Wednesday, 12.8.04: Home from Italy
We are home. Always a good place to be.
It is Tuesday at 5:30 A.M. Even though we had a grueling day yesterday, our body woke us up at 3 AM -- 9 AM in Italy.
I am looking around at at all the scattered bits of travel gear that needs putting away, yet also trying to cling to that Italia feeling. I will write up a trip journal, get photos and videos organized, but it feels like I should simply sit here and reflect for a few minutes.
I wanted Italy to change me somehow. Did it?
I might come to different conclusions when the full picture of our two weeks is laid out, but here are my first post-vacation thoughts.
But first: Judging Italy from the historic districts of Rome, Florence, and Venice is like judging the United States from a museum-hopping holiday in Manhattan. However, like brave Manhattan tourists, we did learn to jam ourselves into crowded subways and rub asses with the masses.
Weather: "Vacationing in Italy" sounds warm and sunny. It wasn't. Rome is on the same latitude as Rochester -- the days now are short. The skies were gloomy, with occasional showers. The daytime temperature hovered in the 50s --not frigid, really, unless you packed for "sunny." Jim should have had a thermal undershirt. I finally bought gloves. Still, all the sidewalk cafes were open and Italians in black quilted coats and pashmina scarves sat outside with their espressos and cigarettes, yakking on their cell phones. But the advantage of winter is no crowds.
Breathtaking: the Pantheon, Michelangelo's David, Sistine Chapel, Venice in every way
Surprising: I didn't expect to find my roots in Italy, beyond my passion for pasta. But finding my Catholic roots caught me by surprise. I have never looked to the Pope or the Vatican as my "source." But all that Catholic art, with its vivid storytelling -- stories I grew up with -- made me feel Catholic, made me remember that dormant part of my identity.
Italians: Not the gushing friendly stereotype. I found them generally aloof, occasionally snooty -- maybe because we are imperialist Americans; maybe because they are prosperous Europeans with a currency that's kicking our ass. Or maybe it was simply because we couldn't speak Italian and they love to talk.
Food: Always good but we are not true "foodies." We would walk and walk till we were about to drop then would enter the nearest restaurant that looked like it had table service, so we could order off a menu and not act like idiots pointing and grunting at the food in the more common cafes. Jim hasn't weighed in yet, but for me, the constant walking offset the mounds of pasta and pizza pies. (Oh, yes, they do have pizza in Italy. Rome and parts north -- paper thin crust.) Wine: The house Chianti Classico was just fine with me.
Re-entry: I went away feeling restless and tired of my routine. I wanted Italy to change me somehow. Did it? I cleaned out some brain clutter: no TV, no radio, no newspapers, no internet. I blanked out all things American and immersed myself in the new surroundings. In the empty space, in the sleepless hours when my body was still on New York time, I didn't think momentous thoughts or develop inspiring goals. I played word games with myself -- composed haiku and limericks. Maybe that -- plus filling my eyes with Western civilization's greatest art -- is enough.