When I watch a program about places such as the Vatican, Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, how Rome was built as well as places like Saint Mark’s Square or the Doge’s Palace, I certainly appreciate the grandeur, the beauty and the history. I am taken aback by the power and wealth that built them. I marvel at the engineering that went into these places so long ago. I am amazed that despite being 2000 years old, their ideas are the basis for structures still today with all of our advances. And there it ends. It leaves me cold. I don’t think about it much after that.
On the other hand, last year I watched a special filmed in the (what was)forgotten town of Matera, I watched the slow reincarnation of this ancient town by some of its young inhabitants whose ancestors once lived in these cave dwellings. I have watched women in the Umbria region walking through a field picking the tiny Saffron flower. I watched a woman work a loom hundreds of years old, the same loom her ancestors used. I watched artisans repairing mosaic pieces from local churches in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence, one tiny piece by tiny piece. I watched a proprietor cut huge pieces of beef, cook each one himself and serve it with such pride in his tiny dining room. These things made me feel. They move me. They speak to me. They create a warmth in my soul. They make me misty eyed. They make me have to experience Italy.
I mentioned in my last post that I am feeling a bit unprepared for my trip, despite my having had a very long time to prepare. I am an experienced traveler as a my friend Deb pointed out, so why am I feeling like this? Why do I feel like I am not ready, and unorganized?
I think in part it is because the trip has taken so many turns since its inception I have been all over the place so to speak, in what to do and where to go. I’ve had a list of places to visit, that I would need months to actually get to . I needed to make myself focus on exactly where I am going, along with taking into account, my fellow travel companions and what they want to do.
We have had some discussion as we don’t all 3 necessarily want to do all the same things. Which of course, is fine. I have always said that we can do different things on our trip and we’ll meet up at some point during the day. We are after all, 3 people with 3 individual interests. Think of how much more we can cover should we actually go in 3 separate directions? We will of course do many things together and have a great time doing so and create many memories. I can’t wait to make mistakes together and then laugh about them at the end of the day over a glass of wine. Remember getting in the elevator and not pushing any buttons when we were in New York Sandy? We were too busy laughing about something, got in the elevator with some people, they got off and we stood there wondering why we weren’t moving. More laughing at our being so silly! I can’t wait to share with The Boys my excitement for this country that I feel so very passionate about.
I have been consistent from the get go with those that were going to join me, in that seeing major historical sight after sight has not been my priority. While I understand the rich history of Italy is an intricate part of the country, I would much rather explore the cities on my own. I’m sure I will see plenty of history that way. I can listen to guidebooks on my tablet as I walk the streets. We all agree on this to a point, but I think I am the least interested in the number of sights to see of the 3 of us.
While I plan on returning many times to Italy, and eventually getting to all the places that I want to see, there is of course, no guarantee of that. Because of how I feel about this place, how it has seeped into my soul, I cannot fathom going and not experiencing the real Italy. I simply cannot spend the bulk of my time inside of, albeit magnificent, churches, basilicas, museums etc. I can’t imagine myself rushing from one place to the next trying to fit it all in. I can’t imagine the trip being all about the buildings that I saw. I just cannot. If this is my one and only chance to get to Italy, it has to be to fulfill this long dream and it has to involve the things that touch me so deeply. It has to.
Why is that so hard for people to understand?
I visited a Travel Agent last year who told me that I pretty much couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do while in Italy. I sure couldn’t just wander around Rome, I had to join a tour group. I was told you cannot visit the Vatican or any place else unless you join a tour group. I couldn’t just walk around Venice either, I’d get lost. When I said that was the plan, that too wasn’t advised. I shouldn’t spend 6 days in Venice because there isn’t enough to do there. Once you see St. Mark’s there isn’t much else to do. Wow….. how sad for her and anyone who pays for her advice!
I have been hearing so often what I ‘have to do, must see, must visit…’ while on my trip. Key word here would be ‘my’ trip. This is my vacation. This has been my dream for 43 years. It isn’t someone else’s vacation or their dream. I don’t have to do or see anything that I don’t want to. I have spent too much time trying to figure out which can’t miss spots I should see. How to schedule in every must see museum. I started to fall into the, ‘I’m going to be in Rome, I have to visit the Vatican don’t I?’ Actually, as far as I’m concerned, I have wasted too much time and now that the time is almost here, I feel a bit unprepared. But I needn’t be as much of what I want to do, doesn’t require detailed planning and timing and scheduling. I have an idea of what areas of each city I want to explore and what sights I do want to see in those areas and have a loose plan that revolves around that.
What I don’t see is McDonald’s or any other fast food establishment. Yes, they are there . But I’m sure Italians are not the people spending their hard earned money eating there. The tourists are, and perhaps the young Italians. I’m sure it is the last place any Italian would consider eating. I shudder at the pictures I’ve seen of huge cruise ships obstructing the views in Venice and the damage they are doing. I don’t see gimmicky restaurant windows advertising their food. I don’t see are buses, cars and Vespas all fighting for their square foot of space in busy streets. I know that all of this exists. I know that there will be crowds and traffic to deal with in each city that we’ll be visiting. At the same time, I do have the option of not spending all my time in these places. I can do my best to avoid these places, or at least minimize the time I spend in them.
To be honest, I don’t see Rome at all and didn’t from the beginning of this whole thing. Shocking right? I can hear the audible gasps now. The last thing that I want to do on any vacation, is to shuffle along, shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other people inside a hot building or anywhere else for that matter. I don’t like crowds period. Never have and I don’t do well with crowds. So guess what? The Vatican? The Coliseum? The Forum? I don’t plan on doing those things. Again, more gasps. Now before you go and get yourselves all huffy with indignation of ‘how in the world can Rae even consider going to a place like Rome and not see these things?’ Rest assured I will be seeing plenty of sights, don’t you worry about that. However, most of them are going to be on my own terms and don’t require a tour guide. I’ll see the Pantheon. I’ll see St. Peter’s. I’ll see the Florence Cathedral. I’ll see the Academia Museum. I’ll see St. Mark’s Square. I’ll see the Doge’s Palace. I’ll see these and several other things. There are audible guides to assist in what I am seeing, I won’t be missing out completely. I’ll also see things that probably the average tourist won’t take the time to or have the time to after their arranged tours are finished and/or they need to rush back to those monstrosities known as cruise ships.
If I can’t spend my days wandering side streets, poking my head into local shops and markets, eating in local bars and cafes, interacting with people, I will be devastated.
When I envision Italy, what I see are the canals in Venice. I see back Calli with a Pasticceria. I see Piazza’s with children playing. I see small hill towns in Tuscany. Rolling hills, little villages. I see the cobbler working at his cobbler stand on a pair of handcrafted leather shoes. I see the man hunched over at his workbench carving something out of wood. Permesso di Guardare? I see locals standing around a small cafe laughing, eating and talking. I see women carrying their groceries home from the local market and stopping to gossip along the way. I see the clotheslines hanging from buildings adorned with residents laundry. I see rocky coast lines with small colorful boats bobbing in the water, just waiting to set out for a days work. I see men repairing their fishing lines by hand. These are the things that I see when I see Italy in my dreams. I will take part in the Passeggiata or two or three ……
If you have been reading any of my blog about Italy, you’ll understand what is important to me and what I want to do on this trip. Again, there is no guarantee that I will be able to return to Italy. Because of that, I will not spend the 2 weeks that I have this year, that I have waited 43 years for, doing all those touristy things that every other person going to Rome, Florence and Venice are there to do. None of those things are anywhere in any of the dreams that I have had. None of those things are what make me feel connected to Italy. None of those things have ever crossed my mind when I’ve thought about this trip. Go back a few paragraphs, the things that I talk about seeing, those are the things that fill my mind and embody my soul.
Certainly if I am able to return, I will consider doing all those touristy things that so many people think that I need to do. But this trip? This year? It is going to be spent experiencing as much of the real Italy that I possibly can in such a short period of time. This is vacation. It shouldn’t be about schedules and having to be in any one place at any one time for any given amount of time.
This is Italy afterall.
La Dolche Vita!
La Dolche Far Niente.