I spent ten days of my vacation taking my first ever out-of-the-USA trip (just got my passport last summer) to Italy – a few days in Rome, a few days in Florence, and a day trip to Pisa.
Still not crazy about flying, especially long flights (despite the generosity of one of my friends who got me into business class), but actually BEING in Italy was just plain amazingly wonderful. I got to see (and walk on) a lot of stuff I’ve always been fascinated by from ancient Roman history, as well as medieval and Renaissance periods. Saw plenty of old Roman brick ruins from a distance, like the Baths of Caracalla, Trajan’s markets, city walls and surviving pieces of aqueducts – up close were the old Roman forum, the ruins on the Palatine hill, the Colosseum, Capitoline Museums, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona with its 3 Bernini fountains, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s basilica & square, and a real highlight was the day spent at the Vatican Museums including the Sistine Chapel.
Basically: history, art, amazing food & the most beautiful women I HAVE EVER SEEN IN ONE PLACE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Good GOD every few minutes I was swooning over another bella donna walking by. I even got a few smiles returned! (Evidently being a creep got lost in the translation, helping me out a lot.) I even spoke enough bad Italian to help a babelet find the right train to Pisa at the Florence station. I kept getting “struck by the thunderbolt” like Michael did when he saw Appolonia. (And she spoke English very well – Sunday, Monday, Thursday…. too bad she blew up.)
Florence was cheaper than Rome when it came to getting snacks at cafés, maybe slightly cheaper at its own collection of amazing trattorias offering the best food in Europe (I know, I’ve never been to France, but I’ve always thought the Italians were better cooks and were just plain nicer). Florence is more of a medieval set-up, with unbelievably narrow streets and a more compact set-up (you can walk all over the whole city – Rome required taking the subway as well as walking). The Duomo is quite impressive, as is Michelangelo’s David at the Academy of Arts. I toured the Uffizi as well as the Pitti Palace, getting a full dose of the Medici art collection. I’m guessing one of the Medicis had some definite mommy issues since I’ve never seen so many “Madonna & Child” paintings EVER, and I’m thinking that if the guy was obsessed with that particular aspect of the story of Jesus enough to fill his collection with every version of it he could find, there had to be some sort of psychological need in there somewhere.
Pisa was interesting too – basically a little university town, with the leaning tower, some old medieval buildings and Roman ruins, and a shopping district. The train rides between there and Florence, as well as between Florence and Rome, provided some nice scenery of distant little villages on hilltops.
Amazing how many pieces of art I saw for real that I’ve seen endlessly in books, movies, Terry Gilliam animations, etc…. there was Botticelli’s Venus, Raphael’s School of Athens, Michelangelo’s Pieta, Caravaggio’s Sacrifice of Isaac, and so on. My traveling companions were “art-ed out” after the Uffizi so I toured the Pitti on my own while they got even more coffee & gelato, and it was all good.
Oh, the food, yes…. go to any mom & pop place and you’ll find homemade pasta, wonderful inexpensive local wine, and a variety of secondi to dazzle you. While the food varied, it was always good to excellent, most usually excellent. I think I ate more cheese in that week than I’ve eaten in the past few years, so hopefully the half liter of wine I was putting away every night flushed my arteries clear. When I had lunch one day at the cafeteria at the Captoline museum of antiquities, I noticed the place was filled with local business people lunching as well – I got my tuna panini and had the minor epiphany that if museum cafeteria food is this good, the food must be AMAZING all over the city.
Did I mention the gelato? I started with chocolate and coffee flavors, and moved on to the fruit flavors like strawberry and raspberry… it tasted like frozen fresh fruit, intense and not overly sugared. Yeah, I ate a ton, but managed not to put on any weight. Portion size is the key here, never mind all the walking.
And as I walked through the Roman forum, a small gray tiger cat came strolling down some ancient steps AND I PETTED IT.
I LOVE Italy!