Taking my Sister Home to Italy

November 23, 2021

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Vatican Museum

Well over a year ago, my sister, Patrice called me to tell me that she and Diana wanted to visit me in Italy and see the country. I was so excited to show her my home of choice. My mind ran wild with the places I have discovered here that I would love to show her. I wanted her to understand why I gave up everything comfortable and familiar and moved to Italy. 

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It was during the Covid-19 crisis when she contacted me. I warned her that I did not know how long this would go on or when they could get into Italy. She wanted a three week vacation over her birthday, May 5th, 2021. I warned her to be prepared to have their travels postponed. And they were postponed until September, 2021.

As we talked, I realized that even though I wanted my sister to understand why I chose to live in Italy, I needed to put my travel planner hat on and start asking questions.

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Where do you two want to go?

  • Rome—what do you want to see? I want to go to the Colosseum and see where the gladiators and animals were. 
  • Rome—Diana wants to go to the Vatican Museum and the Basilica—she wants to buy holy water. Do you know where we can get holy water?
  • Rome—my suggestion, the Trevi Fountain and overall walking to see the ruins and architecture. Also, the Church of San Clemente is really interesting—it was built over an older church and, before that, a pagan ceremonial spot where they worshipped Mithras. Ok, sounds interesting she said.
  • Naples—what do you want to do in Naples? EAT REAL PIZZA. Well, me too. It is the home of Pizza after all. What else? We want to take a vespa ride in Naples. Really? Traffic is challenging. OK. I will find it.
  • Naples---we want to go to Pompeii. We saw the movie. 
  • Naples—we want to go to the Amalfi Coast too. OK, I said. We only have three days there. Let’s get a guide for Pompeii and a driver for the Amalfi Coast. It is the best way to see it all. We don’t have much time. OK. 
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Naples, along the seafront, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

That was just the first 6 days in Italy. We would be traveling for almost 3 weeks, ending in Chiavari, my home. We would also detour to Athens. They insisted on seeing the Parthenon and more in Greece. Ok. You are the boss.  

All this was before we knew about the paperwork that would be involved to travel post-Covid 19 lockdown. The paperwork was overwhelming for three people. Patrice and I spent hours completing it. I made a spreadsheet for where we were staying, what we booked and when we needed paperwork and/or covid testing. Oh my nose…

We would travel overseas using Delta Air Lines. My sis and Diana had Delta One seating on the way over. I stayed in coach but with extra leg room. That was lucky since, while traveling in the USA for three months, visiting my family, I developed a deep vein thrombosis in my right leg. I needed to have leg room to stand and stretch. No sleeping allowed. Yes, I am that person who walks the airplane all night long. 

Patrice was so excited she didn’t sleep a wink. Diana managed a bit of sleep, but she was excited too. I watched movies and walked the night away.

We landed in Rome with our carry-on luggage and one larger bag filled with American things for me to take to Chiavari. Since we had gone through some paperwork difficulties in the US, we were pleasantly surprised that both in Amsterdam and in Rome, the paperwork check was simple and easy. We were out of the airport quickly and into our awaiting driver, set up by Mary Roma of Rome Cab Transfer. The vehicle was a Mercedes Benz I think and we drove quite comfortably to the Monti District of Rome where he dropped us at our doorstep. I highly recommend them—they cost the same as a taxi and are more reliable and much more comfortable—all at the same price. 

Hotels—at one point as I was planning this adventure, this first visit to my world, my sister told me that they wanted to keep the budget down to $300.00/day, including lodging. I told her that it was impossible for three people. We upped it to $600.00/day which was still a challenge. Normally when I work with clients, I recommend hotels, b&bs or apartments where I have already stayed. This time they were all new and all lower priced than I generally use. Still they were in excellent locations and I checked hundreds of reviews. Our first stop was at the Aenea Superior Inn. It was on the first floor, which to newcomers means up one flight of stairs.

Aenea Superior Inn Entrance

There is a tiny elevator where I put my big suitcase but everything else was up about 18 marble steps. These people were so friendly, the room so clean, I would recommend it to anyone wanting a budget 2 star hotel. We had a bar frig with water for each of us, juices , cream for coffee. We had a coffee maker with pods and a tea pot.  Each morning, they hung a basket of pastries and sweets outside our door. It was lovely.

Patrice at breakfast—the little cups made her laugh.

The first night we ventured out to find the Trevi Fountain. How difficult could that be? I have been here many times. However, GPS was leading us in circles and, since I had been up for 24 hours straight, I forgot the map. I always carry a city map. But I forgot it. 

We walked around the area several times I am certain—we asked for help—but the directions were never clear. We did see signs for McDonalds everywhere. That tempted Diana. I would even have stopped to sit down myself but we could not even see the McDonalds. 

We finally arrived and sat, enjoying the beauty of the fountain. There were so many less people there than any visit to Italy that I have taken—even less than in 1971. Patrice and Diana enjoyed it, except for the silly girl who clilmbed up on a pillar in the seating area and had her photographer take photos. By the way, that is illegal, silly Instagram influencer wanna be. She almost fell once. What a distraction. 

Me with mask and quite warm at the Trevi Fountain

That night we stopped at a local bar for a light dinner and gelato. I finally slept after 10pm. We all did.

Day two  was Vatican Day. It was hotter than Dante’s Inferno, but nothing would stop us for our time with the Vatican Museum and the Church. We did not use a guide. I filled in most of the blanks as we walked through the garden,

Vatican Garden Sculpture

And entered the main portion of the Museum. Here are photos I took.

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Arches everywhere.

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Intricate artwork everywhere from ceiling to floor

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Glorious work

There really were not that many people there. That was a gift.

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My sister posing in front of Tromp L’oell, faux painting. I love it.

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Amazing work

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Do you know who painted this?

Everywhere was the glory of art. I can never get enough of it. My sis and Diana, I thnk, were ready for the finale, the Sistine Chapel.

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Ssshhhh, I broke the rules. After almost fainting for being overheated in my heavy-god awful compression socks, the guards led me to a chair. I wasn’t supposed to take a photo. I had to do it.

There were so many other stupendous pieces of artwork. Even if you are not an art lover, this is one museum I think you should try to see. Most tours are shorter than our visit. I hope you visit someday soon.

As we left, we discovered that the heat was blistering outside. We walked outside and around the ancient walls of the Vatican to enter the Basilica, the Church, the home of the Roman Catholic faith and my favorit Pope, Papa Francesco. 

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The Vatican Guards were present as always. The first I saw were all in blue.

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Here are the traditional guards. Don’t let their outfits fool you. They are fully trained military men.

By this time, I was fading—I hate those socks—I must wear them because of the blood clots in my leg but they are so HOT, and not in a good way.

Again, there were relatively few people. I explained to Rotunda and entry as we entered. 

Once inside, it was slightly cooler and definitely not sunny. I found a spot to sit and catch my breath while Patrice and Diana toured the church and found the gift shop—They sell Vatican Holy Water there. Diana was thrilled. 

After a few minutes sitting, I took off the socks. It was so much cooler. 

I took the time to meditate and send love to the Universe. It was the perfect place to do it. 

When they returned, stunned by the sheer volume of space and the art everywhere. They were ready to move on and so was I.

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The Rotunda was nearly empty. It was so beautiful to see it all like this, with the Bernini sculptures surrounding the open area, the Egyptian monument at the end. It was time to wander and go on.

Before returning to the hotel, we shopped until I dropped and later stopped for a light dinner with gelato for our dolce.

Personally, I was in the throes of jet lag and dehydration. It was unusually hot in southern Italy. It was nearly October. I needed a gallon of water and my legs elevated. I think we walked around 18,000 steps this day.  

We were all exhausted. But we were all enjoying life in Italy. They went out for an evening walk while I showered and prepared for the Colosseum and more the next day. 

Thanks for traveling with us. Tune in next blogpost for more adventure.

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A dopo!

Ciao for now!

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