Today, day 2 of our Italy trip, was full and so much fun. Although we arrived late last night, after travel delays and diversions, the only thing we missed on day 1 was a welcome dinner. We quickly got up to speed this morning, after a few hours of sleep, meeting our tour director and the rest of our tour group. At 7:30 am we were on the bus, headed to Vatican City.
I didn’t know what to expect within the massive wall that surrounds the Vatican. A quiet, holy atmosphere? Religious artifacts? I was surprised by the museums, full of Roman statues, mosaics, tapestries and paintings. And by the number of people present. Crowds and throngs and masses of visitors milled about. Patricia, our Italian guest guide today, explained that 24,000 people a day visit the Vatican. Every day.
She gave each of us a radio to wear around our necks and an earbud. That way we could hear what she was saying as she led us through the museums and cathedrals. Patricia also carried a multicolored flag so we could visually keep her in sight. She advised us to stay with her today at all times. Nevertheless, one member of our group had a tendency to wander off, and get lost, much to his wife’s chagrin.
We toured the Sistine Chapel, with its paintings by Michelangelo. We were strictly prohibited from taking photos. The chapel is smaller than I imagined it to be. However, it was very moving to stand there quietly, and take it all in. I am familiar with those paintings on the chapel’s ceiling, but to stand beneath them carried such an emotional impact.
We had time for a quick lunch and then we were on to the colosseum. This was another familiar place that wowed me and carried an emotional charge. There was such strong, interesting energy there in that ancient place where entertainment was held…entertainment that often resulted in death.
This monument is enormous as well. It gave me chills to see the labyrinth in the center of the colosseum, and the stone hallways that gladiators ran out of, uncertain of their fate.
After a two hour nap this afternoon, Elissa, Dayan and I headed back out into the city on foot, eager to explore during our free time. Dayan took the lead, guiding us to the Castel Sant’Angelo. Unfortunately it was closing as we arrived, however we enjoyed snapping a group selfie with the castel in the background. We strolled down cobblestone lanes, crossed over the Tiber River on ornate bridges, and found a delightful little street lined with charming ristorantes offering outdoor seating.
I sampled roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil, and grilled peppers, zucchini and eggplant. Elissa and Dayan both tried a short spaghetti dish with a cheese, egg and bacon sauce. All was delicious! After a leisurely dinner we walked down the street to a little cafe. Dayan tried a gelato. Elissa and I picked out sorbets made from fresh fruits without dairy products and I believe without added sugar.
It was a magnificent day, getting acquainted with Rome. I learned much about the history of this beautiful city and her architecture and culture. And walking this evening gave us an accurate view of her friendly people and bustling commerce.
One phrase from the day really resonated with me and replayed in my mind. At the Vatican, Patricia was telling us how crowded it would be inside the museums and cathedrals. She didn’t want us to get lost. “Conquer your own space,” she advised us, in her lilting Italian accent.
What powerful words. Conquer your own space. Surrounded by people and massive statues and ancient ruins and a multitude of cars, busses and scooters, attain and hold your space. Stand your ground. Occupy your space. Be you, confidently. Don’t be pushed and pulled by the energies around you.
I love that. We honored those words as we walked around the city, learning to say “No” with a shake of the hand to sellers of cheap merchandise and beggars. I watched Dayan conquer his space as he immersed himself in Rome, from the moment he awoke and hung out the third story window to greet the day, to leading us expertly through lanes and piazzas this evening.
I observed Elissa conquer her own space as she stepped out of her comfort zone, unafraid of trying new foods and experiences. She used the word “magical” several times to describe the day she was having.
It was a magical day. It was a day to conquer our own spaces and be fully who we are. We all three love the quote, “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” That is our mantra during our Italy trip. We are experiencing life, together.
Tomorrow we are off to the medieval village of Lucca, in the Tuscany region. Our adventure continues.