Tuesday, December 28, 2010


While it snowed, seemingly without ceasing, in Paris last week, we were off in Italy.  It wasn't sunny but at least it was well above freezing, really just the right temperature for wandering the byroads of Rome and Florence assuming you had an umbrella.  And while most of European air travel was paralyzed, we made it out of CDG with only a modest delay and back without a hitch.  Well, okay, our plane was struck by lightning as we landed at Rome's Fiucimino airport, but that rattled the passengers a lot more than the pilot.  Somehow we managed to miss both the demonstrations against Berlusconi and the embassy bombings.

My husband and I had been both places before.  But that trip was almost twenty years ago and most of my memories are of the heat and the crowds.  It was August, after all; I'm really not sure what we were thinking.  I went back to look at the journal entries I made at the time and while it summoned up a few more reminiscences, for the most part, it was almost as if I was reading about someone else's life.  Santa Maria Novella, Santa Croce, the Piazzale Michelangelo?  Really?  I don't remember that at all.

Someone had told us to stay away from the Vatican at Christmas time when pilgrims would presumably be swarming the place.  But it wasn't bad at all.  In fact, Rome and Florence were pretty much crowd free -- no lines at St. Peter's or the Colosseum, no need for a reservation at the Uffizi or the Accademia (although we had them anyway.)  We ate plenty of pizza, pasta, and gelato, and the kids got more than their fill of altarpieces and holy relics.   We learned about ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the lives of the saints, the power of the Catholic church, that zucchero filato is Italian for cotton candy, and not to forget to compost your ticket when taking a train.

And in addition to the amazing opulence of the Vatican museums (including the Sistine Chapel), the crazy quilt mess that is the Roman Forum, the majesty of Brunelleschi's dome towering over the winding streets of Florence, and the colorful vegetable markets, we saw many interesting things although perhaps not those noted in the guidebooks. 

You can buy any kind of American license plate you like along the banks of the Tiber.

Rome is definitely the place to buy your clerical gear.  The windows with the albs, miters, soutanes, and chasubles were much more colorful but I liked the mannequins in the dreary nun's garb.  Do you suppose that nuns walk by these windows and dream?

You're not fooling me.  I have been to Paris and this is definitely not the Louvre.

Even street performers get lunch breaks.  These wings belong to a lifesized Cupid.  (Don't worry -- he was dressed.)

I imagine we'll be seeing more of these in the coming weeks.

Galileo's finger.  If you were excommunicated you might to give your middle finger to the church too.

Panettone was on sale everywhere with all different varieties and wrapping.  This lady must have had a big crowd at her house for Christmas.


Sweet Freak said...

Wow - sounds like a lovely trip!

I trained to London and was also amazed at how smooth and hassle-free the traveling was (luckily no lightening bolts!), and how few crowds there were on either end of the Chunnel. In fact, the easiest holiday travel ever!

Love the lady and Panettone on the bike!

Hope your season continues to be happy and delicious! xo

Starman said...

Good to see you had no travel problems. Lucky you.

Cécile Qd9 said...

Thez first picture illustrating your message alows me to share "ZE" big question I had in mind after my very first trip to Italy this summer. I went to Pisa and Firenze and I really LOVED my trip. BUT...
How is it possible that a country with such a tradition of art and culture produces so ugly souvenirs ?
Honestly what can you possibly bring back from an italian gift shop ?

Anne said...

Well Cecile, how many mini Eiffel Towers does one need either? I'm not a big shopper but was very pleased to come home with some lovely stationery from Florence. Would have loved a bound book too but they were beyond my budget.

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