While Rome was not my first choice of places to visit in Italy, I tended to agree with the sentiment; ‘If you are going to Italy, you should see Rome’. So see Rome I did. Well, some of it anyway. One of the reasons that I wasn’t real interested in the city was I knew that it was going to be very busy, congested, loud, crowded, lots of traffic, did I mention lots of people?!? I am not a crowd type of person. I don’t have the patience for it. Nor do I like feeling as though I am part of a herd of cattle. I don’t like the ‘every man for himself’ concept of pushing and shoving. I don’t like the rudeness that it brings out in myself as a result of this. I just plain don’t like crowds.
That being said, I did venture to the Vatican City but I did not go into the Vatican Museums, or Saint Peter’s Basilica. I do regret not going inside St. Peter’s however. I did go to some of the other well known areas, but I didn’t stick around long. We don’t have public transportation where I live other than the train so it isn’t something that I am familiar with. I use Public transportation very little when I travel because I would much rather walk around a city. I would much rather get a feel for the area by walking through it and seeing it, smelling it, close up. You can’t do that from a bus, or a subway. So I didn’t use it very much while in Rome. I did however take a bus one day when returning from the Victor Emmanuel Monument and that made for a fun ‘side trip’, and I am being sarcastic here. It is funny now, it was not at the time.
My travels in Rome were 95% what I was able to do on foot from our apartment located 1 block off Piazza del Popolo. Now, if you have read any of my Blog up to this point, you know that I have Multiple Sclerosis and it does limit me. Two of the biggest hurdles is my not being able to lift my left leg more than 2 inches off the ground and my having to look at the ground while I am walking. Both of these things require a lot of extra effort and strength/energy on my part. Especially the leg, as it tires, it becomes very difficult to walk. I knew going into this vacation that there would be a lot of walking regardless if I used public transportation or not. That is the nature of Italy. I knew that there would be a lot of uneven pavement, hills, stairs etc. I knew that it was going to be physically challenging for me and I likened it to Old Montreal, Quebec. So I was somewhat prepared for the challenge, but it proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I anticipated. It meant my having to go back to the apartment, in each city, to rest that darn leg.
The day I leave for my dream trip to Italy, the day I have been waiting 43 years for, let the adventure begin!!! The real dream is of course Venice. But before I can get to Venice, I must go through Rome and Florence.
September 18, 2015, Day 1
I decided to work a half day so that I wasn’t just sitting around in anticipation because our flight wasn’t until 6:25 P.M. Of course, I didn’t get much work done today before leaving to drive to The Boy’s house and wait for our limo to take us to the airport. Once at the airport we settled in to wait for our flight. Dennie, being Dennie, engaged different people in conversation while we waited, one couple in particular who were retired Missionaries. Once the boarding process was complete we started to back out from our gate. Unfortunately, we didn’t go very far, I mean we didn’t even back out all the way before stopping. Soon afterward, the Captain announced that there was going to be a delay due to a large storm and at this time, he didn’t know for how long. Soon after that, we heard the engines shut down. What? Once again he announced the delay and that since there was no time frame for when we would leave, rather than waste fuel, the engines were shut down. He did say that we could get up and use our portable electronic devices. After about an hour he asked everyone to return to their seats and we at least made it out of the gate before stopping once again, with the same announcement and then the engines shutting down once again. We sat for 2 hours before getting the go ahead. Spending 3 hours on the plane (priority boarding) before even beginning our 9 plus hour flight was not how anyone wants to start a trip. The flight was very rough for most of the journey. After dinner was served, cleared away and the after dinner beverages were served, they turned off the cabin lights so that people could sleep. I didn’t eat the meal offered, I ate half of the peanut butter sandwich I brought with. Just as I finally nodded off about an hour later, I was awakened by a Flight Attendant asking over the speaker, if there was a Doctor on board and if so, would they find the closest Flight Attendant. Oh no…..an elderly lady was on the floor outside the bathroom for a very long time before being brought back to her seat a few rows in front of us. I never was able to fall back asleep.
As we approached the airport in Rome, the emotion began to well up inside. As we touched down, there were a few tears. Not because I was in Rome, but because I had finally made it to Italy. I was overwhelmed by my emotions and this would happen once inside the airport and as we left the airport and drove to our apartment. I wondered what I’d be like once I got to Venice? We were being met by a driver that would take us to our home for the next 3-1/2 days, but first, we had to navigate Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport and figure out where the meeting point was, get our luggage and go through Customs. All 3 of us simply walked up to the Customs Official after waiting our turn, they stamped our Passports and we were on our way. No questions, nothing. So far so good. Now to look for “The Meeting Point” outside the baggage area and someone standing with a sign with my name on it. At this point I was very thankful for Richard and his presence of mind and being able to stay focused on our task. That’s another of my MS problems, being able to process a lot of stimuli very well. I just followed his lead, trying to also keep an eye on Dennie as he wandered with camera in hand taking pictures. We followed the crowds onto a tram and eventually found The Meeting Place, yes that’s what it is called and is marked as such, and after passing by many, many drivers, Richard found the sexy young Italian man we were looking for 🙂 We were on our way to our apartment shortly after that!!!
The walls of the Vatican City. People waiting in line outside the Vatican City walls waiting to enter – this arch is not the entrance. This is the former entrance, it is now the exit of the Vatican Museums. This line extends around the walls and the interior of Saint Peter’s Square. They start lining up in the early morning.
We were met by Emanuele and it was nice to finally meet him after having corresponded quite a bit in the last 6 months. He was so nice and very soft spoken, not at all what I expected from a young Italian, I had to keep asking him to repeat himself because he was so quiet and my ears were still plugged from the flight. Our apartment was on the third flood, that’s the fourth floor for those of us in the US. Thankfully there was an elevator, a very, very tiny elevator. Emanuele said that the maximum was 2 people with one suitcase. He also showed us the ‘people elevator’. Our tiny elevator – 2 people maximum and no luggage allowed in this one. Not that there was room for any. It was barely 3 feet wide and no more than 4 or 5 feet long. The picture shows the inside doors, that you pushed in, taking up much of what little room there was inside. There was an outer door that open outward making the whole process of getting in and out, awkward because none of the doors stayed open, they were heavy and you had to hold each one open because they automatically slammed shut. There were a few times that Dennie and I got “stuck” getting in or out , ha ha. But it always worked and much better than climbing the 4 flights of stairs, like the energetic and fit Richard did. Elevators are a luxury in Italy. Because of the age of the buildings, and preserving them, many buildings are not allowed to install an elevator. So this was a welcome addition to our apartment building.
The apartment was everything that it had been shown to be on the website. There were in fact 2 separate terraces that provided stunning views of the area. The kitchen and ensuite closet off of my room also offered fantastic views.
This was extremely fascinating and something I had been trying to envision since I first found this apartment on line. I couldn’t begin to figure out from the photo that had been shown, how in the world you would use these ‘stairs’. Upon seeing them in person, I could no more understand how to navigate them. Emanuele showed a willing Richard how to do it, and they both went up and Emanuele showed Richard how to use the washing machine and dryer. Believe me, it did not look like anything that could in any way be something you’d want to do on a regular basis. How you would do it carrying a load of laundry is beyond me! I gave Richard props for being brave enough to try it. But then, as I said, he is energetic and very fit 🙂
As suggested by Rick Steves, we did not take a nap but instead made our way outside to explore a bit. There was some kind of event going on in the Piazza del Popolo centering around pets from what we could gather. There was a live band and lots of activity. But first, we needed to get something to eat. They boys were quite hungry and I oddly enough, was not very. This would continue to be the norm for the rest of the trip much to my chagrin! We ate at a local place that Emanuele had suggested opting for the buffet. Unfortunately, nothing was marked as to what it was, not that we would have been able to read it anyway. We guessed on what we were putting on our plates, took the plate to have it weighed, you were charged by the kilogram, and sat down to eat. If only we really knew exactly what we were eating. These were my choices, but I didn’t eat all of any of anything sadly. It was all good, but again, I just didn’t have much of an appetite, and goodness knows, this has never been a problem for me! Especially sweets, for me not to finish something sweet? Unheard of!
After we ate we went back to the Piazza and walked around a bit and by this time it was close to 6:00. The day was quite warm when we arrived in Rome, but as the sun began its journey across the sky toward sunset, the temperature cooled and it was absolutely glorious outside. This time of the day also meant one very important thing… Passaggiata had begun!! We joined the throngs of people walking down Via Del Corso for our very first Passaggiata. We walked as far as the Spanish steps and sat by the fountain for a bit. The steps were of course, filled with people. Dennie decided to continue to explore the area and was going to check out the Metro. Neither Richard or I wanted to spend the beautiful evening underground, so we walked back toward the apartment. We stopped in a gelato shop for our first taste of real Italian gelato. Yes, we should have done this at the beginning of the walk, but well, we were just beginners.
Richard and I returned to the apartment and waited for Dennie to return. We began to worry when he wasn’t back at 9:00 and went back outside and thankfully, found him wandering down our street. We called it a day as it had been a long one for sure! Actually, we were on our second day really. The boys went to bed but I stayed up for another few hours sitting outside on the terrace off my room. The band was still going strong and continued until a little past midnight when I finally decided to call it a night as well. I really should get some sleep so that I am ready for the day tomorrow.