It took me so long to finally write about our amazing trip to Italy this May. Something special about this trip is we included Nick’s 81 year old grandmother, Janice (J), who’s family originated from Italy. She looked forward to it for a whole year and even though her memory isn’t what it used to be, we made a few accommodations to make this trip special for her.
We flew into Rome first and took a cab to our AirBNB. The apartment was not spectacular, especially for Janice… it didn’t have 2 bedrooms like it listed but rather a room with 2 beds and a living room with a couch. The bathroom also had multiple doors, one to the shower and one to a small balcony. There was also a bidet. We dropped off our stuff and wandered to Santa Maria Maggiore, a Catholic basilica with its beautiful statues and mosaics decorating multiple domes.
We followed street signs towards Trevi Fountain, stopping for wine along the way. We really enjoyed the Italian house wines! The great thing about Italy is that wines usually come with olives or crackers to snack on for free so it becomes a longer social experience. Just like we expected, Trevi fountain was packed with people, but still magnificent to see in real life.
We continued on to the Pantheon which is the point where I really felt like we were in Rome. To see this 2000 year old beautiful, impeccably preserved monument that holds the tomb of Renaissance artist Raphael… that was an overwhelming feeling!
We knew our first night, we wanted to try the popular pasta Caccio e Pepe… which I think translates to cheese and pepper. These pastas came served to our table in the skillets they were cooked in. It did not disappoint!
Unfortunately for the rest of the night, Janice’s dementia got the best of her. Once it was time to get ready to sleep, J lost a little situational awareness. She repeatedly went to the bathroom and ended up in the balcony… or locked herself in the bathroom and could not remember how to unlock the door… or the worst, when I tried to help her start the shower, only to find her stuffing the towels in the bidet!!! She did NOT like the room layout and could not settle between sleeping on the second bed or on the couch in the living room. And just when we thought things were mellowing out… I wake up to see her leering over me in my sleep clearly with no idea who I was! Thankfully, J is a very easy going lady and will accept most explanations without getting to upset. Eventually (at 1 am) Nick had enough and we had to baby proof the room and go for a short walk to talk. Nick was certain we needed to go home and J couldn’t handle it. Thankfully flights were way too expensive so we had to give day 2 a try,
On day 2, we awoke early… very sleep deprived and moved our luggage to a locker for the day. It was rainy and while Nick and I packed rain jackets, poor Janice got stuck with a dollar poncho she was furious about! As soon as the weather cleared up, she chucked the poncho into the nearest trash! We got espressos and pastries for breakfast and headed to our first attraction of the day; the Colosseum! I am embarrassed to admit, I had meticulously planned my outfits for each location… and the temperature and rain just were NOT cooperating! Many of my pictures involved removing a few extra layers! Janice seemed to have packed just like me and ended up borrowing my and Nick’s layers and leaving us cold!
But the Colosseum was incredible! I had made Nick watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie with me before we left for Rome and my mind was wandering between how incredible the architecture was and how it could possibly have been made so long ago…. and how gullible I was as a child to think Lizzie McGuire actually performed a concert here!
After the Colosseum, we took a cab to our new AirBNB, White Apartment, near the train station. Thank god, this apartment was much more American-like. The decor was lovely, there were two real rooms and a living room. The bathroom didn’t have a dangerous exit and the lock was simple. No bidet to confuse poor Janice! Fortunately for us, night 2 went much smoother; Janice still experienced some sundown syndrome, BUT she believed she was back home in the states… packing for Italy. At first, Nick tried to correct her, but after a while we just let her believe what she wanted knowing she would regain some clarity in the morning.
Day 3 was unforgettable! This was our Vatican Day. We got our tickets with a tour for mid morning. We stood in a scarily long line… yet entering the Vatican Museum with its priceless art and masterpieces took WAY less time than getting through Newark airport. Anyway, we got to see St. Peter’s Basilica… off to the side was Michelangelo’s Pieta and lastly, we climbed to the top of Michelangelo’s dome. Incredibly, Janice took the spiral staircase like a champ… even better than people half her age!
We enjoyed the views and took our tour of the Vatican museum. The Sistine Chapel really grounded in the genius of Michelangelo! We were good and didn’t take any pictures and actually bought a book with all the art to see it in more detail. The most impressive part of the ceiling was the absolute chaos! Most paintings show everyone in their best poses… the Sistine Chapel ceiling looked like a snapshot was taken as biblical figures were falling out of the sky. The final judgement caught peoples expressions of horror as they were pulled apart by demons! I could hurt my neck by craning it to see everything.
We walked back to find the Raphael rooms but unlike the Sistine Chapel that surpassed expectations, the School of Athens was just not as overwhelming. I think it would have been if I had seen it before the chapel… but yeah, in the battle of the master artists, Michelangelo won. Apparently, Raphael painted Michelangelo in the School of Athens… he is the lonely grumpy man everyone is ignoring. Renaissance level of pettiness.
On our way back, we took the hop-on hop-off bus. The only seats available were upstairs and it was raining. There was a canopy but it only seemed to funnel water in. The people in the back of the bus all sat together and used their umbrellas to make a fort for protection. We just suffered through it.
Our last night included a trip to the Spanish Steps, a fancy dinner, and my favorite… pistachio gelato and wine outside the Pantheon. Accordion players came and serenaded us… and Nick broke his code and bought me and Janice roses (the second rose I have received from him in three years of dating; these are rare). Janice even had the bright idea to take a picture with our roses in our teeth tango style.
Part 2 will hit up our travels through Florence and Venice 🙂 But for now, here are extra pictures: