It’s been a long time! The story picks up with a trip to Italy! Some of you will recall that the last time we decided to go to Italy it was all going swimmingly until My Guy put his passport into the little check-in kiosk at the airport. Across the screen in big letters its says PASSPORT EXPIRED! Redirect. We boarded the next plane to San Francisco. My crisis counseling skills at work. Fast forward 3 1/2 years. We brave planning another trip to Italy. This one even bigger and better.To make it interesting My Guy calls me from the golf course the day before we leave and says YOU HAVE TO COME GET ME NOW!! Stung by ground hornets, just after being bitten by red fire ants, entire body swelling and hives all over, off to Doc in the Box we go letting them know we have an EMERGENCY situation here. They make us wait. And wait. When they finally call My Guy back, they panic and go into emergency mode. intravenous drugs, short of epipen. What part of emergency did they not understand? After my concern for his well being, OF COURSE, my next thoughts are WE ARE NOT GETTING ON THAT PLANE. Italy is not in our destiny. Nope, not happening. Not trying it again. He starts to respond to the medication. Finally, Neanderthal looking forehead begins to go down, eyes start to clear, hives begin to lessen. Prednisone, 3x/day for five days, Zyrtec and epipen, just in case, and they cautiously let him go. Not feeling confident about this trip. We get on the plane. It takes off. High fives.
Layover in Philadelphia. Me being from Allentown and My Guy from Atlantic City, Philadelphia feels like coming home. Even if we never leave the airport. Authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks, a cold beer and football. Saddling up to the bar I hear a couple of Youse Guys and smack talk about the Eagles and Giants. The guy next to me is playing Fantasy Football and making phone calls every few minutes. Serious game, this Fantasy football. Causing him a lot of stress. From outside the window a group gathers to watch the game with cheers and groans. My Guy pays the pleasant female bartender for the meal. She turns around, looks at him, lowers her voice, turns up her chin and says YOU GOOD? Not really a question but a declaration. My Guy throws up his hands, Yeh, I’m Good. No money back needed here. We look to make sure Nunzio isn’t coming out from behind the bar. City of Brotherly Love.
We land in Venice. Let me tell you it’s not easy getting off an overnight international flight and getting on a 45 minute Vaporetto ride into the city. Your legs barely touch the ground when you submerge into a hot, snuggly fit, bottom of a boat. I suppose there are rules of the road but it seemed like boats zigzagging every which way leaving wakes coming from all directions. We disembark, not soon enough, and drag our bags through the streets of Venice looking for our hotel. My Guy holds the specific directions in his hand as we traverse along. And that we do, back and forth. Back and forth. Up and down the steps of the little bridge. Back again. I know the hotel is here he says. We ask at another hotel. She says you walked right by it. We try again. And again. Finally I see a single doorway in a corner with a threshold stone that says Hotel Torino. So here you have to look down to know where you are. We seem to start every trip this way. We get to our destination but can’t seem to get in the door. You’ll recall in Paris we stood outside for half an hour trying the key every which way until we realized it was a fob. The hotel clerk wears a bow tie and asks for our passports. They did this in Venice. Strange way to check in. He says Oh, you were born in 1978, you don’t look that old. Already in love with Italians. He asks us where else we have traveled and tells us he pilgrimages to see the Dali Lama every year. He takes us to our lavender room with low ceilings. You go up steep stairs and duck to get in the door. We’re in a doll house. We stay one night here and then join our Rick Steves My Way Tour. They provide the hotels and transportation, and we are on our own in each city. You have to sign a No Whining contract. Seriously. Weeds out a lot of people. Puts you on your best behavior. You also sign an Anything and Everything can happen clause which you can do absolutely nothing about, so you might as well enjoy yourself. He suggests that you pack lightly, 28 lbs. I am sorry to say I did not take this seriously and felt like I had done a good job at 40 lbs. First of all someone forgot to tell me Italy, with the exception of Venice, is all uphill. Accommodations are old buildings turned into boutique hotels. Their numbering system is such that the first floor is the second floor and so on.
Elevators. Maybe. Always small. Usually you are pulling your luggage up several flights of stairs and then winding around the hallways to your room, last one in the corner. We needed bread crumbs to find our way out again. In Rome our hotel is the fourth floor of the building. Each floor a different hotel. I came away with shin splints. And an extra half size bigger shoe size. I go through Italy the Elizabeth Gilbert way in Eat, Pray, Love. Pasta, bread, gelato and wine every day. Sometimes more than once a day. I ate more of the foods I generally don’t eat in two weeks than in the past year. Ok, well that’s not true about the wine. You know you’re in trouble when the jeans you’ve worn three times are snug. In Venice there are these little Ciccetta (appetizers) bars, unchanged for hundreds of years. It’s a stand-up bar where you choose from plates of appetizers and local wine and beer. People gather there after work to meet with friends before going home or for a quick lunch. We did a Ciccetta bar hop, sampling at a couple of different places.
Marinated octopus, sundried tomatoes wrapped in eggplant, dried and salted cod on polenta and meats and cheeses. Let’s just say this up front so I don’t have to repeat it. The quality of the food, everywhere we went, is so fresh, tender and delicious, it makes our best food seem mediocre. Cheese is creamy. Meat just falls apart in your mouth. Each region is known for certain foods. In Venice we sampled Seppie al Nero, cuttlefish (like squid) served in its own black ink sauce over polenta cakes. We were hesitant about this. Our waiter, Michaele, decided to bring us a sample so we would not be AFRAID, he said. We were hooked. One food I did not get to try was the walnut sauce for pasta. All regions have their own wine. The Cinque Terra lays claim to pesto sauce, saying it was invented there. Trofie, a twisted noodle, was designed to catch just the right amount of pesto in each bite. This area also created Focaccia bread which is sprinkled with olive oil and salt water, unlike what we call Focaccia bread here. It is not as doughy. The bread in Umbria, and I think Tuscany too, is unsalted to bring out the flavor in the foods. Florence is known for its White Cow, Chianina, and BIG T-Bone steaks, Bistecca all Fiorentina. Umbria its truffles. My favorite food was there. Mmmm…mmmm….mmmm. So, we loved the food and have the waistline to prove it, thank you very much. What was even more striking though was that the waiters were PROUD to serve you and invested in the quality of the food. It seems like most businesses have been run for generations by the same families which they inform you of as a stamp of quality. In Greece, as a woman, I felt appreciated by men of all ages. Lovely experience. In Italy I felt respected and an honored guest. Another lovely experience. Never in either country, or France for that matter, did I feel rushed. It’s all about taking your time and being with people. The Italians LOVE people and love to engage. What we learn first about Italians is that they like to look good. It’s what is most important to them we are told. I’ve never seen a white T-shirt and tattered jeans look so good. ALWAYS stylish sunglasses/glasses, shoes and scarves. It goes like this in importance: Looking good, family, region and then country. Italians are very proud of their regions and promote it first over country. And DON’T mess with the family.
Not rushed, EXCEPT for our grueling sightseeing schedule. We basically had a day-and-a-half in each area, and wanted to see and taste all we could. The nighttime Gondola ride when the Grand Canal was still and quiet, the towns of Lake Como, hiking parts of the Cinque Terra, museums, churches, the Vatican and St.Peter’s Basilica. Too too much to detail here. Listening to the beautiful orchestra music and dancing in St. Mark’s Square. We were actually filmed doing that until the camera man busted up laughing when he realized we didn’t know what we were doing. It was fun pretending. There were crowds to negotiate, particularly in the Uffizi Gallery. We used our Rick Steves audio guide there which turned out to be a bust, since all of the art work had been moved and not in order. Then My Guy sneezed. Let me back up here. My Guy has a sneeze that comes from beneath the earth, up through his feet, into his lungs and explodes like Mt. Vesuvius. We have a code when he is about to sneeze. He quickly taps me on the leg or shoulder, which he was doing in the Uffizi, tap, tap, tap, only I thought he wanted my attention to look at something. No, he lets out a sneeze that literally echoed off the walls and ceilings and reverberated through the Uffizi. That the statues did not tumble and pictures come undone is a minor miracle. I would hate for the tour guides to report that to their next group. They talk about the “crazies” who took hammers to famous statues. It would be the crazy guy who sneezed and brought the Uffizi down. Now that I am home, what do I miss about Italy? The SMELL of leather and the bidets. Ha! You thought I was going to say the food.
On rainy days we would duck into a purse shop and just INHALE to pass the time. We had to Google how to use the bidets. The water pressure wasn’t always great, and I couldn’t quite grasp the concept. Here it is. You fill the bowl and splish splash whatever areas need attention then towel dry. Can’t find a wash cloth in all of Italy but you do have your bidets and drying towel. There is something comforting about sinking your bottom into a warm soak after walking many, many miles a day.
And there you have it. Italy.
As always…. All my best, and Goodnight from Greenville, Dyanne
Dyanne is an inner wisdom coach, psychotherapist, writer, mind-body healer, Integrative Yoga Therapy teacher, certified “Journal-to-the SELF” instructor and creator of https://www.holywhollyholey.comhelping women heal and step into their power. She is the author of the ebook, “Holey Path to Holy Living: A Women’s Path to Healing and Freeing Sacred Feminine Power,” which can be found on Amazon and on her websitehttps://www.amazon.com/Holey-Path-Holy-Living-Feminine-ebook/dp/B01MUI0OOJ/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486652110&sr=1-13&keywords=holy+path