It’s impossible to describe just how beautiful our 10-day vacation trip to Italy actually was or how much fun my wife and I had as part of a 43-person Globus tour that included stays in Rome, Venice and Florence as well as other smaller towns.
I learned just how important tourism is to Italy — and how many Italians can speak English. Most restaurants had at least part of their menu in English. I also never knew that Italy exported as much hay as it did.
I never realized Italians did not use butter with their bread and put so little sauce on their pasta. I also had no idea how delicious gelato (Italian ice cream) could be or that it was a daily staple for the Italians. Same with trying to find a glass of water to drink. In Italy, everyone drinks bottled water with their meals if they are not having wine.
And the wine? Unbelievable. Considering I am not a wine drinker, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did enjoy the wine.
The food? Fantastic. Italians love to eat and make sure you enjoy the experience.
Our final night in Rome, we went to Mangrovia, a restaurant in the heart of the city, with our tour group. Our first course included fresh tomatoes with cheese, eggplant and red pepper.¿Next came ravioli followed by a third course of noodles with vegetables. My fourth course was sea bass with potatoes followed by yogurt with fresh fruit. It was more than anyone could — or should — ever eat.
The scenery and history both were unbelievable. I loved the flowers, especially the gorgeous roses at the end of every row in the vineyards because they helped detect diseases that could harm the grapes. I also loved any chance I had to get out and run, especially in Venice and Florence, along the water.
Here’s a daily rundown of some of the things we did.
This is a day (actually a lot of night) spent in the air during as our flight from Detroit to Rome was a bit more than nine hours. Our timing was not the best, as we missed a scheduled Orbus shuttle from the aiport to our hotel — about a 45-minute drive to complete the 21 miles into the heart of Rome — and we had to spend more than two hours waiting for the next shuttle that gave us a chance to sample a couple of Italian pastries immedialey. Our shuttle run let us see just how hectic Rome traffic can be, and that there was no place that was off-limits when it came to parking, as double parking or parking on a street corner were common.
After a brief respite and chance to unpack, it was off to the four-course welcome dinner at a local restaruant near our hotel. We started with an antipasta plate of meats and vegetables. That actually would have probably been enough, considering the bread and wine served with it. However, next came two types of pasta followed by chicken, spinach and salad for course three. Finally, we forced ourselves to eat cheesecake covered with blackberries, craisins and blueberries that was out of this world.
Rome might not have been built in a day, but we put in a busy 10 hours touring the city. After a 6:30 a.m. breakfast, our tour guide, Simonetta, wisely had us off to tour the Vatican museum. We were one of the first groups into the museum when it opened at 8 a.m. and what a wonderful two hours it was. The history and beauty of the museum was breathtaking and there’s no way to accurately describe the magnificence of the Sistine Chapel and the four years of work Michaelangelo put into painting the ceiling.
We walked around the Vatican wall to St. Peter’s Square for a special treat — Pope Benedict XVI announced late the day before that he would make an appearance during a Saturday morning service. Italians came hours early to stake out seats/places for the ceremony. The organ music and choir were outstanding; the pope’s arrival made the day truly unique.
Next, it was off the Colosseum, one of the places I most wanted to see. Like the Vatican museum, it had a huge crowd — and also had local vendors selling all types of food and merchandise just feet away from the entrance. The Colosseum is a huge facility and I could just imagine how gladiators must have felt as they appeared to literally fight for their lives.
The Roman Forum, where Roman legions marched in triumph, was interesting because of its design and how much of the city you could see from the hill.
After a brief lunch stop — and yes, we had to each have a slice of pizza from a local pizzeria — our local guide for the day walked us through the historical center of Rome to various historical sites, including several churches and the Pantheon, and government buildings. We saw where another famous painter, Raphael, was buried.
Most importantly, we had a chance to see how the city’s residents spent their time on a Saturday afternoon.There were mimes and vendors everywhere. It also gave us a chance to take our first bites of gelato. It’s much like Baskins-Robbins’ ice cream, except the gelato is a lot richer and creamier. As Simonetta had predicted, we learned immediately to always order a larger size because there was never a temptation not to eat it all.