As a mother of four young children it felt euphoric to roll my carry on out the door on a Wednesday morning during the last few weeks of school packed with seven outfits, my passport and three books to read simply for pleasure. (The Husband’s Secret, The Church Planting Wife and Unbroken)
I love my kids, I pour my heart and soul into them but it is also nice to spend a week just being an adult, hanging with my favorite women and tending to my soul. Soul care is a good thing.
My grandmother, my sister and I headed to Italy with our passports and our carry-on bags and it was truly the best trip I have ever taken.
The flight was much easier than I expected, especially with some melatonin to help me sleep on the plane a little bit.
When we arrived I wish I would have mentally prepared myself for what Italian customs would be like. It was a melting pot of people from all over the world herding through like cattle to go through eight customs stations. There was very little order and very little railing systems to give people direction. We were all pushing through on another, sweaty and smelly from being crammed into a plane the night before.
Once we got through customs I felt like I could breathe a little. There was a sweet Italian man waiting for us after baggage. He held a sign with our names on it and brought us to a cleaned air conditioned spacious Mercedes six-passager car.
On the way to our hotel, Hotel Mascagni, I was taken back by the amount of Italian military lining the entrances of important places with their large rifles out for everyone to see. This was my first taste of culture shock and something I don’t think I ever adjusted to while we were on our trip.
When we arrived at the hotel is was three in the morning to us but nine in the morning in Rome, which was too early to check into the hotel room but nothing a real Italian espresso couldn’t fix for me. In Italy, if you order coffee they will give you espresso, unless you ask for caffe americano.
I didn’t change any of my money until that morning at the hotel. We left our bags with the nice men at the front desk, practiced some general Itailian greetings and then we were off for some sightseeing on foot in Rome.
We walked to the Trevi Fountains, which were under construction (this only means I need to go back) and then had some pizza on a side street not too far away and watched the crowds of tourists and the Italian people walk by.
Another shocking thing for me was the refugees in the city selling everything to tourists. If you make eye contact, they walk right up to you and push selfie sticks in your face. There was even a lady making money that morning trying to put birds on people. Live birds. And a man dressed as a monk, very poorly, trying to get tourists to take photos with him and then demanding money for throwing on a sheet and some Mardi Gras beads. I struggled with the street selling because I saw these people in their story and I knew street selling was how they made a living. I learned you actually have to be rude and not look at them or they will not leave you alone. This broke my heart but I really didn’t need a selfie stick, or a live bird on my shoulder.
The other heart breaking thing I noticed while watching the Italian people was the poor people asking for money on the street. Every single one of them suffered from some kind of physical deformity with the exception with one woman I saw sitting on the side of the road with what had to have been a ten day old baby.
If you go to Rome prepare yourself for the sadness you may feel when you begin to people watch. I don’t think I really prepared myself for the hard places I would see in those cobblestone side streets.
After pizza we walked to the Spanish Steps, which was a challenging walk because you are essentially hiking to the top of the city. Our reward for that walk was gelato. I am pretty sure I’ve never had gelato before I tasted gelato in Italy. And after that gelato our gift was that our hotel room was ready and we all had a three (maybe four) hour nap.
Dinner that night was at a place recommended by the concierge at our hotel.
Ristorante La Pentolaccio
It was very good. I learned that in Italy they eat late, like most places in Europe. Italians order first plates, which normally is a pasta dish and then second plates which is your meat course. I also learned the desserts are a must. And wine. Chianti is my new jam.
My grandmother and my sister and I laughed most of the week and my new found talent, eating my food as faster than anyone else. This is a survival skill I have adapted to from being a mother to four young kids. Eating at lightning speed is survival for me. So I spent most of our meals scarfing down my first and second plates like a boss.
But also the food was so good. That night I had lasagna, lamb bites and tiramisu.
And then I had sweet dreams thanks to some more melatonin.
Don’t forget to check back for day two in Rome and then my favorite, Florence. And then Venice.