Sunday, January 10, 2016

All roads lead to...

Rome Il Duomo.
Hey big girl.

My husband is 50% Italian as am I. It is only fitting we go to Italy for our 10 year anniversary. So we decided to leave the 3 kids behind for 10 days with the Nonni and flee. One night before we left, I wrote each child a letter just in case the plane went down over the Atlantic and we'd never see each other again. I woke up to my 6 year old the next morning in my face crying saying. "I had a dream you and daddy died." To assume I may have been a little apprehensive about leaving the country after that would be a correct assumption.

 On the day we left, the same kid who cried over our death, came running into our room and exclaimed "I'm so excited! You are going to Italy today... Can you leave?" You can imagine his disappointment when I told him our flight wasn't until the evening. Our 4 year old on the other hand doesn't grasp time yet and was asking us to relay the information to his grandparents on what restaurant he wanted to eat at for his birthday. His birthday was in 5 months and he didn't think we'd be back in time. The 20 month old child didn't have a clue anything was up, she's always too self absorbed or busy doing her beauty treatments.

I will say once in Italy, they didn't really cross my mind until 5 days into the trip. So, we called on the 5th day to check in, not because we really wanted to, more so out of obligation so my parents wouldn't think we were dead beat parents. The kids didn't want to talk to us either. Needless to say we were two young lovers having the most ridiculous, gluttonous and self indulgent time, savoring every second and fortunately documenting every detail with 1,577 pictures to show for it, which gives me a panic attack when I think of making an album.

In preparation for our trip we had to set some rules and guidelines. We love food and coffee. Obsessed. I love to cook and I love to eat. Starting June 1st we were to abstain from coffee or pizza until we landed in Rome July 18th. No big deal for some, but for us this was cruel and unusual punishment.

We left Charlotte on Friday at 6 pm and landed in Rome Saturday around 9:30am which was really 3:30am for us. Fortunately I had some Xanax and a beer on the plane to help me get a couple hours of sleep for the night, otherwise this insomniac would have never nodded off. We went straight to the Waldorf Astoria Roma Cavalliri to drop off our stuff and headed straight back out for our tour of the Vatican. We had some cappuccinos and pizzas to break our fast right before the tour started. Right then and there with the celebration going on in my mouth, I knew this was going to be an amazing trip. As I was thinking these thoughts I looked up to see our waiters face as Julius was in the midst of offending him. Julius was speaking Italian to him but was not saying the right thing which made Julius come across as totally rude. With a little guilt and a lot of laughter we headed to meet our Vatican tour group.

The tour was good. If I had feelings towards Michelangelo before, which I'm not sure that I did, they sure did change, for the much better and slightly worse. All the artists were brilliant. The sculptures and statues and paintings and detail on everything was insanity. I did have a bit of strong emotion at St. Peter's Basilica  grasping that Peter was buried underneath. This disciple, someone who knew Jesus personally, walked with Him, lived his life to bring glory to His name, who chose to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to have the same death as his Savior. If Peter could do this to me, I don't think I would be able to hold myself together if I took a trip to the Holy Land.

Moving forward we made a rule that every statue we saw we had to say who they resembled of someone we knew, it helped keep our minds stimulated when the jet lag wanted to sneak in. The main thing I was paying attention to was the accent our tour guide had. I studied it with all my heart. She was an Italian woman speaking English and I think I had an intuition that later on in the trip in Florence I would be playing a "foreigner" and needed to get an accent down. We went back to the Waldorf afterwards and have never been so obsessed with a pool. Whatever temperature it was, I am pretty sure they don't have it in America.

Arrivederci Roma! Off to Florence...

We took one of those fast trains to Florence. We hauled our luggage from the train station through the cobblestone streets until we arrived at our apartment where Antonina our 70 somethingish landlady was waiting for us. The staircase was not for the faint of heart, even without luggage. We hiked up several steep, concrete, sketchy, narrow flights of stairs until we made it to the top, the 5th floor. There we were faced with the Italian angel waiting for us with a bottle of wine and a tour of our apartment. We were a couple blocks from Il Duomo and were able to walk everywhere. No matter where we went in the city we could see that big beautiful voluptuous cathedral. All the roads lead to it, so we always knew where we were. And by we, I mean my husband. I shut my brain off for the trip and didn't know my right from left.

The summary of Florence was exploring our hearts out. We ate and ate and ate some more but were always starving an hour later because of all the walking, which made us happy because it would mean it was time to choose a place to eat again. I wouldn't consider myself a shopper but we shopped until we dropped. We had not a care in the world, which is not like me. I even welcomed all the smug and disapproving looks I got from the older Italian women who worked in the public market because of my short running shorts. I suppose I left the stick that's usually up my butt at the Charlotte Douglas International airport.

One night at dinner, we were sat with a family from Spain. After they left, they sat a mother and daughter duo at our table, Barb and Annie from Kansas city. We hit it off with them. I got up to go to the bathroom and remembered we were almost out of toilet paper at our apartment. Because it was so late at night I had no idea where to even buy it. I took a small wad and discreetly put it in my pocket just to last me until morning. So we continued chatting it up with the Americans and the subject of 'where does one buy toilet paper in this city because we are out' came up. Unbenownst to Barb, she completely jokingly said "Is that why you have toilet paper stuffed in your purse?" I then  had to shamefully pull a wad from out of my pocket and say, "Yes". Your sins will find you out. All to say we followed Il Duoma to find our way back to our place and then I ended up finding a package of toilet paper in the cabinet.
I am in awe of you, you big beauty.

Before this trip I rarely consumed any alcohol. The past 7 years I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding or dealing with some sort of hormonal imbalances making me anxious, crazy, insomniatic or sad that I didn't have any desire to go near a drink unless there was cause for a celebration of some sort. On occasion I would have a glass of wine but usually would have a headache the next day. One night we were sat with some lovely Norwegians at an outdoor trattoria. We ate a delicious meal and drank a bottle of wine. Shortly after dinner we walked around some more and decided we wanted a pizza and tirimisu. So we found a quaint restaurant and got more food and decided to try grappa. Grappa is made from the leftover grape after it's been pressed for wine. According to my father it's what the poor people in Italy used to drink. So one grappa led to another and another. Soon we found ourselves at a bar that we randomly walked by. It was a cute bar on the corner and inside we found drunk American college girls all gathered around the one male Italian bar tender. Never have I been more embarrassed for people's behavior as I was then and there watching typical American drunk college girls act like typical American drunk college girls around this Italian. I know he was in heaven. While Julius and I stood at the bar watching the scene we were only conversing in Italian/Spanish and broken English with each other. My grappa was making me feel overly confident so I decided to approach this group of girls. I put on my heavy thick accent that I learned from my tour guide at the Vatican and asked them if they wanted me to take a picture of them and their bartender boyfriend. Well wouldn't you know, these Americans love someone with an accent and soon they were gathered around me and I was all the rage. I introduced them to my husband who also had a killer accent and we made up an entire story of our life in Spain. Several times I had to pinch him under the bar to come up with an answer because I was drawing blanks on cities in Spain and the names of my 3 Spanish children. One of the girls lived in North Carolina and another one from Orange County, CA, two of the places we have lived. So of course we talked about several places there, making them excited because these Spaniards actually knew about unpopular places and knew directions on how to get from point A to point B. I told them my husband was a geography major, which they bought, and that's why he knew of all these places in the states. They begged us to go to the Lions Den which was a totally touristy American bar full of college kids. So we went, because when drunk American college girls invite you to party with them and you are parents of 3 filled with liquid courage turning you in to con artists, you accept the invitation. We told our female bartender before we left that we were really Americans, because she also bought that we were from somewhere other than America. She looked like she needed some comedic relief since she had to carry the extra load of her bartending partner who was swarmed by inebriated girls. We went to the Lions Den which was also full of drunk male and female college students studying abroad, definitely no locals. There was a boy wearing a Chapel Hill shirt so Julius started telling him players that the typical common folk from Spain wouldn't know, and of course once again, every drunk goes crazy when a foreigner knows something about their homeland. The boy was extremely excited, however not as excited as when I took it upon myself to tell him  "You looka like, how you say, Leonardo Dicaprio" winking and walking away. Being foreign, that is the only American actor I knew. And yes, he was a red head and looked nothing like him. He immediately told his friend and they clinked beer glasses. Julius and I eventually stumbled home arm in arm laughing hysterically like a bunch of school girls back to our place. Fortunately we could see Il Duomo and found our way but obviously stopping for a slice of pizza first. It was late and we had to get up in a few hours to ride vespas around Tuscany. I was laughing so hard in bed to myself and could not stop that I had to take a double dose of xanax to relax and fall asleep. Do as I say not as I do, but when in Rome Florence...

So a few hours later we awoke and hopped in a van and rode to Tuscany. "But Carey," you say "didn't you feel crummy after a night like that and only getting a few hours of sleep?"  Thank you for your concern and to answer your question, No. The quality of everything is actually quality, unlike we have here. In Estados Unidos I can't eat bread without feeling like I need to take a nap or it giving me an uneasy pit in my stomach. There I ate bread and pizza and drank wine to my hearts content without ever feeling bad, but that is not what I am here to talk about. Back to the rolling hills. We drove our vespas all over the country side and then went back to a Castle winery and did a wine tour and tasting. After that we went to Piazza Michelangelo back in Florence and hiked back down to our apartment to get ready for dinner. Our whole trip everyone kept asking us if we were on our honeymoon. Everyone was shocked when we told them it was our 10 year anniversary because we "look so young." They clearly didn't get close enough to see the crows feet and years of sun damage.  We decided to up it a notch and start telling people when they asked if this was our honeymoom that it was really our 20 year anniversary and that we got married when we were 12 and slept in bunkbeds for the first 6 years of marriage.

Oh Florence, you have a piece of my heart.

The next day we took a train and headed to the coast. We got dropped off in Vernazza, the fourth of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre. We ate lunch on the water and then went swimming because it was blimmin hot and I felt like I was going to pass out during lunch. Everything is outside and Italy was having a crazy heat wave. We climbed on rocks and jumped off cliffs. The first time I jumped I needed coaching because as I got to the ledge I would get panicked. And by needing coaching I mean I was getting coached by my better half but really wanted him to leave me alone because I didn't need a pep talk. I just wanted to jump when I wanted to jump. Anyway we had dinner in the square and met a couple from the Netherlands to which we hit it off with. Wednesday night they have live music so we danced the night away in the square and it felt like a dream.

My cousin Isolda who I hadn't seen since I was in Costa Rica 12 years prior, was now living back in Italy and on her holiday in the same region as us. Her and her boyfriend Luca took a train to Vernazza and we spent the day together eating, drinking, swimming and climbing to the top of the castle. T'was so good to see her and meet him. After they left. Julius and I wanted to paddle board. Unfortunately it was too choppy so we had to take out a kayak. This was lovely, that is of course before I felt like I was going to throw up as the water got choppier. The older I get the easier I get nauseated and dizzy. Can I get a witness? Anywho, we ate dinner and walked around a little bit more and found an alley stairway we wanted to explore. Who did we run in to in the alley but Barb and Annie from our restaurant in Florence. It was so exciting. Just when we were about to call it a night, a turn of events had us at a little bar conversing with our favorite Americans.

Here one may look upon our pink apartment and also upon the yellow kayaks in the water which had me nearly puking my brains out. The castle in the top right was used to keep a lookout for Turkish pirates, back in the day. Everyone would flee to the hills.

One day we hiked from Vernazza to the next town over, Monterossa. The hike was incredibly beautiful. On the trail we found an old man who was squeezing oranges and selling fresh squeezed OJ. Another man had a table set up selling jewlery. I am pretty sure both those men were set up illegally on the trail, but my jewelry I wear daily holds near and dear to my heart and I will thank the men for breaking laws. We came back and went swimming. That night we ate at a restaurant right off a cliff, it was pretty crazy amazing. After we got in for the night there was an incredible thunderstorm. Our windows were open and since our apartment was in the middle of the square every time the lightning struck you would hear the old Italian men hootin' and hollering. It was very moving to watch all the people working together to help each other bring in all the boats and shut down the places and take cover. The next morning it continued to rain and the setting seemed like a completely different place. We walked to the train station in the pouring rain and hopped on the train back to Rome. It was a good day to leave Cinque Terre.

 We trained it back to Rome and had a night time Colosseum tour set up, but we missed it because our hotel shuttle was running behind. It was ok though, I think by this time we were worn out. We enjoyed walking around that part of Rome, saw the Colosseum but did not endure a 3 hour tour. Besides, we were going home and out of time to mimic anyones accent again on the trip. The next day we said sadly goodbye to the Motherland. The last time I was in Italy I was a child who was attention starved and all I cared about was putting on a performance for my Italian relatives. This time, when I first arrived all I had cared about was the food. As I left, I was even more obsessed with food and craving to know the crap out of  history. I was in such awe of every beautiful thing I saw and I was not satisfied just looking at it, I wanted to know who built what and for what reason and the story behind everything. Maybe I am not as shallow as I presumed myself to be.
If I am going to be vain and put skank bathing suit pictures up, then expect to see ugly sleeping pics as well. Also, we may have kissed our way across Italy but I am also happy to report that we did have one major knock down drag out fight at the end. I should expect nothing less, we are Italians and it's what we do.

Once landing, reality quickly set in. We had envisioned our children running up to us as we walked down the arrival international ramp. We got nothing from them, except fighting over who was going to help push the luggage, which led to screaming. I was used to quiet and calm the previous 10 days that I literally couldn't take it. I needed one child introduced at a time. The drive home I told my parents I needed a vacation and contemplated jumping out of the moving vehicle.

Julius and I fought depression over the next week because it seemed like we had just lived a dream. Living so lavishly and selfishly was easy. We could not except reality, I could not pick up my purse even to just move it onto a chair without my daughter screaming thinking I was leaving her again. But alas, as with everything, time heals all wounds. I was drawn to anyone with an accent and wanted all new friends who were not from the states. I followed some Russian women around Costco trying to befriend them because they weren't speaking English. I loved my dad even more because of his Italian accent and wanted my mom to only speak to me in Italian. I respected our Danish friends here even more. Eventually though, we were back in the groove and so thankful  to have had the opportunity to have gotten away in this busy stage of life. Literally I saw the entire trip as a gift from the Lord. We were blessed with this amazing experience and totally undeserving. So many things could have gone wrong but the trip went so absolutely smooth. My parents sacrificing their life and time is also something I feel overwhelmed with.

Anyway I wanted to write some tidbits from this trip because I have had many a friend and neighbor ask me about it and it's been too overwhelming to talk about that I want to change the subject. But honestly, I have an issue even posting this. There is so much poverty and tragedy and evil and sadness in our world that I feel like a spoiled rotten brat talking about some stupid vacation as if it has any importance. I know this world is not my permanent residence and I don't want to ever hold my grip too tight. True joy only comes from the Father in heaven. Hallelujah this world is not our final destination.

Even so, come Lord Jesus come.

Arrivederci Roma...

If you are in Charlotte and want a pizza as close to one from Italy as possible, we have found that the Margherita pizza from TRUE crafted pizza gets it. For that I love and support them.

1 comment:

  1. You are hot...can't wait to take you back there. Next week? Nice writing mama.