We are back from Italy!

Posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 5:12 pm

We have returned from our journey abroad! We are all doing great, although we are a bit jet lagged. Violet was a superstar- such an easy baby. Ivy also did great, especially considering how exhausted the poor thing was. I found out why no one travels on long trips with toddlers – its too much for their little bodies to handle! Next time we will lay over midway through and spend the night before continuing on the second half of the trip. Other than her tiredness, Ivy was such a little doll. The Italians LOVED her, and everyone was so nice to us as a family.

We started out in Rome for a week. The apartment we rented ended up being further from the Vatican than we had hoped for, but it was a comfortable place to come home to after a long day of sightseeing. We toured the Necropolis below St. Peter’s Basilica and saw St. Peter’s tomb as well as John Paul II’s tomb (a very moving experience at both tombs, for different reasons). We went to the Colosseum, Roman Forum (where our stroller’s wheels practically came off, the ancient paving was so rough), Palatine Hill, Vatican Museums, the Monastary of the Cappuchin Monks (very creepy and thought-provoking) and attended the Papal Audience (we were close enough to snap a picture of his red shoes (see our Photos page). One thing to note about the Vatican and Rome in general is how nice it is to see so much clergy just walking around. Nuns of every order, priests, and even Bishops! There are also quite a few clergy/church supply stores. One place we visited has glass coffins available in their catalog…you know, in case you want to display your incorruptible saint!

The baptism itself went wonderfully, although due to a last minute change in the attendance of our proxies (that’s an even longer story), we found ourselves accosting strangers trying to find an English speaking practicing Catholic who would agree to miss the Holy Father’s Sunday Angelus and come attend the baptism instead. Most people thought I was a gypsy and shied away from me (I was wearing Violet in a sling). We finally found Cyrille taking pictures at St. Anne’s Gate, and she was kind enough to join us!!

Fr. Spiteri took us all through St. Anne’s Gate, past numerous Swiss Guards (they are so dang cute, even if they are deadly in hand combat!), who saluted each of us as we passed through. We took a short shortcut through the Apostolic Palace, which was surreal. We saw the most magnificent staircase that went on forever, and was lined by huge columns. We felt like we were walking straight into a painting. When finally entered the Basilica, Father took Phillip behind the scenes of the Basilica into a huge circular room where he was expected to help Father vest.

When they reemerged, Phillip and I had to sign a huge book as well as some documents, and then the baptism commenced, with my mom, sister, my 3 relatives from Spain, and our new friend Cyrille also in attendance. It was really beautiful, and we feel so blessed that Violet is now a baptized Catholic!

A side note on the baptismal font – it was placed in the Basilica’s baptistery in the 17th century, and its red porphyry base was made from an ornament on an ancient pagan sepulcher, later used to cover the sarcophagus of Otto II who died in 983. Interesting stuff!!

Anyhow, after our week in Rome was over (far too quickly for our taste), we took the train to Florence where I was able to revisit my old school in Piazza Santo Spirito (I was there 10 years ago, but absolutely nothing has changed!) We did a lot of walking around the San Lorenzo market, bargained for some Florentine-made items, visited the Duomo, ate molto gelato, saw the David, saw the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and crossed the Ponte Vecchio numerous times. There is some really great shopping in Florence, by the way!

After Florence it was on to Venice for Carnevale. By this point we were pretty exhausted, but there is no ignoring the absolute stunning beauty of Venice! The people in costume were equally as stunning, and so mysterious. In Venice, we went to Mass at St. Mark’s Basilica, took a tour of the Doge’s Palace, and there we had a chance to visit areas of the Palace that few ever see. In the Palace we saw Casanova’s prison cell, the torture room, the armory, took a peek above the suspended ceilings, and were shown some of the secret passageways of the Palace. We also had a chance to take a gondola ride, which was absolutely worth every penny because you can see Venice in a way that you are otherwise unable to do. My only regret about Venice is that we did not get to do very much shopping (try taking a handsy 2 year old into a shop full of delicate glass things!) The B&B where we stayed, La Villeggiatura, was beautiful! Every morning they served us fresh baked croissants filled with jam or cream, blood orange juice, rolls, some type of delicious yogurt, and the most awesome coffee I have ever had. It was really a great way to start each day!

On our last day in Italy we went to Milan (we would be flying out early the next morning from Milan, so we thought it best to get there a day ahead of time). Our friend Enrica, who is from Milan, very kindly arranged for us to stay in the apartment of a friend of her mother’s. Despite the brief stay, we got to meet our friend’s mom, a very charming lady who served us wine and salami that was made at her farm. After eating her own meal, Violet very politely spit up on her 18th century Persian rug. Complimenti! Si mangia buono! I found out that Enrica is descended from a very well known and ancient Venetian family with no less than 4 Doge’s in their lineage… You learn something new every day!

As a side note, the advice we are bringing back with us is to think twice when ordering a Diet Coke in Italy. (They are called Coca Light over there). We paid astronomical prices at restaurants, the most expensive ones being the 7 euros per Coca Light at Cafe Quadri in Venice and 5.50 in Milan. Thats in euros, so its about $9 in and $7, respectively !!! Ouch! We also didn’t get any ice for our Coca Lights unless we were at an especially fancy place, in which case we got 2 cubes in each glass. I felt pampered for sure.

Anyway, all in all it was a truly memorable and fantastic trip, and we feel so blessed to have been able to go. Now we just have to adjust to no more awesome Italian coffee!! :)

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