“Ciao Italia, thank you for sharing your history, your food, your La Dolce Vita with me. I am forever influenced & inspired,” was my Facebook status this morning. Ted and I arrived home last night from 10 incredible, adventurous, life changing days in Rome, Florence, Sestri Levante & Cinque Terre, Italy.
I thought of the Lo Down while I was away. I wondered how I was ever going to put into words what it feels like to be looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, how awe-inspiring the David is standing tall in Academia. I wondered how I would be able to express to my loyal Lo Down readers the feeling I had hiking the mountain between Vernassa and Montorsso in Cinque Terre or wine tasting in Chintai with the man I adore most in the world. Sometimes its difficult to summarize events that truly change you as a person, so instead, I will share with you some things I wrote down while I was in Italy and accompany that with photos. In instances like this I believe pictures can tell the better story.
Bonjourno, I’m not sure if it’s the fact that my i-pod just landed on my favorite wedding song, if it’s because I am staring over at my husband who I have fallen more in love with in the past 3 days or because out of my train window from Rome to Florence is the most beautiful picturesque sight you could see, but I just felt this enormous wave of emotion. Wonderful, blessed, inspiring emotion. I had to write.
Ted and I began talking about our Italian getaway almost immediately after our return home from Paris in 2009. 2 years later, it’s happening and although we just completed the first of our 3 stops in this beautiful country, I am overwhelmed by the experience and the fact that it has already made a profound impact on my life.
We arrived in Rome on the 2nd of September 2011. Hand and hand we navigated the beautiful, ancient and lively city. We saw all the must see sites of Rome, the Colisseum, the Vatican, the spanish steps, Trevi fountain and so much more. In the past 3 days we ate spaghetti for breakfast, drank wine for lunch & dinner, shopped and took the entire city in. Aside from the site seeing, I without a doubt fell in love with my husband all over again. Don’t misinterpret, I never fell out of love with him, not for a second, but being with him the past 3 days, 24/7 only reinforced to me what an incredible human being he is. Protective, strong, smart, quietly confident, brilliant, lovely, calming, are the words that come to my mind immediately when I look across the train table at him. Thousands of miles away from our home, our conversations over pomodoro and a bottle of Chianti lead to family, our future, our children someday and again, that wave of emotion is back. I’m blessed. I always thought “home” meant your physical home but today I realize that home is just where you are with the people you love. Right now, on a train with mi amore, I’m home.
We have about an hour ½ on the train until we arrive in Florence. Looking so forward to our next adventure together and looking forward to packing that empty suitcase I brought full of leather goodies for me and my family. I know Linz & mom will be happy about that!
I threw a coin in Trevie fountain. Italians believe that if you do this, you will return to Rome someday. I agree. Ciao!
The bottom of the spanish steps, just “steps” from our hotel.
The Fontana di Trevi or Trevi Fountain. The most famous and arguably the most beautiful fountain in Rome.
Legend has it that tossing a coin, over your shoulder with your back to the fountain means that you will return to Rome again, I sure hope it worked!
I think this was my breakfast one day. That is not a joke.
Our visit to the Vatican.
My good catholic.
Inside St. Peter’s Basilica. Words truly can’t describe. Every single thing that you see inside is not a painting, rather tiny little mosaic tiles. The enormity of this place, the power and the history overwhelms you.
St. Peter’s Square.
The Colossuem. An iconic symbol of Rome.
Inside the Colosseum.
Our tour of the Palatine Hill.
Walking on the oldest street in Rome.
Doing what I did best in Rome, drinking wine and enjoying gelato.
A beautiful happy hour on the terrace of our hotel, overlooking the entire city.
Getting the day started…
…er, I mean, the night!
At the top of the Roman parliament building.
A view from the top.
Our last night in Rome.
Florence, random thoughts of my journey thus far…
I’m a walking contradiction when it comes to language. Nothing on earth is more annoying to me when I am in the US than to have someone not be able to speak English. I used to think not speaking english was a qualification or a tactic Qwest uses to never ever want to call their 1-800 service line. Then, I realized for the past few days I wasn’t even trying to speak Italian here. Most Italians speak English so it was easy for me to just speak English…but I am doing the exact thing that I despise more than anything in my own country. Thanks to my over achieving husband, already fluent in Spanish he was able to get enough ear worm Italian practice in before the trip to be able order food, ask for directions, buy a train ticket, and so much more in perfect Italian. He also learned to ask where the shoe stores were located…worship him. So between his abilities and everyone else speaking English around me, I became what I loathe. I need to start speaking the language while I am here.
There have been several times during a workday in the past that I have sat back at desk and thought, I could really use a glass of wine right now. This thought was immediately followed by being horrified in the realization that the clock said 10:45am. I remember vividly one time thinking this and being so happy I didn’t say it out loud because people would definitely have thought I had a drinking problem. In Italy however, these thoughts are not only normal but celebrated! Since I’ve arrived in this glorious country I haven’t had wine before 10:45am, but the fact that I could and even better, I would be in good company in doing so makes me like this place even more.
European men love long, tight, rolled jeans shorts. Can’t quite get behind them.
If you live your life in a rush, most ddefinitely do not come to Italy. Everyone and everything is slower here. Most notably, meal time. It’s certainly not been uncommon for our dinners to last 3 plus or more. Admittedly, towards the end of our meals there have been times when I wanted to stand up and yell “give us our damn check already” but I held back, after all it takes a while to eat an antipasti (mozzarella and tomatoes for me) a first course (also some kind of red sauce pasta for me) a second course (meat of some sort for me) dessert, a bottle of wine and coffee. So my Ally McBeal moment aside, this slower lifestyle is starting to interest me. Not once did I think to check my phone during dinner, update Facebook or tell the waiter that we were in a rush and we needed to order fast. I sat back, enjoyed the food I ate, really tasted the wine I drank and the best part was that I had wonderful conversations with my husband. It’s time that I take a bit of the slower Italian lifestyle back home and incorporate into my real life.
I think Ted looks like the David, personal bits aside.
Rome and Florence had us on planes, in trains and in automobiles. Mostly though we have been on foot. We walked more in the last few days than I have all year. What I realized though is for some reason when I am out-of-town, domestic or international, I walk with an incredible amount of purpose but no real direction. I was asked a couple of times if I was Italian while I was here which of course I worshiped, but maybe they asked me because I looked like I knew what I was doing. I apparently fake that I have any clue very well! I wouldn’t know how to get to the lobby of my hotel without Teddy in a foreign country. Thank goodness for his map skills too or lord knows where I would have us going. So why on earth do I walk through unknown cities with such purpose but no real direction?
Shopping for luxury items in a luxurious country; does make your day better.
I will never travel without crackers and coke. Not matter what, it always make me feel good. For Ted its crackers, diet coke and non drowsy Dramamine. I wouldn’t trade my rather troublesome stomach (especially abroad) for Teddy’s motion sickness for anything. Thank god for Dramamine.
I need to slow down in every single aspect of my life – see my random though above about dining experience in Italy. I need to slow down because life is going so fast as it is and within the minutiae of the busy days little things are being forgotten. The small print is being ignored and it’s the small print that opens my eyes and will guide me to a more clear, direct and intelligent route.
Older is better except if we are talking about food, but in some cases that is also debatable.
The view of Ponte Vecchio, right outside our hotel.
The Duomo di Firenze.
Un cappuccino per favore!
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s famoust square where a copy of Michelangelo’s David stands.
We made it to the top, overlooking these beautiful gardens that reminded us of Versailles in Paris.
Exploring Pitti Palace gardens.
My Italian stud.
Cena con il mio amore!
Wine tasting in Chianti.
One of the wineries we visited name their reserve Chianti after their horse. We splurged and decided to buy a bottle to bring home and felt it only fitting to take a picture of our fabulous Chianti next to the mascot himself.
On the train once again for the last stop on our amazing Italian getaway. At dinner last night Teddy and I discussed how different America and Europe are. One difference in particular has really stuck with me, the news!
In Europe you turn on the news and you hear about Italy, Britain and France. You also will watch pieces on Mongolia, places in Asia, America. My morning ritual at home is to wake up, light a candle and turn on the Today show where I listen to Matt Lauer and Ann Curry talk about American politics, stories on American jobs, the stock market and perhaps something interesting in New York or Los Angeles. Sometimes you get a story on Afghanistan but rarely do our news stories cover topics like the growing economy in Poland, the green infrastructure efforts in Japan or how the people of Mongolia look to Genghis Khan still today for support and faith. In Italy, after a long day of walking and sight-seeing Teddy and I would lay in bed and watch “beyond borders” a CNN (admittedly not my favorite network…often times a bit liberal for my taste) show that does exactly what is says, they go beyond their borders to uncover interesting and valuable information in other parts of the world. It was so interesting and I learned so much. I wonder why we don’t provide this kind of valuable information and content in America? I’m guessing the demand for Kim Kardashian news in America is larger than learning about the the drought in East Africa that has effected the elephant and livestock population. Sadly, I’m one of the biggest participants in wanting to know the latest news on Kim K. Clearly, my focus needs to change.
Which leads me to my next thought, everyone must travel. Traveling opens your eyes to so many things. Not just new experiences over all but new cultures, new food, new ways of thinking, education and with all of that I think comes responsibility. Traveling can get you an understanding of how much greater the world is and absolutely will give you a larger perspective on topics. I believe traveling, for me anyway, puts into perspective the enormity of what I have and the many blessings that make up my life. If you have the opportunity to travel with someone you love, it just makes it that much more sweet but everyone needs to travel.
So perhaps my advice is just this – get out of your comfort zone, go beyond your borders, inspire others to travel so that people can have experiences like I am having here in Italy that inspire and profoundly change you in a positive way.
The view from our private balcony in Sestri Levante.
A private tunnel in the mountain that brought us from the top of the mountain where the hotel stood, to the water. Incredible.
Our hotels private gardens.
We took a boat ride to one of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre and then hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso. It was an experience of a lifetime.
Not a postcard, this exists in real life.
On our hike, on our way up!
People put writing or a lock on the side of the mountain to say “I was here!”
The Italian Riviera looks good on Teddy. Dinner at the best restaurant ever, Balin Cuisine.
The bottle of wine at dinner was delicious!
Portofino. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my lifetime.
People other than Jay-Z and Beyonce own yachts like this.
Ciao! Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with me.