Happy Friday, folks! I’m enjoying looking out my window at a beautiful world covered in snow as I explore a much warmer country with Indiana (aka Annie) in my fictional story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks. I hope y’all enjoy Annie’s adventure this week.
There was so much to write about in Italy that it was hard to choose… I’m interested in knowing where you would visit if you could go to Italy for a week?
Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Nine: Italy
With 61 million inhabitants, Italy is the fifth most populous country in Europe, but I spotted them the second I entered the luggage claim area. Because really it doesn’t matter if there’s 61 million people or ten people, little miss Annie will always see her family right away.
“Ahhh!” My scream echoed in the airport hallway and it’s a wonder I wasn’t arrested. I flew into Mom’s arms first, then moved on to Dad and gave my brother Kyle his hug last. “What are you guys doing here?” I asked, sniffing back the tears that were threatening to come again. I so was not going to make a habit of disembarking and bursting into tears… Not very professional.
“We figured if you were going to explore Italy we wanted to join you.”
I saw my suitcase out of the corner of my eye and snagged it off of the luggage carousel as it went past. “Very funny. I found out I was coming to Italy twenty-four hours ago. You had to be planning it long before then.”
Kyle took my suitcase from me. “We’ve been planning this all week, sis.” We began walking toward the exit.
“You were going to come to Italy without me?”
Mom leveled me with a duh look then grinned at me. “You must have jet lag. We were planning on joining you wherever you went. Exploration Airlines contacted us last week and said if we could get off work they would figure out the rest of the details. We packed everything we’d need for a cold country and everything we’d need for a warm country and as soon as you chose Italy we hopped on a plane with the correct backpack to come join you.”
“I hope you didn’t plan very much for this week.” Dad’s nose was stuck in a guide book as we walked along.
“Rome?” I shrugged. In reality I had created an itinerary of sorts, but I wasn’t stuck on it by any means.
“Of course, of course.” Dad waved his hand as if that was a forgone conclusion, which most likely it was. “Other than that though, leave it to me.”
“Sounds good to me.”
We stepped outside and there was a man holding up a sign that said Indiana Anderson & Family.
“Oh good, he’s here.” Mom didn’t seem surprised to have someone waiting for us. I was, though. After greeting us he led the way to a shinny black limousine and opened the door then took our luggage and put it in the back.
“You might want to close your mouth so nothing flies in.” Kyle nudged me with his elbow.
“This is going to be a crazy-fantastic week.” I squealed as I ducked into the posh vehicle.
“Palatine Hill, please,” Dad told the driver. He then opened a compartment and pulled out a tray of food for each of us. “I asked them to have breakfast ready so we could eat on the drive over. We have so much to do I’m not sure how we’re going to fit it all in. They’ll also take our luggage to the hotel for us.”
I began munching on my fete biscottate and Dad poured me a mug of coffee from a carafe. “Thank you.”
By the time we arrived at Palatine Hill I had decided traveling in a limo was the best. I felt like some kind of celebrity as I exited the vehicle, yet was still shocked to be met by a tour guide and a newspaper reporter.
“Miss Anderson,” the reporter’s Italian accent was thick and made me grin. I was really in Italy! I shook his hand..
Dad started talking to him and Mom leaned over and whispered, “Stefano, that’s the reporter, asked Exploration Airlines if he could follow you for the day. We thought that sounded like fun so we told them it was a go.”
“Shall we begin?” Emanuele, the tour guide asked, beginning to walk. We fell into step with him.
“Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and one of the most ancient parts of the city. It is 131 feet above the Forum Romanum and is stunning as you can see. According to Roman mythology this hill was the location of the cave where Romulus and Remus were found by the she-wolf Lupa.” Emanuele stopped and peered at me, “You know the legend, no?”
“Yes, but please, a refresher would be nice.”
“Alright. According to the legend Lupa raised the boys until a shepherd named Faustulus found the infants and raised them along with his wife. Once they got older they decided to build a city on the banks of the River Tiber. One day they had a violent argument and Romulus ended up killing his brother Remus. Thus the way Rome got it’s name.”
I grimaced, okay, I hadn’t remembered that part of the legend.
“Many affluent Romans of the Republican period, which began around 509 B.C., lived around here. We even had several emperors reside here a little later on including Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian. “
The names sounded familiar from history and I looked around me in awe, thinking of what life had been like here around two thousand years ago. The ruins were beautiful and the sun was shinning brightly, making the ancient stones glow a brilliant red-yellow. It must have been magnificent when it was new.
After Palatine Hill we went to a restaurant for lunch, and when I say lunch, I really mean a hugely fantastic meal. As soon as we sat down at our rather crowded booth I could feel myself beginning to drool. It smelled 100% amazing. Tomatoes. (Did you know tomatoes came from America and weren’t introduced in Italy until the 1540’s?) Sausage. Basil. Rosemary. Sage. Onions. Peppers. The scents swirled around me and made my stomach rumble. Emanuele explained to us about how the meals worked as we waited for our food.
“Lunch is traditionally regarded as the most important meal of the day and most shops close to give time for the employees and owners to eat. Some of the school children go home for lunch, but they can also eat at school.”
A waitress arrived just then and Emanuele spoke to her in rapid Italian. She nodded and left.
“I hope you ordered a lot, I’m hungry.” Kyle rubbed his stomach. I laughed, even though he twenty, he sometimes reminded me of a seven-year-old with how much he enjoyed food.
“Ah, you’ll be full.” Stefano, the reporter, grinned. “A typical Italian lunch consists of a first course with pasta or rice and a second course of fish, meat, or vegetables and fruit.” He also informed us that the fork came to Italy before any other European country because of all the pasta.
After lunch we said good-bye to Stefano and Emanuele took us out to explore the rest of the city, and then we were out early again the next day, trying to see as much as we could. Rome was a vast and complex city that was somehow both historic and modern at the same time. It smelled like a mixture of accent stones, croissants and coffee, mopeds, and the water fountains.
Rome was almost 3,000 years old and had an array of sights to behold from stunning cathedrals (we visited the Sistine Chapel), to ancient romantic plazas (visiting them was a dream come true for Mom) and much more. There was breath-taking Renaissance architecture that was marvelous and spun my imagination into gear and made me feel as if we had only scratched the surface of what Rome had to offer.
One thing we didn’t do was visit the Colosseum. I knew I was going to have to explain that on my blog, but it wasn’t an oversight. There was so much violence and bloodshed that took place there that I had no desire to stand within it’s walls, even though it was such an important part of Rome’s history.
Thursday we got up early and drove the five hours to Venice which ended up taking way longer because we stopped at multiple little towns to explore what Italy is like away from the big cities. (Did you know one third of Italians have never used the internet?) It was quite the crazy drive because 4/5s of Italy is either mountainous or hilly.
Venice is a unique city and is built on a lagoon surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. It was founded over 1,400 years ago and has been slowly sinking into the mud for centuries now. It’s an archipelago of dozens and dozens of islands that are all connected by hundreds of bridges and canals.
Since it’s heralded as one of the most romantic cities in the world Kyle and I convinced Mom and Dad to go out and spend Friday together. They could ride in a gondola, feed each other spaghetti, or do whatever other romanticish stuff they wanted to. They happily agreed.
We got up way too early Saturday morning and took a gorgeous six and a half hour train ride to Pompeii. Pompeii was amazing and sad and mind blowing all at once. The city was buried under several feet of volcanic ash in 79 A.D. which sort of froze everything in time. The city now offers fascinating insight to the everyday life of the ancient Romans.
From Pompeii it was a twenty-five minute bus ride to Naples where we spent a leisure Sunday fellowshiping as a family and exploring the city. Monday morning I prepared to spin the globe to discover my next destination and say good-bye to my family.