When in Rome

I came back from my trip to Italy on October 3, and I’m still struggling to get back into my routine.

I thought I’ll write a long detailed blog about my entire trip, but it’ll be too long, and it’ll be difficult to remember every single thing that happened, including all the ups and downs as there were many very high ups and a lot of very low downs. Besides, I wrote much of it in my diary and that’s good enough for me.

In a nutshell, the trip was more intensive than any trip I’ve had before. Visiting four different cities and trying to squeeze out everything that can be seen from each one is not easy, but gratifying all the same. But the hardest thing was the commute.

Finding the hotel we booked in every different city was a feat every time. In Venice, we found out that our hotel is actually located on an island a little off the coast of the city called Lido de Venezia and we had to take a water bus ride of about an hour to get there. Water bus, that’s right. A bus sailing on the water. It’s a public transport boat. We got to the hotel at around 1:30 a.m. and we were so exhausted so we didn’t eat or shower. We just crashed.

In Milan, we walked forever, hauling all our luggage, fumbling around with my boyfriend’s Smartphone map that led us down a bunch of wrong roads, and we kept coming back to point A, and finally making it to point B only once the skin was peeling off our palms from pulling our suitcases for so long.

The same thing happened in Florence. Although the hotel wasn’t too far from the train station, it still seemed far because we got there once it was already dark, and we were loaded up to our gills, and we couldn’t figure out the Smartphone maps worth a shit.

But the absolute worst hotel search we had was in Rome. In fact, the hotel we booked turned out to not even be in Rome. We figured that since our flight back to Israel was at 6 a.m., it would be best if we took a hotel within proximity to the airport. A tragic tourist mistake. Who in their right mind would stick an airport in the middle of Rome proper? But we didn’t think about that and got a room at the Hilton Garden Inn Rome Airport hotel in fucking Fiumicino. The only way to get there was to take a train from Rome Termini, where we got off, to the airport and take a shuttle bus from there to the hotel. But before finding that out, my boyfriend had the genius idea of getting off one station before the airport (Parco Leonardo) and walk to the hotel because the hotel seemed to be closer to that station on his Stupidphone map.

This is how we found ourselves walking in the literal wilderness, complete with wild weeds, yellow grass, unpaved roads, and wilted ragweed, not to mention a few creepy crawlies that bit my boyfriend’s arms quite nicely. All that, still with our luggage. Finally, we decided to take a cab, so we went back to the train station to look for one. But since we still had our train tickets, which were never checked, I suggested we should try going all the way to the airport and hopefully find some form of civilization. The hotel is not called Rome Airport for no reason and I bet there should be some organized rides to and from it. And indeed there were. And once we got to the hotel, we saw that it made up for its crappy location by being the best hotel we stayed in our entire trip. We had a large room with a big bathroom and a tub (which is a luxury considering the bathrooms we had in the other hotels). It included not only shower gel and shampoo, but also conditioner and body lotion (which is another rare luxury). The room had a plasma TV, and electric kettle, mugs, tea, coffee and sugar, a refrigerator, and best of all, the comfiest bed EVER! Take the loudest bedgasm you can pull and multiply that by ten. That’s exactly what lying in this bed felt like.

The hotel also had a restaurant in the lobby and every evening, we ordered dinner, pasta, soup, fish… whatever they had on the menu. On October 1st, my Gregorian birthday, they even gave us a free cheesecake with a candle!

But yes, the location of the hotel could not have been worse. We had to take the shuttle to the airport and the train to Rome and back every day. And every day had its own share of getting lost and fussing around with maps and going back and forth and walking forever until we found our way.

On to the good stuff.

DavidThere were two highlights of my trip. The first was the Academia museum in Florence. Florence is an awesome city. We also got a chance to tour a few small villages around Tuscany with an organized day trip. But nothing topped the Academia museum. This is where Michelangelo’s David is located. All the pictures and all the postcards of this statue in the world could not have prepared me for the shock I got when I came face to face with this monumental piece of history. I was so overwhelmed and so taken by the David that I started tearing up.

First, it was much bigger than I expected. It was placed under a dome structure within the museum. The sunlight was shining through the panels of the dome and bounced off the marble statue, accentuating every muscle, every vein and every ligament the artist managed to craft so perfectly. David’s pose seems so natural and his facial expression so serene and so human, I could almost see his blood pulsing and his heart beating. Even with his peaceful posture and the innocence Michelangelo was trying to convey through this statue, David’s physical strength and beauty is undeniable.

We were not allowed to take any pictures of the statue, so we took one of the replica outside of the museum. It was nowhere near as powerful.

ColosseumThe second highlight of the trip was the Colosseum in Rome. That day was raining buckets, and were got soaked despite our coats, tuques and umbrellas. Our shoes got flooded with water. To keep a positive mindset, I pretended that every step I took and felt the water swishing around my feet, that I was actually walking barefoot on the beach on a cloudy day. By the time we made it to the Colosseum, the rain abated a little, and by the time we were within the walls of the structure, the clouds were gone and the sun came out, shining with all its might. Our coats came off, our umbrellas folded and our sunglasses reclaimed their rightful place on our noses.

Wherever the stars were at that time, they were most likely aligned because while we were walking around the platforms of the place, marveling at the ruins of ages past, we suddenly bumped into my cousin! She and her boyfriend (now fiancee) were also in Italy during the same time, but we never thought we would actually run into them by complete coincidence. And in the Colosseum out of all places! There must have been hundreds or even thousands of people at the Colosseum on that day, but we still met.

We were so happy to see them and we were so happy that the sun was out and that our clothes were starting to dry (though my shoes remained soaked for the rest of the day, and I was still pretending to be walking on the beach), this is what made the experience of the Colosseum that much more colossal.

Italy is Catholicism central (duh). So this is basically what we saw most of the time. Paintings and sculptures of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, countless churches, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, religious sites and monuments… This made me realize some things that in our days we take for granted.

First, art. True art. Back in the times of the Renaissance, art was recognized and appreciated as more than a hobby, but was actually a respectable and lucrative career. Name a single modern visual artist whose name is as known as Michelangelo or Botticelli, who is still living today. There are none. That’s because art these days is not as appreciated as it was back then.

AdamSecond thing I realized is that people today keep bitching about religion, how it’s the cause of all wars and violence in this world. But they fail to realize what religion did contribute to the world. And whether you’re a believer or not is irrelevant because all the art and architecture that was inspired by religion can be enjoyed by the believers and the atheists alike. Religion inspired artists to create exquisite paintings, stunning sculptures and pieces of art, and awe-inspiring architectures that people marveled at for centuries and still marvel at today. It inspired the Renaissance and the thriving culture that ensued. The appreciation of art that is so tragically absent in modern times. The energy, emotion and movement in all ancient pieces of art. The elaborate architecture with incorporated frescoes and statues – material so obvious in ancient churches and cathedrals. None of which exists today. Imagine just how boring, empty and uninspiring our world would be without religion.

That was what I took away from this trip.

I also took away a new pair of sneakers, a new wrist watch, an Italian flag, and a German flag. Our three-hour layover in Munich was great and we’re planning a trip to Germany for next summer and the Wacken festival.

Peace, love and arrivederci!


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