I’m back in the U.K. now after nearly four weeks away. Christmas break was wonderful. I got to see my family, catch up with a few friends (once at 10 P.M. at the local Waffle House, since that was the only time our schedules overlapped. It was worth it.) and sleep in my own bed. Also, there was a fluffy dog to snuggle. But the most exciting part of the break was the trip my family and I took to Italy. It was amazing. I drank copious amounts of wine and ate far too much pasta, as well as exploring the history and culture of several different Italian cities. Plus, the whole time was spent laughing and hanging out with my family.
The trip started off with a bang, when my sister found out that our flight from Huntsville to Atlanta had been delayed. We quickly threw everything in the car and sped to Atlanta. My mom kept trying to take a family car selfie. The bright side of this sudden change in plans was that we were transferred onto a direct flight to Rome, rather than having to change planes. We spent Christmas day in Rome, fighting jet lag and seeing the sights. At one point I took a wrong turn and got us lost, leading to my map privileges being revoked for the rest of the trip. Rome is a fascinating city. It’s very old, and built on itself. Modern buildings are built on older buildings which were often themselves built on even older foundations. Next to the sidewalk there may be a walled off archeological dig. Almost any building you see has the possibility of being several hundred years old, if not older. The city itself is steeped in its own history, shops and busy roadways surrounding the preserved ruins of the place where Caesar was killed (which now also serves as a feral cat sanctuary), pieces of old columns left where they fell long ago, and significant historical locations hiding around every corner. I found it oddly beautiful. We spent several days there, visiting the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, all the usual sights. We even took a day trip to Pompeii. I thought Pompeii was creepy. My family made fun of me. I also dragged my mother to the Musei Capitolini to stare at Greek and Roman statues for several hours. She was kind and obliged me as a oohed and aahed over the craftsmanship. (I love really old statuary. Most other people are not quite as enthused.)
Then we left for Florence. Florence is a beautiful city, its history dating back more to the medieval period than the time of the Roman Empire. Here we saw more art, mostly medieval church art (which we discovered none of us particularly enjoyed. My brother refused to go to the art museum at all, which was smart of him. He would have hated every minute of it.) We also went to see Michelangelo’s David (my dad’s request). It’s indescribable, the level of detail and life in a marble statue made before even the invention of sandpaper. In the same exhibit were several of Michelangelo’s unfinished works, which I loved, maybe even more than the finished statue. It looked like these half-finished men and women were crawling out of the marble, trying to burst free. Our best day in Florence, however, was the day we spent touring Tuscany, visiting old wineries and medieval towns.
After Florence, the family split up. My brother and dad headed back home (my brother had to start school). My sister, my mother and I went to Padua, which was nice, but probably my least favorite city. However, our next stop was Venice, which was fantastic. I’ve wanted to visit Venice since childhood, when I read a book set in Venice called The Thief Lord (it’s worth looking up if you’ve never heard of it, and reads just as well from an adult perspective as it does from a child’s). I was half-anticipating disappointment. Venice had always seemed to me to be a semi-magical place, and the reality would almost definitely not live up to my expectations. Thankfully, I was wrong. Venice is the coolest city I have ever visited. There are no cars (not even any bikes), and the narrow cobbled streets twist and turn, revealing hidden doorways to alleys and views of the canals. Everywhere there are bridges, arching over streams of water, connecting pieces of this confusing, wonderful city. And the buildings, old and sometimes a little dilapidated, are just beautiful. Plus, there’s St. Mark’s Square. We saw a lot of churches on our vacation and St. Mark’s is by far the most magnificent, both exterior and interior. Also in St. Mark’s Square was a museum that contained two (two!!) old libraries with floor-to ceiling bookshelves filled with old books, as well as displays of illuminated manuscripts. My mom and sister laughed a bit at how much I drooled over the illustrated manuscripts, (and the libraries. ONE OF THEM HAD A BALCONY.) and I’ve decided if I’m ever filthy rich, I’m building myself a library and buying an illustrated manuscript that I can display in a glass case. Obviously, I enjoyed myself immensely. In fact, the whole trip was just fantastic.
And now, some photos.