Meeting Family in the Villa

A wonderful addition to this trip is a chance to meet and visit people to whom I am related in one way or another. In the coming weeks I plan to see friends I know and love in their village in Germany, see extended family again in Denmark and Sweden, and put faces to names of old family friends in Norway. My first chance to do this was in Italy. I have a Swedish cousin who married an Italian man and lives there still with her family.

I knew about Eva and her family through stories from my grandfather and cousins who still live in Sweden. But I had obviously never had the chance to meet her. She and her family live in a small village about three hours south of Venice. So of course I jumped at the chance for a visit. A peaceful train ride later I arrived in the town of Rimini which is just a short drive from their home in Villa Verucchio.

Eva, her husband and daughter, were instantly welcoming and excited to show off their town and surrounding mountains. Her daughter and I formed an instant friendship and we questioned each other constantly about what it means to be a young person in our respective countries. I did feel a little guilty not knowing more Italian because Eva spent much of the time translating things for her husband. But we made it work.

We managed to pack so much into my short one-night visit. They explained the proper way to drink Italian coffee and we had a marvelous lunch of homemade pasta gifted from another relative. A whirlwind walking tour of the village showed lively street markets that were more like outdoor malls, piazzas with dark WWII history, caves used for food storage and bomb shelter through the ages, medieval town walls, and the sites of Roman villages. There are stories for every brick and stone in Europe, you just have to ask the right questions of the right people. Eva and her family were more than happy to share their home’s beauty and history, both ancient and modern.

I arrived around 9:30 in the morning. After a tour of their town and a lunch taken in their neat and cozy apartment, Eva and her daughter took me up to the castle Verucchio which is on top of the mountain above the town, and is where the town gets its name. The castle is made from brick and is perched at the very edge of a cliff. Though not large, it is very imposing. The tiny village that clusters around the base of the castle like chicks around a mother hen is so picturesque it is almost painful. Red-tile roofs, cleanly plastered walls, cobblestone walkways, latch-key gardens, a constant chorus of birdsong, and wonderful views over the valley and of surrounding mountains. Such charms combine to create the kind of place where a person just wants to sit with a glass of wine and let the world turn, quietly, without interruption.

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Castle walls (with half my cousin’s face)

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Every town should have a tortoise fountain!

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Back down the mountain we went, laughing at the gang of cyclists trapped behind us on the narrow road, to get back in time to Skype with my Dad. After some difficulty with technology, and a few human errors, we were finally able to talk for a while. It was great to see my Dad and Eva reconnect, they had not been in contact since they were teenagers. Dinner consisted of an aperitif at a nearby restaurant followed by a local speciality that is somewhat like a very thin calzone or pizza quesadilla. It was all delicious of course. Finally I sank into bed, grateful to have a room to myself again.

Wonderful local honey that you could almost see through.

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The next morning we had a lovely breakfast of salami and cheese on bread before making our way to the beach. Rimini has a wonderfully long, sandy beach. There is also a pier where people often fish or just go for a leisurely stroll. At the end of the pier there is a statue of fishermen’s wives keeping watch for their husbands’ return. Many of the large boulders have been marked by visitors, mostly with love notes from what I could tell.

Han+Leia forever!

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So romantic I almost cried.

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All too soon it was time for me to catch the train back to Venice. With hugs all around and promises to keep in touch, it was a marvelous first meeting. I am so happy to finally know Eva and her family. It is such a blessing to have family in far off places. It gives you an instant connection and a feeling of familiarity to a part of the world you may only see a few times in your life, but you know where your family is living and thriving. Everywhere you know of, and the ones you don’t, is someone’s home. Thinking of the world this way helps to make it feel like a smaller, safer place.

 

This post was written several days after the visit described. I had so little time in Vienna I didn’t want to waste any of it writing. I am currently on the train to Salzburg. My car is nearly empty, which is a nice change, I have a whole table to myself, and the views of the Austrian farmland are quite charming. I will write about my time in Vienna once I am settled into Salzburg. I have several days there so will have time to do some essentials, like laundry. Until then!

Ah, Venice

I arrived in Venice just after two in the afternoon. The train ride from Rome had been pleasant enough. Never before had I experienced a train accelerating so quickly that my ears popped like on an airplane. Though the train went through several tunnels, I did get to see a good portion of the countryside and snowcapped mountains in the distance. The whole journey went by quite fast, but I still managed to get a kink in my neck from staring out of the window for so long.

Venice has two train stations, one on the mainland and one directly on the island. Fortunately I realized this while booking my ticket and made sure I would arrive directly on the island so as to avoid a complicated connection. Venezia Santa Lucia train station is quite small, clean, and easy to navigate. You exit out into a square right on the Grand Canal. There you can buy tickets for the water bus. Everything is labeled and there are many signs that explain routes and show the stops for each route. It might take some walking around to find the proper place to stand for the boat you need, but everything else is very straightforward.

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Getting off the boat at your stop and finding your way to your destination is a whole other matter. Similarly to Rome, Venice is a nightmare to navigate. The city does, however, understand that proper signage is very helpful for anyone walking the streets. Every courtyard, bridge, alley, and five-foot long “street” has a name so you always know exactly where you are. Though you may have trouble finding where you are on a map, since those seem to only list major streets. You always know where you are in Venice you just might not be able to navigate very well.

The street and canal right outside my hostel.

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But in Venice, the destination ceases to matter. No city that I have been to in my life more perfectly embodies medieval beauty. The quietness of the city is unsettling until you realize it is because there are no cars. The only motors you hear come from the boats along the Grand Canal, and those sounds do not travel very far in a city with so many tiny, winding alleyways. Main streets here are little more than cobbled walkways and on more than one occasion I have had to duck my head or  walk sideways to fit through smaller passageways. Dead ends and courtyards appear at random. To lose oneself in the winding, narrow streets is to wander into a dream. Though not nearly as old as Rome, the history of Venice seems to seep up from the cobblestones to curl around your ankles and follow you wherever you go. It is no wonder artists have flocked here for centuries and writers have never had enough words to describe its wonders. Mystery and romance hide behind every corner. I think Casanova still walks these streets, seducing women and evading police like the ghost he always was. Shops filled with elaborate masks combine in the imagination with these labyrinth streets to produce images of a Carnivale that must certainly transport the participant to another era, if not another world. The city has an air of true magic to it.

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The only modernization that has happened here is running water, electricity, and motorboats. Maintenance of buildings and bridges has of course been done to ensure structural integrity, but aesthetically they look very much the same as they must have hundreds of years ago. There are no cars or horses, and I have only seen one bicycle that was being walked not ridden. With such narrow streets and so many bridges to cross, everything is done either with manpower or by boat. Boats are used for everything here. They come in their traditional forms of larger ferry and small personal craft, but there are also boats that serve as buses, taxis, barges, cranes, even ambulances. All the boats, no matter their function, are long and narrow so as to easily pass each other in the slender canals.

My first evening in Venice I simply wandered. I just kept following the path in front of me with little care as to where I was going. Finally it started to get dark and I needed to head back to my hostel. Of course by this time I had no idea where I was. I noticed an older couple next to me were conferring with their map and I asked them if they knew where we were. Fortunately they were able to point out which tiny line on the map indicated our location, and I was able to find my way back without too much difficulty. It was so wonderful to walk through quiet streets back to a peaceful courtyard and eventually bed and sleep.

Waking up in Venice is wonderful. The only thing you hear is birds. I had meant to get up early and immediately start exploring, but my alarm never went off so I did not get my day started until after nine. I hopped on the water bus and headed to St Mark’s square. The St Mark’s Basilica is there as well as the Doge’s Palace, the seat of political power in medieval Venice.

First I went to St Mark’s. This is a church that everyone should see. Though the architecture and grandeur does not match that of St Peter’s in Rome, St Mark’s has a very special attribute: the entire ceiling is gold. Once you walk through the vestibule into the sanctuary, the whole place glows. From the top edge of the walls and all through the arches up into the domes, the whole ceiling is covered in incredible mosaic scenes. And surrounding all of these images, that are so detailed and carefully done they look like paintings, there are stones coated in pure gold. Photographs are not allowed so I cannot visually share the experience with you, but never before have I seen such opulence. It was truly breathtaking.

St Mark’s Square facing the church and watchtower.

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Entrance to St Mark’s church.

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Once through the church, I was off to the Doge’s Palace. Some of the rooms had been shut off because staff were dismantling a special exhibit, but I thought a visit would be worthwhile anyway. I was correct. The rooms that I were able to see centered around the government structure that existed in Venice from the medieval period all the way through the 1700s. The Doges were like kings and lived accordingly. The whole palace was built like a fortress since Venice was constantly at war trying to acquire new territories or defending itself against invaders. But that did not stop the Doges from commissioning extravagant decorations.

A stairway called the Golden Staircase. You guessed it, more gold on the ceiling.

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This is the longest room in medieval Europe. It is where the whole council of noblemen would meet to discusses political matters or settle disputes.

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Once you pass through all of the magnificent rooms where rich men decided the fate of others, you eventually made it to the Bridge of Sighs. The bridge is so named because it was the last place where sentenced prisoners could glimpse the free world before entering the dungeons, and so they often let out sighs of sadness for their fate. As a visitor, you are able to walk across the bridge and go down into the prisons where it is very cold and drafty.

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Bridge of Sighs from the outside. Next time you see a beautiful painting of it, just remember that its purpose is to connect the Doge’s Palace to the dungeons of Venice.

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Back out in St Mark’s square, I waited for the clock to strike the hour. There is a special clock tower in the square that has two giant statues on top that move and strike the bell to count the hour. When it was built, the first time one of the figures moved, it knocked down a worker who died. It is the first recorded incident of death by robot. At least so said a fellow traveler in my hostel. True or not it’s a cool story.

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By this time it was only two in the afternoon and I thought I had time to visit one of the other islands, namely Burano. Finding the ferry to get there was easy enough and soon I was comfortably seated in the bow. What I did not know is that the ferry ride to Burano is an hour long. I was constantly checking my map worried that I had missed my stop. But eventually I did make it and was very glad I had. The town is beautiful. All of the houses are painted different colors so it is like walking down a rainbow. The buildings are also very low so it almost feels like an elven village. I only stayed an hour, long enough to admire the lace for which the island is famous, before heading back to the dock to catch the ferry so I could return to Venice before it got dark.

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Who doesn’t love a kitty in the window?

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Back at the hostel I prepared for my trip to Rimini the following day where I would meet cousin Eva and her family. More on that later.

 

And Then I Left Rome

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last few days. I have been out late every night and busy almost every hour so I have not had enough time to write. Or even if I did have a few hours, I just needed to decompress and could not bring myself to write.

Well here I am again. I need to write before more days pass and everything begins to blur. I am sure there will be things I leave out, but I promise they are not important.

So, here’s the recap.

My last day or so in Rome was uneventful. I did venture out for a little while, had a delicious hot chocolate over by the Coliseum, and wrote a couple post cards. But mostly I hid in my hostel and drank bottled water because the tap water was making me queasy. Rome was an amazing place to visit; I am so glad I began my journey there. It is a truly bustling metropolis that has more sights, sounds, and smells than the body can absorb in a mere few days. The beauty there spans the centuries and boggles the mind. Being in a place that has existed in an ever-growing form for over two thousand years is incredibly humbling. However, I feel I must assert that it is not the place for me. There are many reasons that I did not feel overly comfortable there, but I will not list them here. What is important is that I have been there, experienced Rome for the glorious, immortal city that it is, and survived intact. And so, my journey continues.

A Day of Rest

After the last two busy days and late nights I gave myself a break today. Some may say that since I’m traveling I should be up and doing things every waking hour. I would agree with them initially, and if I was only staying in Rome for a week or so that is probably what I would be doing. But thinking more seriously about the length of this trip I have decided that it will be wise to give myself breaks on occasion. I cannot spend twelve hours a day on my feet for the next fie months. I just don’t have the stamina; I don’t think anyone does. My first three days here were full of activities, and I enjoyed all of them. But I have not had much time to relax and let myself recover from the long travel and adjusting to a new place. So that is how I decided to spend today.

That doesn’t mean I stayed at my hostel all day. I did get dressed and leave for a little while. But I slept until a little past nine, finished the post I uploaded earlier and then had left over pizza for lunch. I had to change rooms which threw my routine off a little bit, but I’m only here for two more nights anyway so it’s not a big deal. Just after noon I finally left to go wandering.

I headed back toward the Coliseum since it’s so close and is the easiest route to find the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain. That being said, anytime I go to a new neighborhood it is like starting all over again with the city and having to be prepared to get lost. I have, however, learned how to interpret my map better and to look for engraved blocks on the sides of buildings that sometimes have street names carved into them. I managed to find both monuments without too much trouble. I even stopped at the Monument of Victor Emmanuel II. It is a huge structure and has some wonderful sculpture decorating the front. Though it was built to commemorate the first King of united Italy in the late 1800s, it has become a monument to all soldiers lost in war. At the front two guards are always posted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that was dedicated at the end of WWII.

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On the way back to my hostel I stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was a little pricy but the minestrone soup was good. I took my time and read my book and listened to the French customers behind me debate menu items with the waitress and say things like “but I want something like we have in France”. It was pleasant enough until the wind changed and I got all of their cigarette smoke in my face. Eventually I just had to get up and go inside to pay since the waitress did not seem to be coming back.

The rest of the afternoon has been quiet, which I needed. I chatted with the young man who runs the hostel. He showed me some videos of animals in zoos in the Philippines, which is where he is from, and I told him about the animals I worked with at the museum. He was particularly interested in the porcupines and the different mammals that make up the rodent family.

Now I need to head out to meet a friend for dinner. In fact I am most certainly late.

Buona Sera!

A Busy Two Days

(I started writing this post last night, so just pretend it’s still Monday)

I have had so many adventures in the last two days. This post will be broken up into yesterday and today. I will try not to mix up the timeline of stories. There is a lot to cover and so many pictures to show you!

 

Yesterday (Sunday).

I got up around 8am and finished the blog post I had started the night before. The internet went all wonky and would not let me post it which was irritating but not the end of the world. A quick stop at the pastry shop next door for a jam filled croissant and then I was off down the street toward the Coliseum. It is a short walk from my hostel, maybe fifteen minutes, and straight down the same street. I watched the famous arches grow larger with every step until I was standing just beneath them. A woman approached me and said there was an English language tour about to start if I wanted to join. My ticket would cover the 45 minute tour of the Coliseum, plus unlimited time I wanted to remain there, and entry to the Palatine Hill. Overall it seemed like a good idea so I agreed.

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The tour group was quite small when I joined them. There was a middle aged woman standing a bit off to the side so I struck up a conversation with her. She was very charming, on holiday by herself from Cornwall, and we chatted pleasantly until our tour guide materialized and began rattling off facts. Most of the information I had in the back of my mind but it was very nice to get a refresher, and some new details as well. The interior design of the Coliseum is fairly simple, but it takes a while to navigate due to the sea of people crowding the narrow corridors. The time it must have taken to empty the huge amphitheater when it seated a full crowd does not bear thinking about.

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The tour guide was a likeable older gentleman who punctuated his spiel with well-timed, self-deprecating jokes, and carried a children’s book about the Coliseum that he used to illustrate certain points and use as a banner while he lead us around. I very much enjoyed the imagery of “following the knowledge”.

Once the tour ended, I wandered around a bit more. I wanted to be sure I saw everything from every angle. I was at one of the most ancient sites in Europe, I might as well soak it in.

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Finally satisfied with the Coliseum, I made my way back out into the square and found the line for the Palatine Hill. I never could have guessed how large that site is and how many ruins it contains. Just winding my way through the broken walls of the Emperor’s old palace took nearly two hours. By that time I was beginning to get a headache. A combination of sun and lack of food was probably to blame, but there was no way I was leaving until I had seen every last shattered monument and chunk of marble. I momentarily regretted not getting a guide for the Palatine Hill and ruins in the Roman Forum, I studied their artifacts and significance a long time ago and remembered very little. But it was pleasant enough just to wander and gather what snippets of information I could from the tiny placards that marked certain items.

This is a wall from the palace. There were many that were larger but I liked how this had bits of marble column in front. So many different materials were used in the construction.

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This is from the top of the hill where the palace overlooks the city. The long grassy stretch is where the Circus Maximus used to stand. Imagine a huge stadium filled with arches and statues. Not a bad view.

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View from the palace on top of the hill overlooking the temples and forum.

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Trying to remember who this temple was dedicated to; possibly Venus and Jupiter (Aphrodite and Zeus).

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After a couple more hours I ran out of things to see and my headache was getting worse, so I made my way back to my hostel. After a three hour nap I finally felt better. Around 8:30 I met up with friends for dinner. One of them has lived in Rome for a while and wanted to show us some of the underground youth culture. She took us to an old fortress that has been occupied by artists and other anti-establishment groups for the past few decades. The walls are covered in political graffiti, there were vendors selling crafts and food, and two open air market areas with food and wine. Everyone trades in cash and the money stays in the tiny community to support the ones that live there and take care of the place. Everyone was friendly and having a good time. There were long tables for communal eating and everyone was enjoying the evening with their friends. There was a wild feeling to the place.

I finally made it back to my hostel just before one in the morning and was so happy to finally be in bed. I had to make sure my alarm was set though because I had to get up early to visit the Vatican the next day.

 

Today (Monday)

My alarm went off at 6:30 in the morning. I was excited for the day but still tired from the adventures of last night. A quick shower to wake me up, a chocolate croissant from next door, and I was on my way to the Metro.

If I thought Bostonians were rude on the subway, they are nothing compared to Romans. There is no waiting for people to get off before boarding the train, you just have to shove your way through no matter which direction you’re trying to go. I managed to squeeze in and after a few stops most of the people had gotten off and I was able to get a seat. I got off at the Ottaviano stop and it was a quick walk to the Vatican Museum. Or, I should say, to the line for the Vatican Museum. I knew I might be waiting a while so I had brought a book and water with me. Good thing I did because I waited for two and a half hours before finally making it inside. But it was well worth the wait.

The Vatican Museum is huge. It is basically two very long hallways that people flow through in an endless river. It is surely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. There is not just the actual art, in the form of paintings and sculptures, but the walls, floor and ceiling are art as well. If the walls were not painted with detailed designs, they had gorgeous frescoes or relief sculptures. If the floors were not marble they were enameled tile or beautiful mosaics. There was art everywhere you looked. Even the outside of a few buildings had their own glittering details. If I had taken pictures of everything it would take a year to show you. I tried to just capture the feeling of the place with a few details.

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Rafael’s famous School of Athens!

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The very last room that you go into is the Sistine Chapel. It is huge and the ceiling feels like it’s a thousand miles away. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered in incredible frescoes. Pictures are not allowed so unfortunately I cannot share the images with you. But the figures in each section seem to glow and the longer you stare at them the more lifelike they become until you are afraid they might fall right off the wall. There is a story in every image and all are presided over by portraits of past Popes. I sat against the wall for almost a half hour before reluctantly moving on. I wandered through the last halls in a daze. The whole experience was incredible.

After the Vatican Museum, I made my way around the walls of the Vatican to St Peter’s Basilica. The line there was much shorter thankfully. Once inside I just had to stand and stare for a moment. The building is an enormous gilded cavern. There is gold and marble on every surface and many of the ceiling domes were covered in mosaics. It is truly a marvel to behold.

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These images are mosaics!

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Special walkway that is just for the Pope

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Classic view from the outside.

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After absorbing that much beauty in one day I needed to rest and let my brain recover from seeing so much and give my feet a break from walking. Later in the evening I met up with friends again and we got pizza for dinner which was delicious. Once again I was very happy to finally make it to bed.

 

Ok, so that’s everything from the last couple days. Now it is Tuesday and I’m taking a rest day. It’s just about 11 in the morning and I haven’t even gotten dressed. I’m about to eat left over pizza for lunch before finally heading out to the city. I need to get myself ready to head to Venice today as well so that I don’t have to stress tomorrow. I’m really not excited about going back to Termini, though there’s no help for it. For now I need to get moving.

Until next time!

Then I Arrived in Rome

Rome is an overwhelming place. It is loud, crowded, has insane traffic and nothing is labeled properly. Nothing. It is a messy confusion piled on top of mess and confusion.

But I’m getting a head of myself. Let’s pick up where we left off.

The plane ride from Philadelphia was blissfully quiet. The food was gross, as was expected, but I had a window seat which was wonderful. I even managed to sleep a little. Waking up over southern France was beautiful. There were snowcapped mountains everywhere. Then a quick hop over the Ligurian Sea and the island of Corsica, and we were gliding over the coast of Italy where there is some truly beautiful farm country. Finally, we landed in the Da Vinci airport. The airport is very clean and fairly easy to follow in the departure terminal but  you have to go on a fairly long walk to find the train that takes you into the city. The train ride itself was fairly uneventful. Unfortunately I did not get a window seat this time but from the little view I did have, it didn’t seem like we were going through the nicest suburbs of the city.

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In no time at all we had reached the Termini train station. For all of the nice things I will say about Rome later in this post, there is no forgiving the hellish mess that is Termini. There are no directions, the same ticket kiosks and self-serve stations seem to be everywhere, I had no idea where to even begin looking for a schedule or route map. I purchased a Metro/bus pass from a very rude lady in a tobacco shop that was so over crowded you couldn’t tell where the line began or ended. Then, like the overwhelmed fool I was, I decided it would be a good idea to take a bus instead of the Metro. Never again. The bus depot is basically a huge parking lot where different numbered buses line up behind each other and the stop lists are written in tiny print on very high signs. I had to ask two different people what bus would take me to my stop and how to find the right place to stand to catch said bus. What must have been close to a half hour later I was finally on the right bus heading the right direction.

Getting off the bus only lead to more problems. Since street signs are an obviously optional part of the local infrastructure, I ended up walking in the wrong direction. Now, please remember, at this point I’ve had my huge backpack on my back for far longer than I expected and I, I must admit, am not a very strong person. All of this needless wandering around was tiring me out. I stopped at a store that turned out to be a betting station and asked the man behind the counter for directions. I did have the address of my hostel on a notepad to show him and he was able to figure out where I wanted to go. Communicating that to me turned out to be another challenge, if a more interesting one. He did not know more than a handful of words in English and I know about as much Italian. We quickly decided that French would be the best language for us to speak and he was able to send me to the proper intersection and which direction to turn. Another nice lady at a gelateria pointed out the well camouflaged door to my long awaited hostel. The young man, who seemed to be the only staff person for the whole place, kindly informed me that my room was not ready but that I could leave my bag. He then sent me off to find a very good restaurant, marked map in hand. My back grateful to be relieved of its burden and my anxiety calmed by having a map, I managed to have a decided spring in my step while hunting down lunch.

The restaurant was a lovely, sub-basement space with sweet, if not overly attentive, waiters. Lunch was a steaming bowl of the richest, saltiest pasta carbonara I’ve ever had in my life and I’m pretty sure the leftovers will be tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. But it certainly was delicious.

Back to the hostel for (thank the gods!) a shower and much needed tooth care. A couple hours sitting in the tiny kitchen writing emails, setting up the SIM card for my phone, and discussing the US presidential race with a young man from Brazil revived me enough to head back out into the city. I had met a guy from Colorado while in Philadelphia and we have quickly become travel buddies. I met up with him near Santa Maria Maggiore. While enjoying the sweet life with cups of gelato, we noticed that riot cops, police vans and at least one helicopter had gathered in the square where we were sitting at the base of a obelisk. Soon we realized that a protest march was headed our way. While initially concerned that we were about to be in the middle of something ugly, a few confused conversations with passerby revealed that the march was about the practice of local government to sell off greenspace to developers, therefore limiting open spaces for people to gather and for children to play outside. The protest was well done, complete with smoke bombs, a party van with loudspeakers, performance artists who darted into the onlooking crowd, and a group of men in pink masks who had a kickass drum routine. The turnout was very good too.

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After the march passed by, we continued a few blocks past Santa Maria Maggiore to the Piazza della Repubblica and the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli. On the outside this church did not look like much more than a ruin.

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But once we went inside we stood in awe of how beautiful is was. There were many colors of marble on the walls and wonderful stained glass. The atrium just inside the entrance had a circular piece at the very top that was a swirling starburst inside the universe. I was so sad I could not get a good picture. The rest of the church was just as lovely and it had one of the largest pipe organs I have seen in a long time.

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There was a service about to begin but we really wanted to hear the organ play, so we stood around awkwardly until the first hymn. Satisfied with the basilica, we went back outside to take pictures of the fountain out front. The sun was going down so the lighting wasn’t the best, but we had fun dodging traffic and trying not to die.

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We then spent another hour or so wandering down via Nazionale and via Panisperna before making it back to Santa Maria Maggiore and heading back to our respective hostels.

Overall it was a great introduction to Rome. I learned to leave extra time when dealing with public transportation, that the people are friendly if not obviously so, and that the tiny residential streets are the best places to be. Now it is almost 8:30 in the morning on my second day in Rome and I am off in search of coffee before walking to the Colosseum and old city. Should be a wonderful day!

So it begins..

It is finally here. It is finally happening. This big, crazy, wonderful, terrifying, life changing adventure is about to begin. But for now, I am sitting in a pleasantly quiet terminal at Logan Airport. The canned radio is actually pretty decent, CNN is a comforting hum in the background, and I have a nice view of half of downtown Boston. It is not a bad place to sit and write so I thought I’d get this blog thing started.

I promise it will be horrible at first. I have not written in a long time and I am very rusty. I am sure my grammar and punctuation will make some of you cringe. I am sure my ramblings and future half-asleep posts will leave some of you confused as to why you bother reading this thing in the first place. I am sure this blog will be very ugly for a while until I figure out how to spend hours obsessing over how to make it sparkle, smell like daisies, and somehow leap out of the screen in startling RealD 3D. So I implore you to bear with me, because I can also promise that this blog will be awesome. It will be filled with dry humor, shenanigans, confusion, and plaintive homesickness. Oh and tons of pictures of course. You all know me, you know I live my life by just making it up as I go along. You can picture the kinds of stories I will have to tell.

In short, I hope you follow along with me as I explore another region of our big, beautiful world; even if for no other reason than assure yourself that I haven’t been kidnapped in Italy or fallen off a cliff in Norway. I am so very excited to see what this trip has in store for me, what challenges and delights I will encounter. But in the meantime I think my free internet session is about to expire and I need to look up how to get from the airport to the city in Rome. Just one example of all the details I will have to work out as I go along. If I’m not a master coordinator by the end of this trip I’ll be very disappointed in myself.

Until next time, I love you all and I cannot wait to share my adventure with you.

So long for now!