Contrary to what some of my less travel-curious friends may think, I got much more than just an apron depicting full-frontal biblical character, David, in all of his marble glory during my eight day stay in one of the most fascinating and historical places on earth. I got a headful of interesting and useful facts that I can use to finally compete in a game of Trivial Pursuit: The Country Version. Not only that, but Rome, Italy and surrounding cities are everything I’d imagined them to be AND a bag of chips.
- In a city of approximately three million of the most gracious, benevolent people I may have ever met, it is also home to the smallest country, Vatican City. A country consisting of approximately nine hundred residents and three thousand employees, it is on record as the smallest country on earth, one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City. I could explain how and why this all happened, as originally, Vatican City was considered a part of Rome, but I’d have to say it in Italian and I’m guessing my audience is not fluent at this time.
- My grasp of the rich and gorgeous Italian language has grown from simply “ciao” (hello, goodbye) and “toilette” (toilet, bathroom, potty), to “prego” (your welcome), “grazi” (thank you), and “bella” (beautiful). Naturally I heard the latter a great deal while on holiday there. My “fabuloso” (fabulous) new leather purse felt like butter and looks like I spent “mucho denaro” (much money). The Italian people may not have found my face to be awe inspiring, however, I did find an amazing leather store while in Florence to brag about.
- The aqua there is the most lovely tasting spring water I have ever encountered. According to my sources from YAHOO! Answers, Rome has the best water in all of Europe. So there you go! As a side note, I believe I look years younger as well.
- The people are passionate about their art, food, wine and driving. Yikes. Art is just phenomenal…one cannot be skittish either, as the human body is most assuredly art. I can say I learned a thing or two about the male mind AND body. The food is fantastic from the most plain of salads with lettuce, tomatoes, olives and mozzarella to the more intricate raviolis with squid ink ricotta cheese and prosciutto. The wine is also incredible, and I don’t typically love wine. A five euro bottle of wine will not only get you pleasantly drunk, but in an emotional state I like to call heaven on earth. It’s that wonderful. The driving…well, let’s just say each person I was fortunate enough to drive with knew the size of their vehicles extremely well. Also, painted lines on roadways, AKA lanes, aren’t necessarily used as boundaries between vehicles, and definitely not for motorcycles, who go wherever, whenever they fit.
- No one is shy about the penis – whether in a conversation, amid the architecture, displayed on paintings, on the streets or in the museums of Rome and Florence, the beat goes on. However, while in the churches, cathedrals and Vatican City there are dress codes. Bare shoulders and any skin above knees must be covered. Shawl and scarf vendors have a niche beside the more famous of these. Genius, I tell you.
- Michelangelo’s “David”, of David and Goliath fame, hangs out in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence (less than two hour train ride from Rome). NOW THAT’S A MAN! Or a work of unbelievable artistic genius, rather…I meant. And I’m not just talking about size here. Regardless, I shall be weary about bringing my souvenir apron to show my second grade CCD classes when we cover David and Goliath during our Bible story time.
- Here’s a fun fact: Women’s lines to the toilette are just as long, if not longer, in Rome. The men whiz in and out as usual while we, the child containers, resulting in heavily-bladder-affected women must simply stand and move slowly. Much like cows to milking we shuffle to a small room with maybe two stalls. Each appears made for a fit, petite woman. Seat covers? Ha. Squat or get wet with unidentifiable urine. Half the time there are no seats with which to sit, if you do that sort of thing. Great for your thighs though!
- St. Ignatius is AWESOME. And so is his church. The frescos there are unbelievable. They appear to be coming straight off the ceilings as the 3-D effect painted by Andrea Pozzo is no less than astounding. His illusionistic technique will blow your mind. A Jesuit himself, he made legendary Jesuits, along with biblical stories come to life on the ceiling of this historic church. I’m in love, yet again!
- And Pompeii! Holy volcano, Batman! This place is archeologically, structurally and socioeconomically so significant, not to mention very cool. These Romans knew several things: how to party, how to build shit and how to care for ALL people, not just the more well off citizens. These ruins show civilization far advanced than that of ours in ways I don’t even have words for. (Strange, I have so many words usually…and prego). When Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 it completely destroyed the largely seaside vacation city of Pompeii, covering it with volcanic ash while moving the body of water south two miles. What remains is the shell of what defined life in those times. From brothels to farms to homes with prominent wealth and the more common folk, Pompeii represents all that was decent about humanity while fitting in what was seen as okay in a civilization that looked at men and their needs as not so terribly different than they do even today. The brothel had a fresco menu showing sexual position selections, much like Burger King, so men could literally have it their way. I kid you not! On another note, there are actual people and animals found in positions befitting the panic and fear of this eruption just prior to them being covered and burned with this deadly volcanic ash. Pompeii is still half covered with volcanic ash, which they have left for future generations to uncover. History came alive for me in Pompeii.
- I went through my own personal hell to be able to pass through heaven. Yes, I did. The Amalfi Coast and Positano are the most gorgeous sites I may ever see with my eyes half shut, while praying to God that I can hold down my breakfast. This is an area built literally along the Mediterranean Sea amid the cliffs above. It was as breathtaking on the eyes as it was ruthless on my stomach. It took major maneuvering to conquer this raw, beautiful land via van. Our driver was an expert, for sure. I only threw up four times. I’m afraid it could have been worse with a mere novice at the wheel. Next time, rather than omit this heavenly paradise from my list, I shall be airdropped directly to Positano’s beach front, preferably in a lounge chair with a limoncello in wait.
Those who know me even a tiny bit, know there is probably so much more I have to say, yet I shall cease for now. Jet lag is a curse that compels me to eat carbs in the form of bread and chocolate. Just let it be known that the world is a vast and magical place. As my friend, Michelangelo said, “I am still learning”. We are but a grain of sand to the whole of it. You may quote me.