing I did and wished I hadn’t. I still can’t believe I didn’t trip or fall. Small rocks jutting up from the ground with poor lighting at best. But it was neat to go through. Scary for me with my lack of balance and fat knee.
The biggest disappointment of the trip fell to Rome too. The Sistine Chapel. We arrived early, waited in line a long time and got shoved through in under 90 seconds. Ugh. Maybe nobody’s fault. Still sucked. The Orlando, Florida mass shooting happened the day before so there was heightened security. The police stood everywhere shouting, “silence, silence, keep moving, silence! Move along. Silence.” Not exactly the most reverent mood setter as you should slowly stroll through, eyes lifted upwards as you gaze on Michelangelo’s, The Last Judgement painted on the ceiling. It was like waiting in an impatient line for a carnival ride as a kid, jostled, pushed, smashed against too many people. This week, a year later on my FaceBook newsfeed, I noticed a TV anchor guy, Bret Baier vacationed with his family in Italy. My jaw dropped when he posted a picture outside the Sistine Chapel. Oh my, not exactly the way I remember the Sistine Chapel on the day we were there.
But Rome also supplied me with my favorite top-spot of the whole trip too. And I was kinda surprised with my reaction when I saw it. I was smitten, speechless, breathless, awed, mesmerized. More than our constant art overload, more than Michelangelo’s David in all his nude glory. Not the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, none of the above-put together. For me it was The Coliseum. Heavens to Betsy, it seemed not-of-this-world! There are no adjectives to describe setting eyes on The Coliseum, which once held 50 to 80 thousand crazy folks. They had recently installed an elevator or there is no way I could have gone inside. The steps were too numerous to count, narrow and very steep. Those ancient Romans were in tip-top shape. If you ever have the chance to go, pick Rome. Just for the Coliseum. Awesome, superb, mind blowing, stunning. Wow. Just wow. Wow.
|Shannon & I at The Coliseum. Surprising how high up we are, 2016…|
Second verse, same as the first. No, our second stop was the polar opposite of anything Rome-like. Assisi. I loved it there. A drastic, dramatic change in sights, sounds and scenery from Rome. Assisi was built on the top of a hill as a fortress. For this gal with a bothersome leg, the steep up and down streets were almost too painful to manuever. But it was just so neat. With spectacular views overlooking the countryside, small towns, roads and woods. The birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare back in the 11 century I think. Church after church after church! Holy Hannah. Awesome. Some churches were very humble, some beyond very ornate.
|Our tour group with the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in the background, 2016…|
The street artist in Assisi was phenomenal. He started this 6 foot chalk drawing before we got there and finished St. Clare before we left town. Townsfolk said these chalk drawings usually last a few weeks. I’m still sick about a gorgeous oval platter I did not buy. It was made near Assisi and believe it’s called Deruta. I would buy a special trinket later, but still wish the platter was hanging on my wall. I would be remiss here if I didn’t mention gelato. Italian ice cream. Rich and sweet. Never tasted it before Italy (ok devoured a dish every day of my trip). Life is good with gelato.
|A street artist chalk drawing of St. Clare of Assisi, 2016…|
Florence, my third stop. The city is hip, yet very old. Our hotel was just bizarre. It’s ultra modern. Just didn’t seem to go with the flow of the city. The hotel entrance looked like a bench with a mess of open laptops on it. Those were chairs. But I liked Florence a lot. Michelangelo’s David is in Florence. And Michelangelo is buried there. There’s a church called Duomo Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It’s made of pink, white and green marble and is very striking. Pink marble, still can’t get over the color. But even that unusual landmark didn’t have the impact or bring up the raw emotion that traveling 8 miles outside the city on a bus would hold for me. The Florence American Cemetery. Sitting on 70 acres rests over 4,400 of our soldiers remains. I started crying as soon as we got there. Green, green grass surrounded by trees, with rolling hills, a memorial wall and small pool. And thousands of white crosses. Thousands. Most of the deaths were from the Fifth Army during the month of June, 1944. Too much. The cemetery is immaculately cared for by Italy, which has promised to always watch over our soldiers.
|An emotional day. American Cemetery in Florence, Italy, 2016…|
Our last stop was highly anticipated by me. I think I was the only one though. We went to Venice for 2 days. Venice-meh, but one of the side trips offered was a 45 minute boat ride to the island of Murano. This is what I was excited about. I LOVE blown glass. This is where I was going to buy a-drop-dead-gorgeous-piece-of-authentic-Murano-hand-blown-glass. We had some time constraints, (there was that boat back to Venice we needed to be on) and I had a terrible time choosing a special-I-went-all-the-way-to-Italy-just-to-buy-this-but-I-got-er-done. The vase was too big and fragile to carry, so I had it shipped home. It’s a lovely remembrance of my trip.
|Um Dave, show some modesty please. Dude, nice butt…|
One other side trip was really neat. I’m a little vague on exactly which person of our group knew this gal, but think it was our fearless leader, Dave. Pretty sure the gal’s name was Ann and I know she’s American. She married an Italian 40 years ago and has lived there for decades. Ann invited us to her home for an Italian family dinner. I didn’t count the number of courses but it had to be close to 20. Ann had every known friend and relative helping with serving, clearing, cooking, washing dishes, taking pictures, visiting with all of us. We were stuffed and humbled by their kindness, delicious food and desire to make it a night we would all remember. My trip to Italy, gelato, the quaint farm supper, The Coliseum, The American Cemetery, gelato, Catacombs, Assisi, 17 foot David, the art, gelato, island of Murano, the magnificent churches. Really fabulous and memorable. I’m sorry I didn’t write about it sooner. It was so much to process. Big thanks to Shannon and Tracey. Love you guys. Until my next story, Au Revoir, er, I mean Auf Wiedersehen…
|My hand blown glass vase from Murano, 2016…|