I promised I'd write about Italy but within minutes of getting there it stopped making sense to write. First, Italy isn't a writing-about kind of place, it's a looking-at kind of place. It's also an eating-gelato kind of place but that's hard to convey with the current limitations of the Internet. So I took tons of pictures and put them up on Instagram (I'm QuinnCummings over there because, apparently, I lack imagination but look me up! I made fun of Italian art and photographed gelato!).
Also, this wasn't just me on this trip, there was also the kid and she's reached an age where writing about her isn't just "Those four year olds and their love of pink!" One of the many reasons I dialed back on the blog was that writing about my life meant writing about her and she deserves to have specific phases, passions and beliefs which are no one's business. I have two friends with whom I talk about her; the rest of you get an outline. If I wrote too much about the trip, I'd be filling in the outline. Speaking of people on the trip, it wasn't as if it was just the two of us; in fact, there were twenty eight students on this trip. About four were people over the age of fifty and the rest were, on average, nineteen years old. They were, with very few exceptions, away from home for the first time and Italy's alcohol laws are much more lenient than the United States, with people being able to drink wine in bars at 16 and hard liquor at 18. So while I have gathered a great many stories about my fellow young travelers virtually all of the stories end with someone vomiting while waiting for a bus back to the hotel and, again, these kids didn't ask to be grist for my mill. I will say this; I think at least two have learned the "Don't chug Sambuca" lesson. Possibly not. Oh, well. They are not my sons and it won't be my bus stop which requires hosing down.
A few thoughts about Italy. I've decided when Sartre said "Hell is other people..." he was cut off because what he meant to say was "Hell is other people walking in front of you in a medieval street five feet wide who suddenly decide they want to try out their selfie stick." Rome is filled and I mean FILLED with tourists, even in the down season of January. If you go to my IG feed you will notice a steady drumbeat of "This is a museum room which is empty and this is why you come to Rome in January," but the sidewalks were still filled with gaping, drifting, map-unfolding, loud, selfie-stick-buying tourists. I've seen a discarded plastic bag move with greater purpose down the sidewalk. It's a wonder Romans don't kill all of us visitors. Then again, they might be trying; every Roman smokes and everyone gesticulates, so maybe they were trying to set us non-locals on fire. Between avoiding the burning leaves inches from my face and the selfie-stick being swung like a mace, any time I walked in Rome I was basically doing parkour from the waist up. The price of not taking a trip to Urgent Care was eternal vigilance. When I wasn't avoiding flames or fools, I was staring fixedly at the sidewalk. You know what hasn't made its way to Italy yet? Poop bags. We're mostly terrible, we Americans, and don't think for a second a lot of those selfie-sticks weren't in American hands but, damn it, we have poop bags available at Target and some of them are even scented, and right now I'm feeling a little patriotic.
One of the lovelier and weirder things about Italy is the sheer depth of the good stuff they have, and the nonchalance it produces. One afternoon, I decided to get lost and see where this took me. Anyone reading this who knows me just snickered and said "Get lost, Quinn? You require a map to fall down." Yes, there's no trick to my getting lost but for once I was actually doing it intentionally and briefly felt like "Ah, this is what Elizabeth Gilbert felt like! Spontaneous! Eat, pray, love, all that!" and then I had a few minutes of doubt because I somehow ended up on whatever the Roman version of a freeway onramp is, but then after only two heart-stopping dashes across what appeared to be highways, I found myself in the Villa Doria Pamphili, the largest park in Rome. As with nearly everything attractive in Rome, this had Papal ties, having previously been the estate of a nephew of a Pope, which only proves the best job in the world is to be related to the right people. I wandered the park at a nice clip for two hours and got nowhere near the edges of it.
[Fun fact: The word "Nepotism" shares a root with the word "Nephew."]
As I was tromping around, taking in the fresh air, basking in how everyone in the park was a local and the accompanying transcendent lack of selfie-sticks, I noticed under the mature trees, on the verdant walkways, there were quite a few carved marble pieces. Broken columns, water troughs, sculptures around each turn. Some of these weren't actually Roman antiquities but were copies made at the time of the estate being built in the 17th century to function as eye candy for wealthy people but even so. These are either two thousand years old or four hundred years old and what has Rome done with them?
Left them there.
While I walked the park, I saw no fewer than three Doric column fragments serve as dog urinals. This is not to say Italy is negligent with its artifacts but there's a simple math equation going on; they have neither the resources or the room to bring everything indoors. Someone tries to fix a plumbing problem under their apartment building in Rome, they're going to find another six Doric columns. Besides, the average Roman might note, the column looks nice there. It's the Eternal City; the dog will stop peeing eventually.