Thursday, January 28, 2010

Italy Day 9: Last Day in Rome

This is a repost of my 2007 trip to Italy with my mom, brother, sister and Aunt.

We woke up this morning in completely disbelief: This would be our last day in Italy. I was both sad to leave and anxious to get back home. I really missed Matt by this point. I'd only been able to send scattered e-mails and make two phone calls. It was the longest time we'd been apart, and I had so much I wanted to share with him.
But we enjoyed the hospitible, pastry-filled breakfast at La Pace in Sorrento before we left for Rome. It would be a long drive, but broken up by a stop at the Commonwealth Cemetery, a HUGE cemetery that held the graves of English (mostly) soldiers killed on Italian soil in WWII. It was a tense time, for Katherine particularly: Her boyfriend, Jason, was slated to return to Iraq for his third tour with the Marines shortly after we got back. I know it was a tough place for her to visit, and she was back on the bus before me.

There were hundreds of graves, and about 10 enormous memorial slabs with names of hundreds of soldiers on them. Next to each grave was a plant native to the soldier's homeland, and red roses from England were in bloom. The epitaphs were beautiful, and the simple headstones that just said "An Unknown Soldier Killed in WWII" were moving. And, like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that.

Back to Rome, we stayed in the EUR, the part of the city built by Mussolini to showcase Italy for the 194X Olympics that were never held there because, uh-oh, world war II broke out. It was very corporate, stark square buildings, lots of concrete ... exactly what you'd think someone like Mussolini would build. We dropped our stuff off at the Sheraton, had enough time to enjoy a hazlenut candy bar and some relaxing reading, before going on a final tour of Rome.

We started by driving around, trying to find a parking space close to the center of town, because it was coincidentally an enviornmentally-friendly day all across Europe where center streets were closed down all over the continent to encourage using city transport. Basically, a day made to annoy our bus driver.

Finally, though, we got to the Presidential Palace, and then walked to the Trevi Fountain. It's funny, but it looks just like the one in Las Vegas, only you know it's a bigger deal because there are thousands of people crowding around it, jostling for their turn to wish for a return to Rome. The story of the fountain is that it was fashionable to build these spectacular monuments back in the day, but the man who owned the building the fountain butts up against wouldn't agree to any work on his house to accomodate the fountain.

No problem, said the architect. He simply built the fountain against the wall, and even added a facade to the side of the building. Pretty crazy!

The deal with the fountain and throwing coins is this (we were told): One coin means a return to Rome. Two coins means finding love in Rome. Three coins means getting rid of an inconvenient love. For some reason, Vincenzo said that those on an unhappy second honeymoon trip would want to throw six coins in the fountain. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

So I threw my one coin. Anthony was proud: He threw two. Katherine threw one coin. I don't know how many Sugar threw, but mom threw two. The second one was for a picture, though, so she said it didn't really count. :)

Then we saw more sights in Rome. More beautiful churches, with beautiful perspective paintings. More priests. More nuns. More gypsies. More Parthenon. More Piazza Navona. Frankly, at this point, they're blurring together entirely too much. It was just lovely to be in the city one more time. At the end of our tour, we climbed on our bus one last time for a trip to the Casanova, our final restaurant of the trip, for a farewell dinner with free-flowing wine and Opera singers.

The food was OK, but the wine was good, and while I swear I had no more than three glasses, they were enough to turn my head. Between that, the rich food of the days before and the excitement of going home, I was sick all our last night, and didn't get much sleep before our 5 a.m. bus ride to the airport.

And here's where those upgraded seats come into play from the beginning of the trip. We were able to upgrade again for half of our second leg, but were stuck in Economy from DC to LA. You should have heard this final flight: A symphony of coughing, sneezing and nose-blowing. There was no way we were getting off those planes without getting sick.

When we landed in DC, though, as tummy-tender as I was, I was so tickled to see a Wendy's, and be in a place where I didn't have to translate every interaction before acting. I've never been so pleased to see fast food and rude people in my life! We had a couple hour layover before our flight, and then trooped onto our plane, into seats so small that just sitting regularly forced me to wedge my knees uncomfortably against the seat in front of me. I decided the only way to survive this claustrophobia was to sleep, and I did for as long as I could. I picked at the dinner they left, and started to watch a movie to distract me from the motion sickness and subtle panic.

About halfway through my movie, the screen shut down and I had to stifle a scream ... I could not endure that flight without the distraction of a movie. My feet were numb from the tight fit against the seat in front of me, I was in the middle of a row of five, which was in the middle of a row of nine, and rubbing shoulders with my seatmates on all sides. Everyone was sick, and I was running to the airplane bathroom as often as possible, just to breathe normally. But thankfully, the pilot came on and announced that we'd be landing soon in LA, and to get ready.

"Thank God!" I said, and Anthony looked at me funny. He told me I'd slept for about three hours. Wow! But when I started doing the math, I realized that we'd gotten up in Rome at 5 a.m., and I'd probably gotten about four hours of sleep the night before. It was 10 p.m. in LA, meaning it was 1 a.m. in Rome. By the time we got to bed that night, we'd been up for 24 hours.

Oh, I thought, as I sank into the air mattress my mom had provided in the exercise room that used to be my room. THIS is Jet Lag!

I had enough time the next morning to share pictures with Mom and Anthony before catching my (sigh) plane to San Jose. Luckily, it was about an hour's flight, and Matt met me as close to the gate as he could. Except for being sick and so tired I could barely keep my eyes open, everything was back the way it should be. We ate at one of our favorite restaurants that night, and I fell asleep by 6, and struggled through two and a half days of work before calling in sick, and sleeping the weekend away.

Matt called it my Italian Malaira. Katherine, who also had it, named it the "Chunga-Chunga Fever."

After two weeks of getting well, unpacking, doing laundry, getting through some tough deadlines at work and enjoying some R&R, I really (almost) feel back to normal. Except I miss Italy. I miss being abroad. I miss being on vacation. I miss being able to turn my head and see history. I miss Italian food and Italian wine.

But Matt's cooking sure tastes good.

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