To tell the truth, being such a Francophile I had been more excited to see France. Weirdly enough I had absolutely no expectations about Italy. So please excuse the rest of this post where I positively gush over the country, mkay? I think I'm in love.
Our cruise ship landed in the beautiful city of La Spezia. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about La Spezia, not that it wasn't one of the prettiest cities I'd ever been in (it was) , it was just that I hadn't booked any specific excursion so instead some of us just wandered around the city and took a few pictures. Had I not been a Janie-come-lately, I probably could have gone to Florence or visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where I undoubtedly would have taken the "I'm holding up the tower!" picture. But travel is tough when everyday is another city and you don't want to sleep for fear of missing out on anything. So instead my immediate family and I decided to get off the boat and explore the city on our own. And my god, who wouldn't want to live here?
So the only thing of note in La Spezia, other than the fact that it was breathtaking, was that my brother bought pesto from a vending machine there. Yep, pesto, from a vending machine, in a jar. I don't know if he's had it yet, but we all thought it was a bit odd, even for Italy. Although if they had a cannoli vending machine I might change my mind...
La Spezia was just an appetizer because the next day we had the full course meal of ROME! 45 of the 52 members of my group went on a private Rome excursion so that we could see the main sights of the city in the short time before we had to get back on the ship. And here's where the gushing begins folks, because Rome is the most beautiful place I've ever been to in my life and anyone who tells you otherwise is crazy and should be committed immediately for their sake and the sake of others.They are a danger to society.
Colosseum which was breath-taking but sadly we didn't have enough time to go inside. There was a tour guide assigned to us, a cute little Italian guy by the name of Johnny, but he mainly just read out of a book. So the poor dude was being ignored while we took pictures and stared up at the beautiful thing. Sorry Johnny, but ancient architecture won out over your cute but stilted presentation.
And thank god for the new cell phone I got right before the trip, which took great pictures and which I was lucky enough not to drop into the ocean during my travels.
There are a few things about Rome, before I go on. Please, if you can help it, do not go during summer time. When I was there it was 95 degrees with a heat index of well over 100 in a crowded city with a whole lot of asphalt. Also our main tour bus we transferred to was a double decker with limited space at the bottom, so those of us who were not elderly baked up in the hot sun while gaping at all the beauty all around us. It was still gorgeous, but it would have been better had I not been slowly cooking. And with that Italian sun, even the sunscreen didn't help, I had the burned shoulders to prove it. The great thing about being up there though was gawking at all the buildings. Each building had beautiful statues and ornaments on it, and each, I'm sure, had a story behind it. One day in Rome simply isn't enough to take it all in.
Also, there were many statues set in the buildings and there's a word for those, but I can't remember what they're called and it's driving me NUTS. If you know, please tell me in the comments section and you will be my friend forever.
Another thing about Rome was the street hawkers. They all sell hats and umbrellas but they're all the same hats and umbrellas which is kind of perplexing since you have 10 people catcalling you to buy the same thing everybody else is selling. We did end up getting an umbrella for my mother (she's extremely fair-skinned and sun causes her to, you know, burst into flames). It was surprisingly well made, so at least there was that. But for the most part we ignored them.
After a few other stops, we stopped to get some pizza al taglio from a small set of restaurants right before we went to the Vatican. Pizza is not exactly sold by the slice as it is sometimes here, but by the cut. You indicate how much you want, they cut it from overall pizza, it's weighed and you pay by the weight. I don't exactly know the name of the pizza I had, only that it had the freshest cheese I've ever had in my life and also, that I am now ruined for other pizzas. Damn you Italy!And again, I'm generally not one to take pictures of my food, but when in Rome...
Afterwards we all had to use the restroom, so our tour guide led us to a nearby Hard Rock Cafe store where a lovely young lady by the name of Francesca let us use their bathrooms and also gave us free bottles of water. Everyone there was super sweet and suspiciously good-looking. And I do have to say that about most people we met during our adventure. Everyone was very kind. Whoever said that Europeans don't treat Americans well must have been jerks, because in Spain, France and Italy, everyone was simply awesome.
I bought a T-shirt (of course) which I found much to my chagrin, was too small, probably due to the fact that I'd been well fed all week. Ah well, it's a good incentive to lose weight.
Finally we made it to the Vatican. Again, lack of time made it impossible for us to see it on the inside but apparently the Pope was in, even though he wasn't addressing anyone at the moment. Still it was cool to think he was inside there, living his best Pope life and dreaming his best Pope dreams. The outside of the Vatican was extremely crowded with tourists and even more street sellers than the Colosseum - and man, some of them were a bit aggressive. At least I was able to have my picture taken in front of the Vatican and I wasn't even struck by lightning. (I know, I know I'm surprised too...)
After the Vatican we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. To my dismay I found I only had an American penny to throw in and I'm not quite sure how much karma that was going to buy me. Given the exchange rate, probably not much. In fact, I'm probably going to receive a collection notice from the cosmic universe with that offering. So much for good luck!
It was with melancholy relief when we got off the tour bus and onto the regular bus that drove us back to the ship. Melancholy because we were leaving the most beautiful city in the world, and relief because the bus was air conditioned and heat exhaustion was setting in. But I wouldn't have traded this trip for the world. My only regret is that I didn't have time to see more. After all Rome wasn't built in a day, and therefore that's no way to see it.
Next up: Naples and the long, sad trip home.