Jesus, take the wheel.
This is the “Goes to Italy Once” Series, where I tell you how to plan, pack, and dress yourself for your trip to Italy, after going just once. Part I was the actual helpful post–all my recos, do’s, don’t’s, tips, and tricks. This post is a bit less informative, and a bit more tragically entertaining.
Not the Daily Italy Recap You Deserve, But the One You Need.
Day One: Layover in London
A delayed flight and missed connection meant we missed our first day of Roman plans. We had tickets to see the Borghese gallery, but that all went out the window.
AND INTO THE WINDOW FLEW A BEAUTIFUL BIRD AND THAT BIRD SAID YOUR DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE, YOU’RE GOING TO LONDON, BICH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, you heard correctly, our layover was in London.
Instead of going to see the actual city of London, what normal Americans may have done, Lane agreed to let me live out one of my dreams of being the Queen of England that I am. We spent the afternoon at Hampton Court Palace, where KING HENRY VIII LIVED!!!! And I know you’re as exactly excited about it as I am, thank you.
Night One: Complications and Over-celebrations in Rome
So to recap, Day One was kind of like a roller coaster. A small-town, carnival-esque roller coaster, but roller coaster none the less. Missed flight downer, day in London upper, and some coasting along into Rome.
However, Night One is where the roller coaster starts to advance, more into a Six Flags-level ride. Insert famous, scary, well-known roller coaster here, idk, I’m not a theme park engineer.
We landed in Rome at about 8:00p, met our driver (read about why/how I had a driver in Part I), and arrived at our hotel. Or at least we thought it was a hotel.
You see, I may or may not have booked this “hotel” per top recommendations by King of European Travel, Rick FKN Steves.
I also may or may not have booked this in a rush, last minute, via blind random selection from the RS book, without any further research on my own part.
Like apparently I am so trusting of RS, I did not feel it necessary to use my eyes or brain in any remote form or fashion. Let Go and Let Rick Steves. Rick Steves, take the wheel. Take it from my hands. Because I can’t do this on my own. I’m letting go.
So we arrive.
We walk inside.
We see a nun manning the front desk.
Hmm, that’s interesting. Do nuns just casually work everywhere in Italy, I sweetly think to my American self.
After a solid five minutes of trying our hardest to communicate with a non-english speaking nun and one broken-English-Italian-speaking-German-man later, we learned. It was clear. I had accidentally booked us to stay in a Convent. Not a hotel.
Like an actual convent where nuns live and apparently keep a few rooms open for travelers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wut!!!!!
DID I KNOW THAT CONVENTS EVEN STILL EXISTED??????? WOULD I HAVE EVER GUESSED IT COULD BE EVEN REMOTELY POSSIBLE FOR LITERALLY ANYONE TO JUST BOOK A ROOM AT A CONVENT IF I THOUGHT THEY STILL EXISTED????? ARE THERE TRULY NO RULES IN ITALY????? WHO LET ME IN HERE??? HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???? AM I LIVING IN 1930S AUSTRIA ok.
The very kind, old German man tried so hard to translate a litany of rules and instructions for our stay. YES, RULES. LIKE, YOU KNOW, CURFEWS. LITERAL CURFEWS, BECAUSE THIS IS CHURCH CAMP NOW.
I said, Oh, that’s a problem, you see we have dinner reservations at 10:00, and I don’t think we’ll be home by 11:00p! Can’t we just come in later?
He explained no, because the nun would stay up to wait on us because she was the keeper of our room key. Yes, we weren’t able to hold on to our own room key. Yes.
He said we could just eat the food they have “in the back room” if we’re hungry. That they would be happy to share with us.
Oh my god do I have it in me to turn down this kind man and his food offering??? Am I strong enough???? Is this how my stay in Italy is going to go???????? A low key night and early bed time????????????????? Is this who I am now???????
Then I remembered our restaurant (Armando Al Pantheon—definitely recommend babez!!!) almost had no openings when I booked weeks prior. Then I remembered I have 10 days left in Italy, left in my life, really. Then I remembered my grandfather, all of our grandfathers, really, did not fly in a plane in World War 2 for me to be given a curfew on my first night in Rome.
And so I give Lane The Eye. You know The Eye that wives sometimes give their husbands when they are trying to communicate telepathically? That’s in the marriage contract. You are literally supposed to look into my eyes and know exactly what I’m thinking in that exact moment, Lane.
My eyes were saying: “I swear to God if you follow along with this German man and accept room keys from the Italian nun and make us stay here and eat their food I swear to God.”
So Lane proceeded to agree with and follow along with the German man and accept room keys from the Italian nun and we went upstairs to our room:):)))))imwell:)imfine:)
There were literally 2 separate twin beds with a crucifix on the wall and portrait of Jesus on the other wall.
I told Lane, like, “Hi, But No.” Like, we can’t stay here, we can’t do this, like I can’t, and I Say Like A Lot When I’m Worked Up.
This is The Roman Holiday, #WhatWouldAudreyDo. I was honestly afraid Lane would be too embarrassed or feel bad by canceling our stay on short notice, TO A NUN, but TO MY UTTER DELIGHT he was thrilled, on the same page, and was very into the immediate decision making. God bless.
SO. We mustered up the courage and walked back downstairs. The German man was nowhere to be found, so it was up to us. It was immediately clear that whatever English-language understanding our Italian nun friend was capable of just minutes earlier were now all out the window.
But she definitely knew what we were saying. Because we were holding our luggage. And also we typed it into Google Translate and showed her.
It was my most uncomfortable, cringey moment and her face is permanently seared in my memory forever, r u happy, karma!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We offered to pay a fee or donate for her inconvenience, but she didn’t accept. We were like, “…..Okay thank you! Have a good night! Good luck with everything! So sorry!! Bye!! Blessings!!” like what do you say. help.
So then, like you do, we walked outside of the Convent, and found ourselves alone in a dark alley with al our luggage, wondering what the EF are we going to do now….Besides go to hell, that is!!!!!!!!
That was about the time a ten-dollars-a-day-international-data-plan had never been more handy. The Google Gods smiled on us, and we were able to find a PERFECT hotel near our restaurant. We actually made it to our dinner reservations. The Lord Provideth, He Is Risen Indeed.
I wish I could tell you we went to dinner and that’s where things ended, where the roller coaster slowed down and stopped. No, no, no, night one had only just begun, dear, sweet friends.
To paint a picture up to this point, Lane and I were:
- So, so jet-lagged.
- SO FREAKING ecstatic to be in Rome, like new level of tourist enthusiasm from me (if you’ve ever seen me walk the streets of Nola or New York, you can somewhat imagine this version of me).
- So tired we were wired, like how toddlers get.
- And lastly–after surviving the missed flight low, layover in London high, accidental-convent low, finding a hotel and making dinner reservation high—the EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER OF THE PAST 14 HOURS–we were beyond excited and grateful to be there, to just freaking sit and have Italian wine at dinner.
I would honestly go as far to compare our excited, happy energy levels to Beyonce in the Ape Sh*T music video. Yes, I went there.
And with this newfound Italy energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for life, we ate a big, delicious dinner, big, delicious wine, made lots of friends, tested the dangerous waters that are “limoncello” and accidentally stayed up until circa 4:00 AM Help Me:)
too much enthusiasm:) too much excitement:) over-celebrated:) adult toddlers:) thisis40:)
Pls recall that 4:00 AM in Rome is only 9 PM in Texas:) Pls recall, we landed in Europe in the morning, which is circa American midnight. Then spent all day in London, which is like staying up all night in America. Then we literally stayed up all night in Europe, which is like being awake another whole day in America. BY THE TIME WE GOT TO 4:00 AM ROME TIME, WE HAD BEEN AWAKE FOR LIKE 400 HOURS.
And it’s only Day One, fam, It’s Only Day One 2019!!!!!!!!!!!
Day Two: Where to Eat, Shop, and Vomit in Rome
Good morning, I vomitted inside of a taxi on our way to the Colosseum. I’m not ashamed of this, because I’m very smart, as you can tell by the actions of the previous night, and I was prepared. I had a plastic bag with me, and that was the receptacle for said vomit. And you know what? Drivers in Italy are certifiably insane, it’s amazing people aren’t rolling out of Italian cabs vomitting every day, am I right. I would have vomitted either way probably. Am I right, I am right.
Lane told the driver, “Don’t worry, your car is safe,” and amazingly slash horrifyingly, the driver kept on driving, la la la, after I audibly vomitted right behind him. Lol. Lane was like, “BUT STILL PULL OVER PLEASE.” And unlike America, where there are rules in driving, the driver literally just stopped then and there in the middle of the street.
I rolled out of the car, on my hands and knees, and vomitted again.
Yes, people were looking.
He drove off.
I’m in the middle of a road in Italy, on my hands and knees.
Still on all fours, I turn and look behind me, and see the most massive, beautiful monument I had ever seen in my entire life up until that point. I’m from New Mexico.
It was the altar of the Father, a first century monument, where crowds of tourists hoard to see every year. I vomitted on the altar of the Father. How fitting. How On-Brand of me.
Italy is so beautiful. I got up and carried around a bag of vomit for several blocks.
But I’m not sure how Italy stays so clean BECAUSE THERE ARE LITERALLY NO TRASH CANS ANYWHERE. WE AMERICANS ARE SO SPOILED WITH OUR TRASH CANS SPECKLED HITHER AND THITHER.
I had to carry my bag of vomit for several blocks until we finally found a trash!!!!!!!!!! Just a lil souvenir from a very special gift shop called My Insides!!!!!!! I’m doing fine, thanks for asking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so sorry. Sorry to the nun. To the Altar. To the Father. To Italy. To the world, really.
Well after that ~lil episode~ I felt immensely better and we went to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, saw the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and had a grand ol’ day, including TWO dinners!!!!!!! TWO!
Day Three: Best Places To Be Assaulted While Shopping And Fall Asleep While Eating in Venice
We sort of went to bed early on night 2, and woke up at 4:00 AM to make our 5 AM train to Venice. I truly can’t believe we made it.
We packed so much into one day and one night in Venice that it’s kind of alarming. You can read about it in Part I. And by we, I mean mainly me. About half way through our Day In Venice, Lane couldn’t stay awake any longer, and went back to our AirBnb to nap. I said, What Would Audrey Do, Roman Holiday 2019 Even Though It’s Venice Now, so I stayed out.
I frolicked around Venice, just me and my Canon, like the professional travel writer/photographer that I am.
I had already booked tickets to go see Ca’ Rezzonico, a museum with 18th century art and sculptures, but I missed the window by like 15 minutes. They don’t let you in if it’s too close to closing time without enough time to walk through it. UGH I WAS SO SAD. I said ~something~ to the effect of, but i’m cute and american and this is my last day to go here, and they did not care.
I continued to frolick around with the Canon.
And I learned something the hard way: one does not “just look around” in Venetian boutiques. Like, you know how you can just walk in any store in America, la la la, and walk out? No. Not a thing.
I walked into a very small (EVERYTHING IS VERY SMALL) boutqiue, with the intention of just looking around the antique items and nothing more, and was met with total disdain by the Italian store manager, and his friend. He started out being simply “direct,” like obviously off-putting, I assume because language barrier/culture differences, but his questions quickly became more pointed and uncomfortable. What are you looking for? What do you want?
I answered that I was just looking around, that I love antiques like old books or art, and out of kind of a panic to keep conversation light, I asked, How old are things in the store, what kind of books do you have.
“There are many books of all subjects and everything is old and it greatly varies.”
Another Venetian store manager laughed at me uncomfortably because I greeted, “Buongiorno” instead of “Buonosera” or something like that, idk, I’m not a russian spy okay, i don’t speak 4 languages, my god, you’re lucky i didn’t walk in and say HOLA.
The hard lesson learned was simply that some Venetian people do not mess around with tourists, and that’s fine, I respect that, their entire town is literally going to vanish in the next 5 years, buonasera!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What stood out to me was I was definitely treated differently (AKA with a bit of disrespect) when I wasn’t with Lane. Like, starkly different. Like, get a husband to get respect. Quite irksome, indeed! It was also jarring because up until that point, everyone we had met had been gushingly nice and accommodating for us. It was really only the moments I was alone in Venice that I came across some less-than-tolerable attitudes.
I digress because we haven’t even gotten to the main part of the Venice story and this post is four million words long.
That night, after Lane woke up from his nap, we went to eat at Poste Vecie, the oldest restaurant in Venice!!!! It was basically a hole in wall, over a tiny bridge. Old vibez.
The food was high quality, the wine was supreme, the ambience was top notch, the service was black tie, and I fell asleep while talking at the table.
Yes. I was mid-sentence, and my eyes shut and my head nodded off. Like how your head nods off at church but then as it;s falling, it jerks back up, and you wake yourself up. That’s what happened to me during one of our most romantic dinners ever ha ha ha!!!!!!!!
I should have napped with Lane instead of walking around and get verbally assaulted by Venetian men and falling asleep at dinner, I’m fine thanks for asking!
Wow, the plan was to include all 10 days in this post, but fam, we’re gonna have to break this Part II into two sections. Pls stay ~tuned~ for more daily breakdowns, mental breakdowns, and to finally meet the pope!!!! Weeeee!!