This is Part 2 of 2 in a series recounting our first trip to Europe. We visited expat friends in Italy. You can read Part 1 here. When we weren’t at our friends’ apartment in Modena, we traveled to two other cities. At the time we bought tickets, Mr. Vine said he wanted to see two places in Italy: Rome and Venice. As I mentioned in Part 1, severe flooding prevented our visit to Venice. First up, we traveled to Rome by train. Rome is a considerable distance from Modena, so we booked two nights at a hotel there to allow us to see more of the city.
In Rome, we stayed at the Rose Garden Palace hotel, in the Ludovisi neighborhood, near Via Veneto. The hotel was lovely, as was the neighborhood. We often ate dinners near the hotel on recommendations from the concierge. As elsewhere in Italy, wine is very affordable and our dinners often included a bottle or two.
One of the primary ways we explored Rome was via Hop On/Hop Off bus tour. A day pass is cheaper than cab fare and the bus will stop at the major tourist sites, while providing commentary and history. Jet lag was catching up with me and I often dozed off while we were on the bus.
We visited Rome near Christmas, so the weather was cool, but mild. We had some patches of rain, but the skies were mostly clear. We walked all over the Eternal City and fell in love. The architecture is stunning. Mr. Vine couldn’t get enough photos of fountains and churches.
A particularly memorable part of our visit to Rome was a night time walk. We walked around the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Forum, to name a few of the major sites. I recall being struck by how ancient it all was. Because this was my first trip to Europe, the oldest buildings I’d previously seen were in the United States and not much older than a couple hundred years.
Standing outside the Forum and contemplating the vastness of 25 centuries of human existence was powerful. It was then that I realized one truism of travel: exploring the world reveals both the insignificance and the power of humanity. The fact that these places still stood and that people had walked here for well over two thousand years was incomprehensible. Some places in the world show a history too far back to imagine. And there’s something special about standing in those places and stretching one’s mind to do so.
We walked along the Tiber River and into Vatican City. We stood near the Spanish Steps. We walked into the Pantheon and looked up. I couldn’t get enough of Rome. We wanted to soak it all in. Someday, we hope to return. That’s the trouble with wanderlust–the world is so full of places to explore. It’s hard to get back to a beloved destination. Too soon, it was time to return to Modena and on to the next portions of our trip.
Florence was a happy accident. Jet lag again creeped in and I lost control of my emotions when we weren’t able to visit Venice. Eventually, I calmed down and accepted the trip to Florence. My legs were so tired from all the walking we’d done in Rome. As a result, much of my visit to Florence was spent drinking cappuccino with my friend.
Like Rome, but for entirely different reasons, I’d love to revisit Firenze. Florence is the portrait of sophistication and the medieval renaissance. I very much enjoyed all of the sculpture in the city. Particularly around the Uffizi Gallery, there are so many sculptures to appreciate. My personal favorite is Perseus with the head of Medusa. The full size replica of Michelangelo’s David is also not to be missed, especially if you (like us) are not going to see the real deal.
The River Arno, with the Ponte Vecchio, was spectacular on the foggy, overcast day we visited Florence. I did some street shopping in Florence. I purchased a couple of scarves. I still wear and enjoy them today. It remains thrilling to get a compliment and reply that I purchased the piece in Florence.
When I visited Florence, I didn’t feel fully prepared to appreciate the city. Returning with intention would be nice. Having studied political science as an undergraduate, which included reading The Prince, made Florence especially resonant for me. Visiting the city of the Medici family and the place that inspired Machievelli’s famous work was special.
I haven’t even talked about the food, which did not disappoint. We ate pizza and pasta, drank vin santo, and sipped espresso. Italy was a delight for all of our senses.
This travel flashback was fun. During a time when I can’t stroll the engineering marvel that is a Roman-built road, I felt transported for a moment while remembering. Hopefully soon it will once again be safe to explore the great cities of this world.
Have you visited Italy? What are some of your favorite memories? Where do you want to visit when international travel reopens?