We’re home! Of course I was back for two full days before I came down with the flu, bronchitis and another lung infection. Go figure. Since we left for Italy the day after Christmas, I’ve returned to a house completely decorated for the season. The full tree is still up, stockings, advent calendar — the whole shebang. I’ve also got suitcases that have exploded dirty laundry everywhere and I’m basically sick in bed staring at it all. My husband came down with a heavy cold and our youngest, Joseph, was sick while we were in Italy. I’m convinced it was the airplanes that did us in. They’re flying canisters of germs.
I’ve learned when I dim the lights and plug in the Christmas tree, you can barely see the mess at all.
The photo above is of our first appartamento (that’s “Apartment” for all you non-Italians hahaha!). Our unit was the first one with a balcony on the fifth floor, or fourth “piano” as they say (when in Rome . . .). In most of our places, we had to climb over 80 steps to get there. The steps are all uneven and higher than in the US, so it was a hike! We walked between 3.5 and 9 miles each day. But then . . . we could eat all we wanted!
One of the most startling things that we saw on our trip was the addition of heavy security since our last visit five years ago. Armored trucks with armed guards were stationed at every public square, Christmas market and tourist site, bus and train station and airport. They were very serious looking and didn’t speak to anyone, but eyed us all very carefully. They didn’t want their faces shown, so I’m blocking them out. I don’t know if you can see it here, but even with all the seriousness, the Italian style came through with the jaunty feather in their caps.
Other officers, like this, are stationed at the monuments as well, but they were present years ago. This is at the Spanish Steps.
The guards constantly kept their guns in their hands, and while at first it rattled me to see this, after a while I liked knowing they were there. If you remember, a month ago, the terrorist who drove the truck through the Christmas market in Germany was finally apprehended by the Italian police near Milan.
One more note on travel security, we flew home through Paris, where there is also very serious looking security in the airport, but when we arrived in the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, it was a joke. I was so embarrassed for our country. The place we checked our passports was fine, with the officers being courteous and professional, but for some reason we had to go back through security and the staff there thought they were comedians.
“Who needs a hug?” they’d yell out. “Drink all your liquids now . . . if you have a little shot bottle, chug it back and share with your grumpy neighbor!” The line took two hours to move us through and when we got to the front, we realized the woman operating the conveyor belt where the bags were scanned was stopping it now and then to talk to her coworkers. They’d laugh, then she’d get up and walk away, then she’d decide to come back and screen a few more bags. It was about 10:30pm and no one was in the mood for their comedy routine. We had to run down the corridor to make our connecting flight with only five minutes to spare, and others were missing their connections all together.
Ok. I feel better now that I’ve shared that frustrating bit of travel information.
These marchers came through the streets one morning in Florence, blowing whistles and waving banners. There were hundreds of them who just kept pouring into the piazza, all protesting working conditions. The local folks didn’t pay much attention to them and no security was needed. Each group had different colored banners and flags. Even the Italian’s protests are beautiful.
We had so much fun being together and it was a huge lifetime memory for the four of us. This photo is with my oldest son, Harrison, after they talked me into hiking to the top of a huge hill that overlooked Florence. We were freezing cold and stopped on the way down at this wonderful restaurant and sat next to a roaring fireplace and ordered delicious hot soup.
Here’s the view we found that day.
Both boys are old enough to appreciate and remember all the details so it was the perfect time to go. I have one more story to share about meeting Mayor Tarabella, but I’ll save that for another day. Oh . . . and I got to go in the basement of the Vatican! Maybe I’ll tell you about that too.
A very informative post and your photos are lovely. I hope you are feeling better. Thank you so much for sharing, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. 🙂
So glad you enjoyed it Linda. I love my readers in Canada!
Glad you are home. (Really? I had to find out on FB?) Glad you had a glorious trip and made wonderful memories. Sorry you and the fam are sick. The pictures are great. Lots of interesting details. Not to focus on the one negative but IKR when it comes to the security in Atlanta! We felt the exact same way and tried our best to look like foreigners so no one associated us with the unprofessional behavior of the TSA. But in spite of that, there’s no place like home. Let me know when you are up for lunch.
If thoughts count, I was calling for you! I’ll be up for a long lunch soon and we can share TSA stories.
Hope you feel better soon and OHMYGAH your look while you are glancing at your son! Such love!
He’s a dreamy kind of guy. Love him lots.
I’m so glad you’re home safely, but so sorry you’re sick!! Air travel is such a pain these days, we never want to go anywhere! So, thank you for taking me to Italy! I can only imagine the memories you will have from this trip, it is so much fun to hang out with your children when they are grown up, they become your best friends…do as much with them as you can before they get married and you have to share them 🙂 We didn’t get back to the coast until a week after New Year’s and arrived to Christmas all over again, but it was fun to turn on the lights and enjoy it a little longer. Take your time and feel better, you’ll get it done eventually!
Thanks Jenna. Hope to see you soon during this New Year!
Welcome back! I’ve enjoyed seeing your pictures on Instagram. I know you brought back lots of great memories – sorry that you also brought back germs! Feel better soon!
I’m hoping it’s an exotic Italian flu, not the domestic type. That would be so common.
Your trip has been enjoyed by many of us vicariously. I am glad you are home safe and sound, although sorry for the sickness. You are Italian “by marriage” so don’t worry about your Christmas tree! It is not going anywhere. I still have reindeer and birdhouses stuck up in the guest room waiting to be packed up and put back in the attic. Out of sight, out of mind…
That security looks pretty serious. I think it would make me feel alternately reassured and uneasy. That’s a pretty sad commentary on the employees at the Atlanta airport, and I wouldn’t hesitate to report it to whom ever is in charge. When we landed in Naples to get on a cruise ship for our honeymoon (many many moons ago) we were struck even then by the “carabinieri” — guys dressed in camouflage with the crossed ammo belts across their chests and big automatic weapons. Naples is so crime ridden I suppose it was necessary even then.
Did you get any time in Paris, or just change planes?
Hey Ellen. As far as Paris goes, the airport was it. So frustrating to be so close, and yet so far away! We were in Naples, and like you said, it’s a little bit . . . “seedier” and wasn’t our cup of tea. I can understand the extra security there. I’m sure you had a great time on that cruise. It’s absolutely beautiful down in that area!
What a wonderful trip! Love your photos and can’t wait to see and hear more. So sorry y’all are sick!! And how embarrassing about Hartsfield International Airport — it would be nice if Rep. John Lewis read this and took steps to fix it — after all, this is in his district and he’s very proud of it.
And a big welcome back to America! Let the political games begin!
What a wonderful blog of this Italian travel event! You all have memories to share forever and that is priceless to your family. Everyone was the perfect age – even you and Bob! Great picture of Florence in the distance!
Thank you for pointing out that Bob and I are the perfect age for something! Haha! Love it! Of course, Bob takes all the great photos and that one of Florence is his. He and the boys are all so skilled. It was nice having such great photographers along to follow me around for my blog!
I am sorry you came home sick on top of all your Christmas decor waiting to be put away! Hope you feel better soon. Love all your pics on this post and your IG feed. Can’t wait to see more!
Thanks Pam. I’ll take it slow, and enjoy the Christmas spirit a bit longer!
I am sad you are sick. That is no fun! I hope you have more than one story in you. What a great trip for your family! I know you had to have loved having all your guys with you. Get well soon.
Thank you Sandy. There will be stories for years to come, I’m sure!
Thank you for sharing your Italy experience. What a special way to spend the holidays with your husband and children (how old are they?). I enjoyed the photos and hope that we can go as a family someday too. I’m sorry you’re sick. If it makes you feel any better, my tree is still up too and I don’t have the great excuse of having been to Europe and back! So take it easy and enjoy those pretty lights. xo
Thanks Lise. Harrison is 20 and Joseph is 17. Growing so fast! The Italians leave their trees up throughout most of January, so I’ll pretend I’m still one of them!
I’m sure it was stressful coming home sick to Christmas decorations well into January. I know, it happened to me once, flying home from Paris and sick when we landed. Like you say, “flying canisters of germs!” At least you had a great safe trip, sorry your son was sick. The last time we were in Roma and France there was heavy security present. Yes, unnerving but comforting at the same time. Jim wanted to climb the hill in Florence, wish I had but it was so cold with a light snow falling. Yes, snowing in Florence! Look forward to more photos from your trip. Hope you are feeling better soon……
Thanks Emily. The locals said they only get snow in Florence about once every 7 years (just like South Alabama!) and they were actually hoping for snow while we were there. There was definitely a cold snap in the air, but we bundled up and forged ahead. And yes, at least we were safe. That’s saying a lot!