Italia: Pt. 1

Friday, August 4, 2017

As some of you know already, Alex and I just returned from a trip to Italy, just us two.  It was an incredible trip, jam packed with adventure, wine, foreign language and all the proscuitto my heart could desire.  

We only took backpacks as carry-on's which terrified me when Alex first suggested it.  Ten days in Italy with a backpack?  Hell.  No.  I need my things and I need options.  But after further research and thinking of the logistics of the trip, it really was the best thing we could do (and now that I'm back, I am so glad we did!).  I'll share a few of my packing "must have's" in part 2.  They really saved me on the trip.

I'll share pictures and the trip in 2 posts so here we go with the beginning!

Trip to Rome
We left KC early on Wednesday morning, leaving 2 sleeping kiddos at my mom's house.  They were going to spend half the time with my mom and the other half with Chris and Becky, Alex's parents.  Our flight was at 6 AM to NYC, LaGuardia.  After a non-eventful flight, we met up with our good friend Mikey, who lives in NY with his family and happened to be on assignment for a job at LaGuardia.  Alex and Mike went to grade school and high school together.  It was so great to see him and have him point us in the direction of a New York bagel.  We jumped on a bus and ended up in Astoria for one of the best bagels and lox I've had.  We had a very long layover in NY and had to switch airports.  Our flight to Rome was scheduled for 7:30 PM from JFK.  So we knew we could get into the city, see something and make it in time.  We decided to go see the Public Library, since we didn't see it last time we were in NY.  We took the bus to Manhattan, then jumped out at a stop and walked about 4 miles, wandering, people watching and seeing the city.  We were loaded with our backpacks, so the warm NY day got to us pretty quick.  We got to the library, grabbed a seat in a quiet section and relaxed for awhile.

Nervous we would miss our flight, we set out to the airport.  We got lost for a bit, found a train and arrived in plenty of time for our flight.  We started boarding, grabbed our seats, got comfortable and started going through the movies we could watch.  Everything was going great until they announced we were delayed for a bag needing to be taken off the plane.  We waited about 20 minutes before they then told us there was a problem with the engine starter for one engine and they were having mechanics come up to look at it.  We had access to the movies at this time so we waited and just dove into La La Land.  After a little more waiting, they came across the intercom and told the plane we would need to deplane because the engine needs a part that is only in Atlanta and it's being flown up.  By this time it's 9 PM and we are just so tired of waiting.  The part is estimated to get there around midnight and we have a new departure time of 1-2 AM.  We took that for what it was.  These things happen.

Deplaned, got some Shake Shack (which is totally awesome, by the way) and a couple beers, grabbed a corner and camped out.  People were busy calling cruise lines, arranging delays in their trip and trying to pass the time.  Around 12:30 AM, someone came over the intercom and announced that our plane was fixed, but we don't have a pilot to fly us, as ours timed out.  Our flight was cancelled.  Frustrated, tired and upset, all 200+ passengers ran down the terminal to get another flight sorted out.  Thankfully, Alex and I were in the front of the group and we were told we would have another flight out the following day at 3:30 PM.  We were put up in a hotel, 40 minutes from the airport and arrived there a little after 3:30 AM.  Exhausted, we crashed and slept hard for 5 hours.  Shuttled back to the airport in good spirits.  We were going to go to Rome today!

We arrived with plenty of time, got some breakfast after getting through security pretty swiftly.  Our plane was there and we were anxious to board.  Most of the people on the flight donned the same outfits from the day before.  We were freshly showered and changed (another perk of carrying on all your things).  We boarded the plane, got comfortable and settled into La La Land again, picking up where we left off.  Intercom perked up again after about 30 minutes waiting onboard and we were told that what was fixed yesterday on the engine is now malfunctioning again.  AGAIN.  After 20+ hours it still wasn't fixed.  We were told to deplane, as they were going to turn off the A/C and it would get hot.  We deplaned and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  People were started to yell at the Delta people and I seriously thought we were just not meant to go to Rome.  And also that the movie La La Land was bad luck.

They then told everyone to head to another gate, they had another plane for us.  That plane needed to be cleaned and checked for safety and after about 4 hours, we were on the plane and backing out of the gate.  We didn't dare watch La La Land and decided we would try that on the way home, after we'd already taken off.  We left 24 hours after our scheduled time.  People cheered as the plane took off.  Me?  I applauded once we landed.
Not the most flattering photo, but once we landed, the trip became real!  First picture in Rome!


Flying into Rome was like a dream.  I really didn't think we would ever make it after that ordeal.  I felt like I had to share that craziness to show you how badly Alex and I were needing this vacation.  We were shuttled to our hotel, arriving around 11 AM and knew our tour of the Vatican Museum was only a short 2 hours from then.  We changed clothes and took off making it just in time!  That first walk through Rome was HOT.  And fast since we were trying to race the clock.  We used the metro while in Rome.  It was so easy to use and pretty much took us everywhere we wanted to go!  That first day was tough, as the jet lag hit us pretty hard after the time at the museum.  We hit an early dinner on the way home and were in bed by 7:30 PM.

We slept for 11 hours.  It's been awhile since Alex and I can say we did that.  We started day 2 with Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.  It was in Italian but the priest started out by saying it's okay if you don't speak the language, Jesus is the language.  Love.  It was powerful to be in such a beautiful place, the epitome of architectural genius, having mass and surrounded by people from all over the globe.  Breathtaking, to say the very least.  I felt so incredibly warm, welcomed, humbled and small.  Truly one of my favorite mornings of the trip.  We walked around the basilica and even made the trek up 500+ steps to the top of the dome.  I didn't think I had a problem with tight spaces and heights until we did this.  Not for the claustrophobic.  The views were incredible.

St. Peter's Square, looking out from the Basilica
Right after mass... The crowds were starting to thicken.

Saint John Paul II's tomb
Michelangelo's Pieta, behind bullet proof glass.  A mad man went at it with a hammer in 1972 (and who I found out was never charged with a crime... seems nuts) and ever since, it's been protected and safely away from the public.

Halfway up the dome!  Inside and right above the high alter... the people are like ants.  And those letters?  They're 7 feet tall.  Mind-blowing.

View from the top of the dome.  We could see the crowds gathering to hear the Pope speak...

After a quick lunch outside the Basilica, we started our heart of Rome walking tour, thanks to Rick Steeves!  Alex downloaded a bunch of free podcasts done by Rick that took us through the city, highlighting some of it's biggest and oldest treasures.

The Pantheon
The Pantheon inside dome, one of the oldest domes in the world.  Natural light coming in and that hole? It' completely open.  When it rains, water that comes in drains through holes in the floor.
Trevi Fountain
Tourists being tourists.

The Spanish Steps! (Above)

One of the coolest things about Rome is the accessibility to water.  Rome's water has been supplied by aqueducts since the 3rd century.  The city has little fountains and spikets all over with drinkable water!  We brought our Swell bottles and never went thirsty. 
We walked through Rome, stopping for gelato, shopping and slowing making our way back to the hotel to shower and get ready for a fancy meal.  The food on our trip was some of the best I've ever had.  It helps that Italian food happens to be pretty high on my favorites list.  All.  Of.  The.  Cheese and cured meats.  For real, I needed a break for 24 hours when getting home.  But I'm back at loving it.  And paired with wine?  COME ON.  What is this crazy, beautiful life we get to experience????

Just all of the love for this man.  He was the best personal tour guide for this trip and spoiled me rotten.  He made sure I had gelato every day.  Damn, feeling extra lucky.
We wanted to see some of the sites we saw during the day, at night too!  So we walked backwards and saw them all again... ending with gelato... because, well, we could.

The Trevi fountain all lit up at night!

St. Peter's at night... I kinda liked seeing it without all of the mobs there.
The next day, we hit the Colosseum and Roman Forum.  Unbelievable, the magnitude and height the ancient Romans could achieve.  Very hot this day, and rocky.  If you're going here in the future and have plans to see these, wear tennis shoes and take the hit for looking like a tourist.  Your feet will thank you.

I kind of had a fascination with the doors in Rome.  Seems like a very "mom" thing of me to have but they were intense, huge and held some very special things to the culture.  These particular doors are still swinging on their original hinges in the forum.  Like what?  I have doors at my house that need screws tightened and we've lived there almost 3 years.

More Roman Forum podcasts, courtesy of Rick Steeves!

Hmmmm these doors...Incredible.

Rome was hot and crowded but amazing, full of life, beautiful and incredibly fun to explore with Alex.  I loved our time here but my favorite city was next: Florence... up next in part 2!  Stay tuned...



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