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.
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.