Italy Trip Report

Oct 23rd, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Italy Trip Report

I'll slowly add to this as I have time... Miss it already!

islandmom is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Rome-

As far as I remember flights from Honolulu to LAX to London were uneventful. (besides no liquids) . Outside the airplane window London appeared lush in green foliage with quaint buildings, wrapped in a cozy blanket of clouds prompting me to take a mental note to visit someday. Their airport was clean and easy. Decent food, nice shopping. The only difference was they didn’t reveal your gate number until 20 minutes before the flight. This kept us glued to TV screens with crooked necks instead of enjoying the layover.

Alitalia airlines was fairly nasty in spirit and appearance. When they said “one bag” they meant ONE BAG. It meant sacrificing my purse in order to spare my camera equipment. The on-flight food was interesting enough I kept it at a safe distance. My trip to the bathroom had me certain the plane hadn’t been serviced since before I was born. The man sitting next to us worked for the airlines causing us to feel better after he assured us they had a safe record because the plane did sound like it was about to fall apart. He was originally from South Africa and had been in Rome for 20 years. His love for the city made our anticipation swell and had us wishing for more than two days to explore Rome. This is where we also noticed married men wear their rings on the opposite hand in Italy (we haven’t figured out the reason for this phenomenon yet).

It was wonderful to have a hired driver waiting for us in baggage claim after such a long journey. The drive to Sheraton Roma was quick and we found the hotel had comfortable familiarity besides no clothing irons. We resorted to bathroom steam . My heart longed to rush to the Trevi fountain immediately, my coach-class squished body wouldn’t move off the bed. Because we arrived at 8pm we ordered room service then went right to bed to prevent jet-lag for the big adventure awaiting us in the morning.

In the morning I was shocked to see a forest of trees outside our window. It reminded me of our home in Maryland. The sunrise was a stunning shade of pink and burning pomegranate. Because we missed the free hotel shuttle we took a taxi to the center of Rome. This is where I made a few mistakes. In an effort to go to the Palatino for tickets to the Colosseo without waiting in line, we went to the Pantheon. Which is an amazing domed building built 26 years Before Christ. The center has an opening to the heavens called “The eye of God”. Later we learned all of the domed buildings have open tops because the Romans couldn’t figure out how to build a dome which wouldn’t cave in. We were in awe of the area. The narrow cobblestone streets…the fountains….the different people walking their dogs. Many people eating gelato. Ice cream for breakfast! Because of no public bathrooms we found ourselves often in what they call “Bars” ordering bottled water in order to use their facilities. People, especially men, spend their mornings eating pastries and drinking coffee while standing at these bar counters. We found our first such bar a few feet from the Pantheon down a gray alley. The bar had bright modern orange and light wood interior which beamed into the dim alleyway calling us inside. We were fumbling through Italian (or Shelly was speaking Italian while I was playing charades) until I noticed the young owner who had his back towards us as he was cleaning windows was correcting us now and then. He spoke English and we successfully completed our orders including apple and cherry torts. Mine was apple and the apples weren’t sliced but rather pureed like apple sauce with cinnamon with a moist crust.. Very good.

This was the beginning of us winding through the streets and trying to follow our map. We stumbled upon a surf shop called “Kailua’s”. Most shops didn’t seem to open until 10am. We were amazed that all the women wore skirts and stiletto heels on these tricky streets. How they didn’t trip is a mystery. Next we came across a starving artist selling his creations along the street. I knew I wanted a set to match the ones from Paris last year. He gingerly wrapped up my two choices and I carefully carried them away. Because I was so caught up in the excitement of Rome I didn’t examine the detail of the art. When we were a block away it hit me that his paints were empty and he wasn’t painting! It was a con. I spent over $40 for what you could get at any souvenir store for $2.50. (And here I was feeling good I talked him down from $60) His business creativity impressed me. (Maybe this is something I can do in Waikiki with paintings from ABC!) And yes, I will hang these prints to remind me of the funny event. By this point it had gotten hot outside and my equipment was heavy on my shoulder. We took a taxi a few blocks away to the Colosseo. What stunning ruins and architecture along the drive. Viva Roma! The Eternal City. A city that respects it’s history rather than builds over it.
islandmom is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 12:32 PM
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Very colorful start; glad the trip over was basically uneventful. Anxious to hear more.
Dukey is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 12:33 PM
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"We were amazed that all the women wore skirts and stiletto heels on these tricky streets."

I hear ya. The person we saw in Rome who was wearing the most wildly "inappropriate" shoes was an Italian woman; she was tip-toeing in front of the Colloseum in her red super-spiked heels. (She probably felt very sorry for me in my clunky Tevas.)
missypie is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 01:54 PM
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At the Colosseo we were swarmed by people wanting us to join their guided tours. At first I figured this a scam and avoided it. After we saw the line to the entrance we took them up on their offer to cut in line. This began our 20 euro hour-long journey around the outside of the structure in the glaring heat following a man wearing a Janet Jackson microphone. What he had to say was interesting, the problem was it was too hot to stand in the sun listening to him. We were in long sleeves and jeans where as others were in tank tops and even they were hot. He took us to big beautiful burly men dressed as Gladiators who demonstrated Roman war tactics. (mental note to learn more of this history in the future) All gave us greater appreciation for their brilliance. He pointed out the holes in the Coliseum were actually from the years it was abandoned and used as a quarry.

The most interesting point regarding the history of Coliseum was that the ancient people surrounding Rome had never seen elephants, tigers, crocodiles and such which were eating people inside the arena. This only emphasized the awe of the event as being a very alien-like spectacular entertainment. This would serve to inspire much fear which they would take back to their villages to warn of the calamity for becoming Christian. He did bother me in minimizing the events in comparing them to our forms of entertainment or executions today. Or how they trained and tortured the animals to be aggressive. Though I’ll concede that for the many years the Coliseum was used, only a window of that time the entertainment was death related. (At least I believe so…need to study more.)

The interior of the Colosseum needed more meditation than we had time to commit. It felt wrong to rush, but unavoidable as we were so hungry and hot. Felt surreal that an elevator was installed to reach the top. We tried to take a few moments to ponder the magnitude of where we were standing. We decided if we thought too deeply we’d both end up bawling and ruin the day. We went towards the center arena and imagined what it would be like to be with our families as sentenced Christians. We saw the dank cells in which they were held below the stage. Then soon realized that the human-fed animals attacking them were also unknown to them and how frightening it must have been…the loud enormous crowd, the unknown beasts…etc….etc.. Too sickening…we had to leave. Makes one consider what they stand for in life and to what extent.

Inside the museum were beautiful pottery artifacts, sculptures and mosaics. We agreed we must return to Rome someday in order to devote a whole day to this tour when we are mentally prepared. While inside we stopped to say hello to a happy tabby cat who was rolling around in the sun. He bit one girl so we decided to leave him alone. Maybe he dreamed of being an ancient Colosseum tiger. An American guy came up to us and said if we liked cats we should go by the ruins in another area which is now an official cat sanctuary. He tried to find the spot on the map. We were sure we wouldn’t have time to see it. It seemed like he wanted a date. I was concerned his interest in cats went beyond an obsession as he had many maps printed from the internet for this sanctuary. With my allergies it was a doomed relationship from the start (Turns out I was grateful he told us of this spot and his forwardness. ) Shelly wasn’t interested because she gets solid Gladiators asking if her breasts are “originala”. We continued to take pictures of the ruins and venture inside the bookstores. From one lookout within the Colosseum we could see the stairs leading to the Forum. Beyond the exit it was disturbing to see the cheapy souvenir and soda stands surrounding the memorial. Can’t imagine buying 4 euro stone replicas and calendars outside Auschwitz-Birkenau.

It was now siesta time, the streets were busying with people so we took a taxi to Piazza Navona for lunch. Soon to be our favorite spot.
islandmom is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 02:41 PM
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Hi islandmom! Your trip, and trip report, are off to a great start! Can't wait to read more!
samsmom1127 is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 04:36 PM
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Great beginning, islandmom! Looking forward to more.
sundowner is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 09:58 PM
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So nice to see that the attitudes of the Alitalia employees haven't changed!
I had the WORST flight crew EVER on my flight from Venice to Chicago two years ago.

However, I am LOVING your trip report! Did you have your picture taken with the Gladiators?
cheribob is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2006, 10:45 PM
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Enjoying your nice detailed report. I once flew Alitalia from Rome to Madrid. Never again.
sharon1306 is offline  
Oct 24th, 2006, 10:40 AM
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I love this report-- please keep posting!
RachelMay is offline  
Oct 24th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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Alitalia was who wouldn't let us on the plane eventhough the gate wasn't shut....long story I don't even want to think about yet...and why we spent $1,000 to get on British Airways to London and why we flew for 30 hours...I'll get to that last day in the end.

My photo links are in another post. Not sure I included the Gladiator shots. He was prettier than me so I may have left it out ; ) Wish I got a close up of his green eyes. Maybe someone else has a shot of who I'm talking about.
islandmom is offline  
Oct 24th, 2006, 12:52 PM
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I flew Alitalia to/from the U.S. and Italy in early October. They were two of the better flights I've had in 20 years of travel to/from Europe.
takemealong is offline  
Oct 24th, 2006, 05:28 PM
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Oh…flashback to LAX…now I remember why I blocked it out. First the gate was very crowded and we took the only two empty seats trying to quickly split a burger before the next lag. This couple in front of us were causing nausea. She wouldn’t stop rubbing, tickling and stroking his ear putting him to sleep like a big 6 ft 50 year old baby. I could probably deal with a few minutes of this but it went on and on and on…. I even went to the magazine shop, came back, went to the bathroom Twice, came back….. Maybe if they looked like Pitt and Jolie I’d have enjoyed the scene…. So to escape we turned to talk to the couple next to us from England. Who it was surprising to learn they hadn’t been to Italy in 20 years. They save up all their money to visit California, Nevada and Arizona for a month every year (for the last 20 years). So of course I’m shocked with the wealth of travel so close to them they choose these states year after year. And when I ask why they say because of choices. Because we don’t realize the choices we have in shopping. They love Wal-Mart (yes, pick yourself up off the ground) and the grocery stores because for example here we have rows and rows of cereal and in England their small stores have maybe three choices. At this point I’m wanting to go into a whole monologue on why I’d trade Coco Puffs for the Sistine Chapel…but they were dead serious. The plastic non-personal commercialism which makes me long for anywhere abroad…is what draws them here….for 20 years! We changed the subject to pounds versus Euros because this seemed like a safer subject between us. We also picked up some Euro at the airport which I’m not sure was the best exchange rate.
islandmom is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 05:31 AM
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Hi islandmom. This post reminds me of the scene in the movie MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON when Robin Williams character literally passes out from the plethora of choices in the grocery store.
samsmom1127 is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 06:44 AM
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Enjoying the report and looking forward to more.
beelady is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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Really, never seen that movie. Sounds good.

I'm getting to the part where a lady literally dropped dead in front of us in the Sistine Chapel...thinking I'll skip the details on that one. Maybe just how surreal the moment was...
islandmom is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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Now back to lively Piazza Navona . We picked an outdoor table at the café’ across from the center fountain with the peach tablecloths and older waiters in tuxedos. (sorry I need to enlarge the photos to read the name of the menu). The brucchetta here was so outstanding I ordered every variation on the menu! My favorite consisting of olive paste. (Hate to add up those fat grams) At first I was insulted because all they bring you is a plate with one piece of thin toast with a spread on top. Each kept exceeding the prior selection. The tomatoes were a flavor so vine-ripened I can’t describe the flavor. Only that you haven’t had a tomato if you haven’t had an Italian tomato. Franco the waiter was grouchy at first then Shelly won him over enough where he was asking her to return for breakfast. She learned how to ask for ice in Italian so people would usually bring us a nice bowl of ice for our drinks. (This is where I must interject that the canned Coke was the most fabulous I’ve ever had in my life in Italy. Something was different about the recipe. It BURNED the back of your throat and wasn’t as sweet.) Believe this place had the old timey coke bottles.

Then a curious fellow with a suitcase and stereo system sets up shop in front of the restaurant. He’s one of those jokesters who makes fun of everyone walking by with props while performing to the music. Most of it was funny though we were scared to leave until he was gone. He came inside to the restaurant patrons too with a funny long fork and such. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and even grabbed men’s bikes as they were going by. Things got tense here and there. The most beautiful child, a girl, came out of the audience and he started pretending she had lice so that’s when we asked for the check. This was also the first place with co-ed bathrooms and an elderly woman handing you paper towels while expecting a tip. Which I find quite worth it because bathroom standards in cleanliness or appliances aren’t what we are used to at home.

The center of the Piazza is full of stands of artwork (by the real artists- shoot). All different styles, some being very vibrant. Many with cats. As I was walking around absorbing the atmosphere being surrounded by pastel buildings…art…local characters…beautiful grand fountains… I felt this background music following me. It was so perfect, like a movie scene. A funky, jazzy electric guitar which put a pep in my pace. A modern day Mary Tyler Moore in Rome. As I circled back the other direction the source of the music turned out to not be from the universe but from a college boy playing his guitar with an empty case leaning in front of him waiting for tips. He was actually very good….and it didn’t hurt that he was good-looking…so for the combination and the moment he gave me I plopped down 5 euros. (We would see him again.)
islandmom is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 01:31 PM
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Hi islandmom, the Coke that you had was made with sugar versus high fructose corn syrup which our Coke in the US has had for decades. That is why you noticed the difference. Love your report btw!!
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 25th, 2006, 02:01 PM
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Really? Should try to ship Coke instead of wine.
islandmom is offline  
Oct 26th, 2006, 12:00 PM
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The center fountain representing the four corners or the world (or something) was under construction…ugh…as my Italy book stated Rome is in a constant state of restoration. As I made my way through the maze of the construction fence and artist’s stands a huge crowd of at least 80 people came into view near where I had just dined. Pushing my way to the center of the semi-circle crowd I couldn’t understand what they were staring at in awe. Then slowly realized the man who looks like he is briskly walking is frozen like a statue. His suit was pasted to look as if it is blowing in the wind as if he was running. Even his tie and hair was lifted into the air. This cracked me up like nothing else! I stared and stared and took photo after photo. He never moved his pose. How did he hold his briefcase up behind him for hours? If you gave him a tip he would smile. Because he brought such joy to my day, when Shelly came by I asked her to take my photo by him. At first I changed my mind then she talked me into it. So I ran over and dropped in a big tip and told him I was going to run beside him. He blew me a big kiss which brought laughter to the crowd. Our whole trip I couldn’t stop looking at his photo and laughing. It made my trip. His photo is soon to be enlarged to hang in my office.
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