I’m not entirely sure where I want to start this story; I guess all stories start at the beginning. The week before I left for Rome I still hadn’t allowed myself to start feeling excited about Italy, fearing that something might happen, a visa rejection would result in me not getting away for the holiday. Only on the plane did the amazement of what I was doing and where I was going fully sink in.
We (me and Mum) arrived in Rome on Friday night (12 July 2013). I remember looking at all the people, they all looked so western. I noticed that I thought they were pretty, and then I realized that they were the kind of attractive I was used to. The eastern people are also very, very beautiful, but I’m not use to their beauty.
I learned never to judge a place on the first night. My first idea of our apartment was pretty sucky, the first meal I had in Italy was just terrible and the first taxi stole our money. I couldn’t get the sheets to fit the sofa couch and the cups and glasses where nowhere to be found.
The next morning dawned as beautiful as it could be, with blue skies, fluffy white clouds and the sun coming up over Vatican City. The sea gulls where crying and the Swallows where gathering together. Our apartment also turned around. The bed miraculously got made, I found a cup for my morning coffee and everything was headed to a wonderful first day in Rome.
I strolled out before anybody else was up, I didn’t even know where I was or where I was going. I walked onto a Piazza and couldn’t stop admiring the sculptures in the middle fountain. Later me and mum walked passed there and I was a sign saying “Piazza Navona”, mum knew what it was and clued me up. I hadn’t exactly studied any travel books, I just kind of thought I go and check it out…
The sound of the Italian language is so beautiful. The way the say and form their words, it’s fun to just listen to them, even if you don’t understand anything they’re saying. They also love body language and waving their arms when they talk. Watching people have conversations was one of my most amusing and favorite hobbies.
In Dubai I still haven’t found extremely good, decent coffee. We went for breakfast at a tiny little café. I had the most wonderful cup of coffee in months and the best croissant that I had ever tasted before that day. It felt almost like a sacred experience eating breakfast that morning. I felt like the girl in the old KFC add “I want another one!”
Right, so I have no idea what happened when, but I saw the Spanish steps, went up all the way and ran down! Stumbles onto the Pantheon, I can’t believe that it’s still there for all the thousands of years, it’s lived through so much, I wanted to think it’s a part of my life, but actually my footsteps in there was a part of its life. Early one morning we went to Trevi and we were almost the only people there. Went to see the coliseum, but only from the outside, then walked through the forum, I can’t believe that the great Roman empire has been turned into piles of rocks and that you struggle to understand and that seem so confusing if you don’t have a map. Went to a ton of really beautiful churches. Spent a morning at Vatican City, saw the grave of the apostle Peter, I hope I can proclaim the gospel the way he did…
Then we also went to see the Holy steps, these are marble steps that have been covered by wood to protect them. They stood in the home of Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ walked up them on the say he was convicted. They have since been moved to Rome and you can only go up them on your knees. I didn’t go up, but I did kneel down. To think that if Jesus didn’t walk up those steps my life would be entirely different.
Saw the first Christian church, the first church dedicated to Mary, the church for saint Francis of Assisi and so many other things that I can’t even think to write down. Seeing all these things and places, it does something to you, to who you are, it broadens your horizon, and it changes your point of view. It’s like Peter Pan “Peter does some things to you to change you…” you can’t pin point it, but you know that something is different.
On our second night we found a fabulous restaurant, decent prices, and wonderful food, just everything. I ordered pasta with bacon and pepper, and I enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. The pasta was exceptional, the bacon less than expected and the pepper at first a little over whelming but later on you just can’t stop eating this wonderful dish. Unfortunately we lost the place for the rest of the week. But on the last night of your trip we spent our final night back in Rome and after some detective work with my photos and my cellphone’s GPS I rediscovered the place and ordered the exact same pasta. I have never fallen in love with pepper this deeply.
There was a little gelato store near our apartment. I’m not sure words exist. Is gelato ice cream? No! Is gelato like ice cream? Yes, it’s similar. But you feel that you don’t care how much weight you gain or how expensive it is, it’s so good. It just melts in your mouth. I always took only one scoop, other people could take 2 or 3 scoops and I just bought the smallest cup with one scoop and usually also only one flavor. I traveled through the rest of Italy, but gelato seems to be at its best in Rome.
From Rome we went to Venice (19 July 2013). We had read that it would be crowded but what we found was not just crowded it was uncomfortably crowded, you couldn’t exactly move, there were just way to many people for that tiny little city. It was very beautiful, but I don’t think I’d go back. As it turns out I tent to feel a little queasy when my feet are not on the ground and all the time spent on the water did not help. I’m glad I could experience it, I’ve always wanted to. I bought a hoodie there and saw Saint Marcus plain. The church was too busy, so we didn’t go in, but I was surprised by all the eastern architecture on the church. Apparently because of all the water and the boats Venice was one of the first places to start trading stuff with the east.
I was happy to leave Venice and spend 2 nights in Verona (22 July 2013). On the first evening we went to see the Opera of Aïda. Mum vaguely filled me in on the story before the time, since the entire opera was in Italian it helped to know what was happening. I was fascinated by the amount of people in the arena that evening, so many people who still appreciate opera! That night, listening to Aïda singing between the choice of her father of her lover, the voice of the girl and the full moon hanging in the dark sky, I’ll never forget that night. We bought the cheap seat tickets, but they were pretty fantastic. It’s stone seats, meaning it’s the original seats of the arena that have been used by people through all the ages since the arena had been built.
Verona felt very “soft”, it felt restful and quiet and at peace. There was just a really good vibe about that city. The Tomb of Juliette was near our hotel, but the gates where locked when I got there. By now it’s just an empty tomb, but this is apparently where Juliette was truly buried in 1303. Seems that Mr. W. Shakespeare didn’t entirely make up his story, apparently there may have been two young teenagers living in Verona in 1303 who did commit suicide because they couldn’t be together. I also went to see Juliette’s balcony, I knew it was just a touristy thing to do, but I was there and I squeezed through the crowd and looked at the tiny little balcony. I think I owe the book of Romeo and Juliet another try, I know the story, but I’ve never had the patience to work my way through the entire book.
While we were in Verona we found some last minute tickets for Swan Lake Ballet at La Scala Opera house! We postponed our next destination for 1 night and spent a night in Milano. I didn’t see much of Milan, other than the train station. We arrived in the afternoon, I had a nap, contemplated the idea of a new, “fancy” top for La Scala. It was 4months after my birthday, but this kind of felt like my birthday evening. We went for burgers, Mum told me all the happy birthday stuff and we headed for La Scala. I was pretty satisfied, my burger had been almost above expectation, and after living on McDonald’s burgers having a real burger was good.
La Scala unfortunately sells some unusable seats, from these seats it’s not possible to see the stage, even if you’re willing to stand. Luckily they had some spare seats for us until the intermission. I could only see a part of the stage, but even so it was beautiful. I haven’t been to a ballet show in over 10years, I couldn’t even remember if I liked it. The music, the dancing, the prince, the magician, the swan, the beautiful swan girl, they all seemed to move so gracefully as they told the timeless love story. During intermission we got assigned new seats, this time I could see the entire stage and enjoy the full scope of what was happening. I really loved this evening.
The next day has very little to tell, we were too late for the first train, missed our train, actually had the privilege of watching it drive away without us and finally around lunch time we got on a train and headed to Lake Como (25 July 2013). After a few hours on the train we took a ferry from the train station to the town we were staying in, Menaggio. Late that afternoon after an entire morning spent in Milan’s bus station we arrived at our hotel, almost entirely liquidized by the heat.
It was good to be in a small town, peaceful. There where tourists, but not as many as in the other places. There was a restaurant next to our hotel with a view of the lake and the mountains and the piazza in the middle of the town. They have hard green metal chairs and tables with red covers. I felt that I could sit at that table and just enjoy being there for a week, this did work sometimes, but if too long I got bored, so we went to some of the other towns, walked around there. Had Pizza every evening and coffee and croissants every morning. Since it doesn’t rain in Dubai, I prayed for rain in Italy, I wanted to feel rain again. So one day at the lakes the sky just closed up and it began do drizzle almost the entire day, until late afternoon, it was wet. I got to twirl in the rain and stand in it and laugh in it and freeze in it. It felt like my little present from God, sent just for me.
We checked out of a lovely hotel and ate a final croissant and coffee at the red covered tables and left for Florence (31 July 2013). The days of the adventure where coming to an end Florence was the last city before we would go back to Rome and get on a plane home.
My memories all seemed to blur, I could remember certain places, meals, moments or churches, but I couldn’t remember in which city or when they happened. I enjoyed Florence, but not as much as I expected. Seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture of David and the Pieta where he used his own face for Nicodemus was pretty fantastic.
I can’t remember the names of places, but the sculpture called “The rape of the Sabine woman” was exceptionally good. It seems sad and harsh, but it’s also beautiful and wonderful; so perfectly made.
I walked over Ponte Vecchio, but it wasn’t what I expected. I did however buy myself some pretty earrings there to commemorate this trip.
After everything we went back to Rome (3 August 2013), since the airport is there. I was very happy to spend one last night in Rome, I went back to the geleteria near the apartment we had stayed in and compared it to every other scoop I had, had since, it was still the best. I was pleasantly surprised; I bought my gelato along with a boy’s school group who were also touring with a priest. The priest saw me and stopped his entire line of boys “Sinora, prego! Prego!” I almost blushed because he made me buy first, I bought my scoop and went to sit down, the church bells started to ring and a married Asian couple walked by for photos. Suddenly the boys who had all bought their gelato started to sing! It was a choir who were rehearsing even with gelato in their hands. *happy place* the warm sun, the blue sky, the white clouds, the boys’ voices, the sweet gelato it all just felt perfectly in place. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful holiday.