‘Do as the Roman’s do’…what a legendary phrase. It really is the perfect travel motto. Get involved in local shit; eat local food, mingle with the local crowd, dance to local music, and most importantly respect local customs and practices. It’s an amazing mentality and one that everyone should adopt when exploring a new place.
So when someone told me that it is tradition to eat three flavours of gelato a day while in Italy, I naturally obliged. It would have been rude not to. Whether there was actually any substance or merit to this statement we will never know, nor do I care to check those facts. If someone gives you cultural permission to be totally gluttonous, grab the bull by the horns and pig out. Hell, even eat the whole bull if you’re feeling up to it.
I have to admit that although I do have quite vivid and lasting memories of my time in Italy, I have also forgotten a lot. I was there when I was 18, so time has taken it’s toll, but besides France it was my favourite country on my first European tour.
Italians seem to do everything right, and they have been for more years than any of us can count. The architecture is bloody mind boggling, the food is simple but ‘bellissimo’, the people are unfairly attractive (the police wear Armani suits for Gods sake), and the landscapes are varied and stunning. And don’t even think about forgetting the history.
I took a Roman Civilisation course in university after Gladiator became my favourite film (still is to this day), and at one stage I could name and locate every single Roman territory that existed. To give you an idea of the Empire’s ridiculous scale, and my nerd-ish-ness, it looked like this:
What a prick of a professor, right??
Joking aside, Roman history is fascinating, and the fact that you can visit there still to this day, and see structures like the Pantheon still in tact, it makes the jaw drop! So as much as I usually detest organised tours, I really did enjoy the historical walking guided tour we did while in Rome. It’s worth the small amount of time for the big amount of information.
I learnt heaps about Roman history during my few days there, but one thing I should have brushed up on was the religious practices. I am a baptized Catholic. My parents both come from large Catholic families, but the buck pretty much stopped at them. My sisters and I were baptized and that was the end of that story. I think what happened was my parents asked us if we wanted to go to Sunday School, and like, come on, if you ask any kids if they want to go to Sunday School the answer is likely going to be no, so we never went. Which meant we never went to Catholic school, and never made our Holy Communion.
When I moved to Ireland I was on a road trip with some friends and the topic of religion came up. I mentioned I was baptized but never made my communion, and then the little hamster started running around in my head…WAIT! I thought…Could I make my communion here, in Ireland? This passing statement ballooned into a hilarious but real and full on plan. I was determined to do it. It would be the biggest party, I would DJ at it, and I would wear one of those ‘Big Fat Gypsy’ communion gowns. After learning what communion was all about, someone casually said ‘You know, it’s when you eat the bread at church’. At that moment the hamster stopped running and a light bulb went off. Back in Rome, in 2005, I had sat in on mass in St Peter’s Basilica. The priest was giving out the bread to everyone after, so in true lemmings style I casually strolled up, opened my mouth, and in went the bread. I thought nothing of it. Turns out I semi took my communion already, and in the Vatican to boot.
Rome was the best of the Italian cities for me, and not only because I became a lady of God there. We visited Pisa, Florence and Venice as well on our travels but Rome was always the most impressive.
Pisa was gross- dirty and full of men selling fake Louis Vuitton’s. We basically only went to get the typical ‘propping up the tower’ photo and then left, so likely not a fair description. That was my impression of the place anyway. Florence was beautiful, but I got so drunk our first night there that it actually ruined the rest of my time in the city. Disgraceful, I know. But that was a solid three day hangover I just could not kick. So I embarrassingly do not have much to say about Florence. And then Venice…the place that is meant to rival Paris on the romance levels. Again, found it a bit dirty. There were dead rats and garbage floating around in the canals, and I did not get the authentic Italian vibe I was hoping for. The weather wasn’t great when we went though and again I was hungover (I promise I am not an alcoholic), so that played a bit into my mood. Also, when we did a gondola ride our man was wearing something like an Ed Hardy t-shirt and chatting on his cell phone the whole time, so me no-likey.
I would love to go back to both Florence and Venice though. I feel like I didn’t give them a fair shot, and know I would likely appreciate their vibes way more now than I did after I got sloppy drunk. I was 18 though, away from home for the first time, excitable, and legally allowed to drink. Look out world.
I have a few other Italian locations on my radar for future weekend getaways, so hope that one of my upcoming posts will be from that part of the world. I miss Italy, and as I type this I kick myself for not getting back sooner.