Could Italy and India be Similar? Let’s analyze….

My time spent in Italy has been lovely.  But, just to clarify for everyone, I am not on an “Eat. Pray. Love.” trip.  I have been asked this question several times, and while the adventure has been good for the soul, you can zip it now (I ask while displaying a shit-eating grin on my face)

  1. I don’t have the time or the resources to be gone for a year
  2. The only country that is the same as one from the book is Italy, all of the rest are very different
  3. I have been eating, praying and loving every minute of the journey and don’t feel the need to separate the three.

I can multitask quite well, thank you.  And since we are on the subject of multitasking, I decided that I have already seen India by going to Italy.  Let me splain……because Rome was summarized eloquently by an Indian woman (who now lives in Canada) I met, “Rome is pretty much the same as India with less people.”  I have found a few pieces of evidence that may support her claim.

I am currently on a plane to Berlin, then making a connection to Munich, where I will catch a train, a subway, and theeeennn a tram to visit my brother this week – as he is visiting for work.  Since I am over my quota to ask him for random information, instead of Google, I had to figure out how to get to the hotel all by myself (like a big kid now – it sucks ARSE!).  Sitting two rows in front of me are a couple of the most obnoxious, loud, whiny, bratty children I have ever seen and they are, of course, Italian.  This is evident when one of the brothers screams at the other one, during the entire flight, in Italian, and then their mom yells at both of them, in Italian.  They behave worse than Geoffrey – in fact, Geoffrey may be a perfect angel compared to how these two then proceed to rip each other and the plane apart for the next two hours (have you Googled who Geoffrey is yet?).  Italians are loud by nature – same as India – my new friend pointed out.  My concern about visiting there someday was doubled when she said “Yes, we are very loud, just like the people in Rome. Only multiply the number of people here by at least 20, and then you have an idea of how loud India is.”  Considering how sensitive I am to excess noise, eg I get reeeealllly pissy about it, I may need to eliminate India from my bucket list.

Example number two would be a lack of attention to detail.  Especially in Rome, Italians do not care if things are not clean, including themselves.  When it comes to the ability to comb their hair, brush their teeth, sweep up the floor, or wash their hands after using the restroom (with the exception of food, I have seen all the chefs/servers wash their hands thank GAWD!) you can bet that it probably won’t happen if they have more pressing matters to attend to, like pickpocketing someone on the subway.  (Although, I must give Italians the benefit of the doubt because this seems to be problematic for Europe as a whole.)  Granted the fact, there are many countries who are going to default on their debts soon (regardless of the bullshit they are touting in the media, the locals have said differently), so why spend money on things like half-assed street sweeping, or cleaning the gum off the floor in the subway (how hard is it to put that shit in the trash can people?!), but then why do they leave drinking fountains running 24/7 along the streets?  Some of the cutbacks I agree with, but then there are some that just leave you scratching your head.

Finally, the bathrooms. Thank GAWD I haven’t found many like this, but I did enter a couple of WC’s in Rome that were literally just a hole in the floor with markers of where to place your feet to squat.  They smelled worse than an outhouse coming from four blocks away – what did you have to eat dude?!  And they think you are going to pay to use one of these facilities!  Um, HELL no – I would rather pee myself than do that.  Even so, I would probably still smell better than the cheeziest of Italian men.

Don’t let the “clean” floor fool you. There is pee all over that floor!

I wonder if this is why you become a religious fanatic in Italy, or in India, is really just to get away from all of the noise??  All I know is that I cannot wait for this plane to land because I ready to go duct tape the kids’ mouths shut as I exclaim “May Peace Be With You” so that we all can get some quiet time.

Rome in a Day (and-a-half)

Before leaving Firenze this morning, I walked over to my favorite café for my last ciambella and a latte…”no ciambellas,” the barista said as I walked in (I guess I have been going there often huh?).  So, I made do with a chocolate croissant (or brioche, as they call it) and a latte, then went back to the hotel to finish packing things up and checked out before catching the super speedy Noon train to Roma (which only took an hour and forty minutes).  By 3pm, I had tracked down my hotel in Rome, checked in, got things settled, then braved the nasty ol’ wind (I HATE wind!) to see the Castel Sant’Angelo, built between 123-139AD, also rumored to have been occupied by Alexander the Great at some point.  As a suburb of the Vatican, the Popes seized the Castel during the 14th Century to make it a fortress, as well as living quarters for visiting Bishops and various dignataries.  Comparing that with how decrepit current day Popes look, there is no way I can see Mr. Benedict firing a gun without falling over, let alone going out and seizing a castle, then again, you never know what people are capable of during times of desperation, I suppose.

After a couple of hours, I left the Castel in time to arrive at the Spanish Steps before sunset.  It was much too crowded for my taste (I think the entire population of Vermont was sitting on the steps – which doesn’t seem like a whole lot until they are all huddled together to keep warm from the WIND. I must pause here to ask – what is it with the Spanish Steps that has people so worked up?!  They are a bunch of steps, and I have walked up at least 8,000, maybe more, that look the exact same, since I arrived in Europe last month, so why would I care about walking up a shit ton more?!  No thank you!  I walked up the huge hill to Villa Medici instead, only to find they were closing – Karma and I are best friends now, didn’t you know?)  Yes, the Medici’s had a house here in Rome too – they were some badass peeps, I am telling you.    All was not lost, however, because I found a lovely little restaurant that served Fettuccine with Black Truffle Cream Sauce for dinner (and felt redeemed since I was unable to have any again before I had left Florence).  Pleasantly full, I strolled back to the square to catch the subway to my hotel, where I retired for the evening.  I wanted to jump start on the next day since the itinerary was jam packed.

Whoever said “They didn’t build Rome in day” was correct, but doesn’t mean you can’t see it in a day (and a half….ish).  Okay, maybe not ALL of it, but if you shorten up your itinerary to exclusively include the shit that anyone really cares about anyway – the Colosseum, the Roman Ruins, and Vatican City (add in the Capital, the Vatican Museum, and I still was able to make it to the 5pm Mass – holla!)  Of course, I attribute the ability to accomplish this to Michael Jackson.  Where did that come from?  I know you are wondering.  Welllll……I woke up with his song, “Black or White” pumping through my brain during breakfast this morning, for who knows what reason, but then the guy sitting next to me on the subway was jamming out to “Got to Be Starting Somethin’”.  (This has to mean somethin’, if nothing else, then I gotta fun start to the day with a little MJ!).  I jumped off the subway and walked out of the tunnel to greet the HUUUUUGE building that once was saved for the flights of Gladiators (insert image of Russell Crowe looking exceptionally hot in a miniskirt here).  Unlike many other structures, it was built rather quickly – in only 10 years.  After I walked around the BiiiiG circle three times, I left to visit the Ruins across the street – equally impressive is the Roman Forum.

I didn’t stay more than an hour and a half though, because there is only so much old rocks and crap you can really stand to look at before you get sick of the wind blowing dirt in your eyes, so I decided to investigate what the giant white building with flaming carriages on the top of it was.  It is a monument for Emmanuelle II – I don’t even know who that is, but the people of Rome sure do love him, because they built and dedicated a monument that is three square city blocks wide as it is tall to him (if you know who he is will you please inform the rest of us? I am sick of Googling things – interesting that “google” has now become a verb isn’t it?).  At this point, I am beginning to question to myself (and now in my outside voice) the size of a Roman man’s penis and his ego – I am guessing one is small and the other big – but I will leave it up to you to determine which is which.  They really just like to design structures big and grandiose here, so it does give one cause to wonder, why for?  (Now, had I spent any more time with the respectable Claudio, I am sure I would know the answer to that question.  But, I have gained way too much self-respect at this point in my life to go through the effort of actually finding out.)

After seeing the monuments of the morning, it was now 1:30pm and my ticket time for the Vatican didn’t allow admittance until 3pm.  You get a time-stamped ticket when you make a reservation to see the wonders of the city, and you better show up on time, with your passport, or you are s**t out of luck to see the “Holy See” – this is what happens when you have more than 20,000 people a DAY paying to visit your country, you kind of get to make the rules, and the customer is not always right, most often they are just an a-hole – don’t say I didn’t warn you.  And yes, these are the things I am thinking as I am getting funneled through the Vatican Museum with the rest of the herd of cattle.  Irritation overwhelmed me and I decided to stray away from the herd that was stampeding to see the Sistine Chapel, so I took some time to peruse the remainder of the fantastic collection of art the Vatican has acquired over time (that no one else really cares about).  Not only do they have the World’s Largest “Hail the Pope” collection (as to be expected), but they have a wonderful display of Egyptian, Syrian, Palestinian, Mexican, and Aboriginal art, along with fewer Madonna with Child portraits than one might expect.  It was really quite spectacular (as I hope some of the pictures I took will demonstrate – but can’t really encompass the feeling of being there, so go see it – regardless of how you feel about Catholics or the Vatican).

And yes, the Sistine Chapel is certainly something amazing to see, yet challenging to enjoy when the guards have to keep shushing all of the dipshits who can’t read the signs displayed in 20 different languages telling you to be respectful of this holy place and STFU already (and I realize what I just wrote is somewhat of an oxymoron, but that is me, one giant walking oxyMORON)!  Kind of ironic, too, that the guard started yelling at the guy next to me (who thought that the rule didn’t apply to him and just kept yacking away to his wife about what the ceiling looked like…I am pretty sure she wasn’t blind, so I am not sure why he felt the need to describe to her in great detail the same thing she was already looking at) – now who was the one making all the noise???  With all of the chaos and splendor I lost track of time and hastily had to leave the museum to run 6 blocks to get to Mass at Saint Peter’s which started 5 minutes ago.  Oh well, I did not come all the way to Rome to visit Vatican City and miss the dang Mass.  I made it, just in time for communion – which really is the best part because then Mass is almost over, but not before my favorite part, when everyone turns to one another and says “May Peace be With You.”  I think this is definitely the most under-appreciated part of any service – and really is something that we should consider saying more often to one other, not just in a Christian Church, but in life.

Again, overwhelmed with gratitude and awe at the opulence of the church, I sat down at the end of the service and cried.  Guess what!?!  I wasn’t alone this evening, for everyone around me cried, too.  Each of us had our own reasons and my thoughts mostly kept returning to Baby Jack as he playfully hopped around in space of my heart and under the presence of God.  While my cousin’s life ended with such sadness and tragedy – I am utterly grateful to have been present within the experience of insurmountable suffering to be a witness to the blessing and miracle contained within his short life.  “Life is short,” was all he had to say to me that evening, “so remember to take time to play!”  Funny how we get caught up in our own sad story and forget how important that time is.  I wish for you all of you the time for an adult recess, time from negative thought patterns and self-defeating behavior, time to heal from past wounds and let go of resentment, time to savor what life has to offer with all of the good and all of the bad, time away from suffering.  To witness that in each of your lives and share that with you makes my heart leap with joy and gratitude (aside from all of my rants and BS that I offer squawk about from day-to-day).

May Peace be With You.