After spending such a glorious period of time in South Africa, we made our way back to Europe for a few more days of fun, this time in Italia. This leg of the trip was immediately off to a bumpy start. After 14 hours in the air, we were all tired, hot, grouchy, and ready for a nap. We gathered ourselves in the airport in front of the baggage claim in silence: Me, Grampa, Memere, Auntie Stacey, Matthew, Uncle Roger, and Bubs, staring at the carousel of bags. Eventually more and more went missing until all we could see was the revolving silver belt. Our bags were nowhere to be seen. We went over to the help desk to try and get things ironed out. The people there weren’t too keen on making us feel confident we’d get our bags anytime soon. There were panicked fits and meltdowns and we thought we may never see our bags again. It was a great way to start our time in Italy.
We made it to our hotel by way of our tour guide, Francesco, who, I believe, is quite possibly the most Italian man I have ever seen before.
The dark skin, black hair, chiseled face, lilting accent… He was the poster child for Rome. He told us he’d take care of the bags (Oh Francesco… Aren’t you great) and drove us to our apartment. I passed out the minute my skin felt the air conditioning.
I woke up and it was time to find some clothes to wear. We left the apartment and headed down the tourist-packed streets. I bought a maxi dress and cover up from a tiny boutique on a side-street. Both items of clothing had the opacity of tissue paper, but considering the hot weather, I was happy with my options. I also spent 50 euros on makeup in a perfumery….because priorities. Hey, you can always use more mascara and foundation.
The next day was our great Roman tour. This was the day I had prepared for since I took Latin my sophomore year of high school. We saw all of the must-dos. The Circus Maximus: which is now really just a dirt pit. The Forum: which is now really just a rock pit. The big exciting site, of course, was the Colosseum. I don’t know what made me more excited for this one, my Latin experience or the movie Gladiator. Let’s be real, it was Gladiator. I stood in front of the pit (yep, surprise, there was another pit) and held up my fist to make a “thumbs down” to kill the gladiator. Because I’m ruthless like that. It was a good time.
Our next leg of the day was the longest period of time I have ever been exposed to Renaissance art. All seven of us walked into the Vatican, which was packed to the gills with tourists. We had our own private guide, a skinny little blonde Italian lady who cared way too much about art. We started through a courtyard lined with sculptures, and she gave each one its own little introduction and back story. Matthew was getting fussy and everyone was sweaty and disgusting. From the courtyard, we entered a long hallway lined with gold-framed paintings. Again, we were getting introductions for each one. Matthew had enough, as did Memere. So Grampa, Memere, Stacey, and Matthew got to go down a secret tunnel that freed them from the confines of the art museums and straight into the Basilica.
Now… Uncle Roger, Bubs and I were free to continue through the halls of the museums with our knowledgeable little tour guide. Fun fact: I’m not an art person. But this lady was talking to me like I had a masters degree in Renaissance Art History. Dear god. We’d stop in every room and talk about the vision and craft of every painting. We were in there for three hours! Uncle Roger and Bubs had the same feeling, I could tell by the looks on their faces. By the time we made it to the Sistine Chapel it was like we had escaped prison.
The Sistine Chapel, I thought, was really just okay. Maybe I had been overexposed to paintings, and therefore these just felt like more paintings, just on the ceiling. However, once we left the Chapel, we made our way into St. Peter’s Basilica. And that’s when I realized that architecture is my preferred medium of art. Dark marble columns, gold leaf sconces, vaulted ceilings, gothic features: this was the most beautiful building I’d ever seen. I wish we could have gone straight there!
After our three hour Vatican tour, we were very hot and very thirsty. It turns out that a millennia-old building such as this one isn’t air conditioned, and it was a very hot July. We exited the basilica and went immediately in search of water. We found a drug store nearby and bought three water bottles. I vehemently opened the plastic bottle and quenched my thirst…with water that felt like it was stabbing my tongue. IT WAS THE DREADED EUROPEAN SPARKLING WATER! After half a day trudging through a 100 degree building looking at art I rewarded myself with water that was trying to attack my throat! I still drank it, I was that thirsty, but I was craving Dasani in a way I never had before.
We spent our night walking the streets of Rome and heading down to the Trevi Fountain. I threw in a coin over my shoulder, This means I’ll probably be back to the city at some point in my life, so they say. The fountain is gorgeous, day and night. Architecture, man. Who needs flat art when you can have sculptures instead?! We went to the gelato stand near the fountain twice, once at day time and once at night. The gelato was good, but it was interesting to me that when you get gelato in Italy, they automatically give you three flavors. I asked for chocolate and they looked at me, waiting to hear my other two requests. I picked two at random, I think strawberry and mango, which mixed weirdly with the chocolate. I was prepared the second time and chose better options.
We ended our day with pasta at an outdoor cafe. I got chicken carbonara, which was soooo salty! Overall I was a little disappointed with Roman cuisine. But I would soon find out that the good food was in central and northern Italy….
Oh. And we got our bags back on our second day. A sigh of relief was had by all!