When we entered Italy, they scanned our whole body temperature with a thermal camera, and that’s how I knew were weren’t in Kansas (Greece) anymore.
When I met the local guide in Florence she told me she wasn’t shaking hands, which wouldn’t have been so ominous if the famous square we met at wasn’t so empty. We had a lovely time going from unoccupied museums to delicious gelato stops. It was a day and a half of rest and art, a necessary reprieve from the architectural history in Greece and the fatigue that was building in my travelers.
The next day we arrived at the Vatican where Ilaria, our guide, proceeded to tell us the juicy stories of sex, jealousy, and pettiness that Corrado (our usual guide) always fails to mention. She specifically told the story of Michaelangelo being salty when painting the Sistine Chapel. When I gave the group free time (the thing that kept my introvert self going), I made my way to my favorite restaurant in Rome, Ristorante Tre Pupazzi by the Vatican. When that half of a bottle of white wine, caprese starter, and cacio e pepe hit my mouth, tears welled up in my eyes. Thank God for respite and carbs. This specific trip I learned my lesson of how to let go and relax during my free time. I learned how to sit at the Piazza Navona with a coca-cola for two hours just people watching, how to spend time at my favorite tea shop adjacent to the Spanish steps without guilt, and how to sip a cappuccino looking at the Roman Forum while practicing my Italian with the waiters. The Spanish steps are actually no longer available to sit and relax on, there are men and women in obnoxiously neon vests telling you to get off if you even stop to take a picture. I secretly loved this because it caused my group to go out and explore the high-end shopping district of Rome (Go! Be free! (without me)).
The last day we arrived to the Colosseum, and it met my expectations of always being the hardest entrance process ever. Every year they don’t accept my tickets, we need passports, or something ridiculous. Thank the Lord for Andrea (in this moment). Once we got into the Colosseum, it was empty and void of the usual numerous tour groups and tourists. We were in and out of there like bandits in the night (Not the point, Andrea).
That night my claim that Italian men are insufferably forward was corroborated in front of my whole group when the waiter at our pizza restaurant called me his wife, required me to stay by his side when talking to the kids, and inviting me on a date and over his house before my 7 AM wake up call the next morning. That’s a hard no, Casanova.
My group arrived at the airport and left my presence to go back to the states seamlessly on their last day, and then I could focus on planning how much wine I was going to down the next day while I laid in my hostel bed mooching off free WiFi.