Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Italian vacation — Part Tre
Frescoes, nekkid statues and goats that eat your pants
The Pantheon in the Plaza della Rotonda in Rome. Photo: CIA World Guidebook
Since we returned from our 16-day bucket list trip to It-lee, many have asked, “Just how much DID you eat?” Just kidding. I may be the only person to ever visit who came back 3 pounds lighter.
Turns out when you walk 24,000 steps a day for more than two days in a row, (A) the weight falls off and (B) your bargain step-counter from Amazon replaces the cute heart rate graphic with skull and crossbones and refuses to recharge.
I’m sure it was wondering: “What happened to the good old days when we clocked a solid 914 steps a day? Who ARE you?”
The lovely rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside filled with olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields ensure a decent cardio workout whether you like it or not. At one point, we trekked through a muddy field to meet some goats. I had forgotten to tweeze before the trip, and a few got close perhaps thinking I was their long-lost grandma.
And this was the beauty of our tour. One day, you’re in noisy, fabulous Florence watching the fascinating spectacle of an Italian mom loudly buying her sulky teenage son his first obscenely expensive thick gold chain at a high-end jewelry store. The next day, goats are trying to eat the pants right off you.
By the end of our tour, which included, in order, Amalfi, Pompei, Rome, Orvieto, Assisi, Tuscany, Siena, Florence, San Gimignano and Venice, we realized: Man, this place is OLD. I felt silly thinking our 100-year-old house was a big deal. I love how Italians preserved these ancient sites and villages and live among them. In the U.S., there’s no doubt the Colosseum would’ve long been razed, the only shout-out perhaps as the name of a strip mall with Ye Olde Gladiator Pretzel Factory.
We saw so many churches, so many frescoes, but it was the classics: the Pieta, Michelangelo’s David and the Sistine Chapel that made me mist up a bit. When you see, in person, something you’ve heard about your entire life, it’s unexpectedly moving. Tip: Do not visit David while severely “hangry.” Apparently, I snapped at Duh to “stop looking at non-David stuff so we can EAT!”
At lunch that day, I confronted, yet again, the Italians’ unvarnished horror when I ordered a Peroni.
“B-b-but, madame, that is BEER!”
“I fervently hope so,” I would reply. And then they would glare, return to prissily place the bottle in front of Duh hubby and give me a superior scowl. Soooo, apparently women don’t drink beer in It-lee. What do they do after they mow the yard? Oh. They don’t do that either? So much to learn.
Over the course of the tour, we realized residents believe their village, their city, to be the best of Italy. In Siena, they sneer at Florence and the feeling is mutual. Pride of place is a very big deal. Don’t tell a Venetian you liked Rome better, or you may be tossed into the canal.
Ahhhh, Venice. You have to love a city where you arrive at your hotel—and return to the airport—via speedboat. No bulky old ferries here. The bridges over the canals are way too low to accommodate that.
In Venice, we finally stayed in a hotel with an American-sized bathroom, complete with disco lights in the shower! Even the omnipresent bidet seemed larger. It was as if the hotel had been selected precisely to ease our transition to the States in a couple of days…
With Covid. Something we’d both managed to avoid for three years. Mercifully, symptoms didn’t show up until we were safely home. I liked telling people we had “I-talian Covid” as though it was somehow superior to “regular Covid.” They liked telling me that “sounds really dumb.”
And just like that…re-entry was complete.
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