Today was the day I embarked on my first European vacation. In fact, this is the first foreign country I have ever visited besides Canada. And most people don’t think that Canada really counts as a foreign country. In fact, Homer Simpson called Canada “America Junior”.
Our trip began with a flight from Chicago to Rome. We actually flew into Zurich, Switzerland first, and then into Rome, as the best deal we could find was on Swiss Air. When we arrived in Rome, I was kind of overwhelmed a bit. I definitely deserve credit for going outside my comfort zone. Firstly, the baggage claim at the airport was really slow. A frequent European traveler at the baggage claim verified that this is one of the slowest baggage claims in the world, at least the world he knows.
We had arranged a shuttle bus ride from the airport to the hotel, as we knew we would be tired after the long flight(s), and would not want to wander all over the place with our luggage. The bus driver was really friendly, but did not speak any English. In addition to that, all of the roads were so much different than the roads I am used to.
To tell you the truth, I immediately felt kind of bad about having not learned the language before coming here. I mean, it is their country. Adding to my confusion, Italian sounds kind of like Spanish, a language I know fairly well (used to know better). So, I spent the whole day kind of paralyzed in a way. I did not say anything, because I was afraid I would accidentally spew out Spanish words and sound like an even bigger idiot than I already sort of seemed like.
Rome is the most confusing city I’ve ever navigated. So many short, narrow roads. The address system is weird to me. We went and saw the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and a few monuments. In a directional triumph, I did not get us lost once! Our hotel is right in the middle of the touristy area so it is safe here, but crowded. I probably could not live here because it is so crowded. Traffic did not seem as crazy as the city’s reputation, but it is Sunday, so we’ll see tomorrow. Also, there is almost no green space here (parks, etc.). I am also surprised to see the occasional palm tree.
We had Italian Gelato, which was amazing! There are like 9 gelato places within a 5-minute walk of our hotel. Also had pasta here- it was good- got linguine with fruitti de mare.
The whole time today I kept thinking about two things….
1. How Rome was once the center of the world. How Mussolini tried to bring those glory days back, you know with those models of the ancient city in his basement and such. And how much older this place is. There is more history here than in any other place I have ever been before. The closest I have been are places like Annapolis (Maryland), and Plymouth Rock (Massachusetts), which date back to like the 1600s, not even close.
2. Having much of my heritage from Italy, but being four generations removed, how much can I really identify with this place? I remember traditions as a kid that were distinctly Italian, but the culture here still seems so foreign, so different than what I know. Still it’s a part of my family history