For a full list of my travel adventures, click here.
It’s a bit strange, that nearly a week after I got back from Italy, I’m finally sitting down to write about my experience. However, as you’ve already seen, there was plenty of Year-End stuff I needed to get finished, and as you’ll soon see, there was a pretty valid reason my productivity levels were sub-par in the past week.
On the 23rd, I caught an evening flight from London to Rome, only mildly looking forward to my trip. I was ambivalent, and I’m not totally sure why. I knew I wasn’t going to be missing anything in London by leaving, as all my favorite people were either back in the States or out exploring the world. I also knew I would deeply regret not taking the time to visit another country that my family is from—I am Croatian (50%), French-Canadian (25%) and Italian (25%), though on my mom’s side, the Italian has always dominated the French. But still, I was ambivalent. I packed, took trains, waited in queues, and boarded my plane. I sat patiently, and debarked in Rome, a bit more filled with a sense of adventure. It took approximately three minutes to realize, oh shit, I’m in a non-English country, and I am completely alone (I was meeting friends when they arrived from Berlin, but had no way of calling them).
My time in Rome ended up being somewhat magical, and somewhat terrible. My first full day, Christmas Eve, was spent in a flurry of sightseeing. Most major attractions were reported to be closed, so in a day, I did the Vatican including St. Peter’s Bascilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Sistine Chapel. I saw the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon. I dined on al dente ravioli at the Piazza Nuova, and had midnight mass with the Pope at the Vatican. Somewhere in there, I also started running a fever. I spent most of mass shivering violently, and was in so much pain from my fever that I was in tears by the time I got back to the flat I rented for my stay in Rome.
By Christmas morning, I was full in the grips of what I came to realize was the flu. I had a terrible cough, ran a fever on and off for all of my trip, and ended up on a cocktail of meds from the Italian pharmacists when we occasionally were able to understand one another. I spent all of Christmas day in bed, venturing out around 6pm to meet my friends, visit the pharmacy for the first (of many) times, and have Christmas dinner at McDonalds so that I had food in my stomach as I took things to hopefully help me feel better.
The following day was better—my meds were managing my fever, and so I boarded an 8:40am train to Florence. It was a speedy trip, including climbing the Duomo with a smokers’ cough, eating panini in a small vino bar, and taking a three-hour side-trip to Pisa to see buildings both leaning and non-leaning. I caught a train back to Rome 12 hours later, and collapsed into bed. If there’s anything worse than A) having the flu, or B) having the flu while on holiday in Italy, it’s C) having the flu while on holiday in Italy and not slowing down, which you know only prolongs recovery and increases the frequency of relapse. And of course, relapse I did.
The following morning, I boarded a train to Naples, and ended up feverish again by the time I arrived. Naples, of all cities, is quite possibly the worst to be delirious in: cars honking, people speaking no English, twisted, narrow streets and alleys, and a fair bit of luck which finally led me to my hostel. Luckily, my host put me in a spare bed for a few hours as more meds kicked in, and I woke up around noon able to wander the streets. I took one of those cheesy “hop on, hop off” tours, but given my state, it was a great choice. I saw the Castel Nuovo, the Bay of Naples from the hill of Posillipo, and the Bascilica dell’Incoronata Madre del Buon Consiglio, modeled after St. Paul’s in London. I also saw slums, shantytowns, and shit. Naples was disgusting… intimidating, full of hawkers, absolutely filthy, and incredibly alive. It pulsed, well into the night, despite my best efforts to turn in before 8pm.
My final day in Italy was mostly travel, but included a highlight: I took a tour of Pompeii before leaving, and it was a gorgeous clear day. It actually washed out most of my photos, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Vesuvius showed her face enough to remind me, as much as the ruins around me, that this is a city with an incredible, and dangerously resource-rish, location. I ended up missing my train back to Rome, but had a big window. My spare euros bought another ticket, which took me north where I rode the train to the airport for free (I was out of euros and all my cards stopped working), where I waited in more queues, then boarded a plane, hated my sinuses, landed, caught more trains, and arrived absolutely blissed out to be back in my favorite city in the world.
Unfortunately, being sick tainted my view of the country—undoubtedly I would have enjoyed the foreign experience more if I hadn’t been fighting to try and make myself understood to medical professionals. I would have been able to eat more, see more, appreciate more, and smile more. But, that wasn’t the trip I had, and the trip I had made me all the more appreciative of the luxuries of London. Crazy as it sounds, absence made my heart fonder. I like traveling, but London is home.