Sunday, March 02, 2014


During Settimana Bianca, we had dear friends visiting from the US. Settimana Bianca is, of course, "white week", the week in which the kids have off school. To go skiing. For a week. This is not to be confused with spring break, as that is a completely separate week off from school. One is for Spring, one is for Skiing. What's that you say? Oh, your kids don't have off school to go skiing for a week? Wow. Sorry dude. That is a real shame.

We spent white week seeing the Italian sights and taste-testing gelato and marveling that we had walked over 10 miles each day. That's right, y'all, 10 miles or more per day. No wonder all our guests get shin splints. Everyone who visits is apologetic about wanting to see the Italian sights, believing that we have surely seen them so many times we can barely stand to say, "Look kids! Big Ben! Parliament! Coliseum! Forum!"

And do you know what, dear reader? I don't get tired of seeing the sights. They are Amazing. I no longer "see" them on a daily basis, so when I do see them, it is  just as awe-inspiring as seeing them for the first time.

Except for the Vatican Museum. Six tours of the halls of tapestries is six times too many. And my sneaking suspicion that the Spanish Steps are a waste of time has recently been confirmed.  I will absolutely take you to see them because of their choice proximity to Via del Corso, but unless you are a step-ologist, they just aren't all that great. And Venice. I will continue to go to Venice in the hopes that I someday "get it", but I don't like it. That's right, I said it. I do not like Venice. I have been to Venice several times during both of its seasons: Not Winter in which it is boiling hot and stinky and you can photograph rats swimming in the canals and Not Summer in which it is freezing cold and rainy in which you have to walk on raised boards because of the flooding. My husband has taken pictures of a Venice that had beautiful flowers and sparkling water and sun-dappled bridges but guess what? I too know how to use photoshop. I'll believe it when I see it in real life. So to review: I will not go to the Vatican Museum again. And let's put St.Peter's Basilica on there as an extension of the Vatican Museum. I will go to the Spanish Steps but I won't feel badly that I think they are Just Steps. And Venice is on my frownie face list. And that was before I ate something that was either squid eggs or cuttlefish eggs. Or both. But the rest of the Italian sights? I am totally on board.

Anyway, we went to see Pompei last week, a place I have driven by but never actually seen. And it was fantastic. I offer to you two pieces of advice: do not buy cappuccino and do take a tour. Cappuccino is a rip-off clearly aimed at tourists. When Mike and I pop into our favorite local bar   where the heavenly smell of freshly baked cornetti fills the air, our due cappuccini costs 1.60 euro. In Pompei, even though it was 9:00 a.m. and an appropriate time to drink cappuccino ( you know about this, right? That in Italy if you order cappuccino after 11:00 a.m. you may as well sit on the floor and start clipping your toenails because public toenail cutting will be deemed less horrifying?), my lone cappuccino was just shy of three euro. Mike's macchiato, however, was a normal price. Because most tourists are ordering cappuccino and not macchiato because who doesn't want to drink cappuccino in Italy? And hence the jacked-up price. And perhaps when compared to Starbucks, a $4.11 authentic Italian cappuccino seems pretty reasonable. But whereas I would be fine with the set pricing of Starbucks in America, I have learned to fight tooth and nail over a two euro rip-off in Italy. I may still think euros look like pretend money, but that doesn't mean I'm going to hand them over like I'm buying ParkPlace.

Touring Pompei, however, is worth every penny. Without a tour guide, we would have marveled at Pompei the way that many of Italy's still-standing treasures are marvels. But with a tour guide ( ours was Fabio from Tours of Pompeii with Lello & Co,, Pompei came to life in a way that I couldn't have imagined. And to boot, Fabio managed to keep our three restless pre-tweens completely interested and engaged to the point that I doubt there is a question about Pompei that they couldn't enthusiastically answer. And this was on Day 6 of non-stop sightseeing that had taken us from Rome to Florence to Venice to Rome to Positano to Sorrento to Pompei. Super fun for the grown-ups, not so fun for the kiddos. So no small feat on the part of Fabio to make yet another bunch of ruins so fascinating.

arrow to the brothel. who knew modern day bathroom graffiti had such an illustrious  history? 

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