Hey there! It’s good to be home! Yep, the trip to Italy is over. It was absolutely nothing like the trip I took to the Holy Land last year. Grab a glass of iced tea, and find a comfy spot, and I’ll tell you a little bit about the trip.
What I learned on my Summer Vacation.
Not every trip billed as a “Pilgrimage” will feel like one. This trip felt like a crazy cross-country tour. Our tour leader and our priest assured me that God would plant many seeds in my heart that would grow and blossom in the future.
Tour bus drivers all have hinges hidden in the middle of those motor coaches. That’s the ONLY explanation I can give for the places they drive those things. Souvenirs are very expensive, buying and mailing a post card back to the States was about $3 American.
Italian hotels don’t have wash cloths, but every single room had a bidet. Many hotels in Italy still use conventional keys, hung from large brass tags that you insert into a slot for the lights in the room, just like the plastic cards. Hotels also do not have gift/sundry shops. I learned that having a hotel do your laundry is VERY expensive – about 12 Euros to wash a pair of jeans and 8 Euro for a simple T shirt. That’s about $13.40 American for the jeans at the current 1.12 exchange rate. No, they weren’t mine.
Restaurants do not open for dinner before 7pm, usually 7:30. Water is not complimentary at most meals, it must be purchased, in a bottle like wine. They also do not have Dr. Pepper or apple juice. Pizza really is a staple over there, like our hamburger. I only saw a single place that served steak. It was in a pizza shop. The steak was very very thick and very good, served with wedge fries but no salad. (They serve pasta instead of salad.) Italy is obsessed with Nutella. It was everywhere- breakfast buffets, roadside quick stop places, gelato shops.
Local Italian city tour guides seemingly aren’t aware of Americans’ top two – bathrooms and shopping in every tourist gift shop. They are also used to walking briskly everywhere, even in the sun and heat, without water.
It is possible to lose a 6’3″ linebacker – our water taxi in Venice left without him. He was located fairly quickly, eating gelato on St. Mark’s square.
You need another bag, and that bag needs to have handle alterations done in the room with your trusty sewing kit. (Two loop handles to a cross-body. There are pick pockets in Italy!) You can also use that kit to fix the local guide’s bag before she loses the handle all together. 🙂
Italian drivers are the absolutely craziest. Traffic jams are a way of life, even with those roundabout thingies. I once watched a scooter rider change into rain gear in less than half a stoplight. I saw a bus that never even slowed down while being passed by an ambulance. The night we had dinner at Castel Gondolfo, it took 3 hours for the bus to get there, and 45 minutes to come back at 11pm.
You can easily survive without your cell phone if you leave it at Oropa and don’t get it back until Rome, over a week later. It cost me about 23 Euros to have it ‘expressed’ from Oropa to Rome; postal service is largely unreliable over there, and nobody wanted to risk attempting to ‘overnight’ it.
You cannot simply walk into a store in Italy and buy Ibuprofen or Aspirin. Your tour guide has to help; everything there is very tightly controlled.
Italy has mountains – the Italian Alps. Didn’t know that. Parts of Italy look like southern Missouri, except the mountains are taller. According to our guide, there is a lot of work in wool and lots of ‘sheepermans’ (shepherds) in Italy. We never saw any sheeps. Don’t ask, I have no earthly idea.
A Benedictine Monastery in Italy has a brewery run by a monk from south Texas. I couldn’t make that up. He was actually running the cash register at the Abbey gift shop. He invited us to come to the vespers service, which was sung in choir by the monks. Then they had Eucharistic Adoration. Definitely one of my favorite times on the trip. Also one of the most painful. They don’t have padded kneelers in Europe.
People actually drink from the fountains. I watched our tour guide do it on several occasions.
Many of the apartment or office buildings were originally part of somebody’s palace. Palaces were often built for royalty from other countries who took up residence in the area, even if they didn’t rule; palaces were also built for family members like nephews or wives.
The shroud of Turin is only displayed very infrequently, only displayed 4 times in the 20th Century. It is a very moving thing to see.
That’s it. I’m headed for a nap… jet lag is not fun. Just wanted to stop by and let you know I’m back!