The Vatican Museums house something like 70,000 pieces of art, only 20,000 of which are on display. It’s one of the largest museums in the world and includes 54 galleries, including the Sistine Chapel. The museums were founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century and today it is the 4th most-visited museum in the world, with around 6 million visitors shuffling their way through the galleries each year.
Everyone told me I’d hate Venice and love Florence, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I hated Florence and fell instantly in love with Venice.
I wasn’t an intentional honey badger on this one, I promise. In fact, we spent weeks debating whether or not to even go to Venice having heard such lackluster reviews of the place, but Florence was always on the list. It wasn’t even a topic of debate, really, it just was. Of course we’d go to Florence, we said. Because it’s Florence.
I can’t remember when we discussed it or when we made the decision, but at some point, between America and the Middle East, we decided.
“We’re going to Italy,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. “We’re really going to Italy.”
We were deployed then, when we made the decision, that much I do know. He was in Jordan, I was in Kuwait, and we needed a distraction, some event on the horizon to look forward to and Italy was it. I ordered travel books, had them sent to me and him and we started planning.
We thought it was time to go home. We’d spent almost three weeks scampering around Italy, starting in Rome and meandering our way north to Venice. Everything was packed, we had comfy travel clothes on and we were ready to go home, ready to be in one place for more than a few days.
We took a boat to the airport, checked our bags, had one last glass of wine and got in the line to board the plane. It was a bittersweet moment. The trip we’d spent our lives dreaming about was coming to an end. We had some feelings.
I’ve wanted to go to Italy for as long as I’ve known I was Italian. So, pretty much always. It’s been on my bucket list for actual decades.
When I was deployed last year, along with John, my (now ex-)boyfriend, we started talking about trips to take after the deployment. He’s Italian. I’m Italian. We’d both always dreamed of visiting Italy, so Italy it was.
We spent more days in Rome than any other city we visited on our Italian vacation. Three full days, four nights, plus half days on the way in and out. We packed our first two days in Rome with the big deals - the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Forum, a bunch of basilicas - so our last day was open. We wanted to get off the tourist track a little bit, so we embarked on a Roman walking tour, loosely based on a walk recommended by Fodor's. [...]
Few things make me feel more legit as a world wanderer than showing up in a new city and taking public transit. Buses or metros or ferries or what the shit else, when I travel to new cities or countries, I want in on the public modes of transportation.
And that’s kind of how it started in Verona. We took the train in from Milan, stowed our luggage at the train station, bought some bus tickets and then scampered around in some circles trying to find the right bus, or rather, one of the right buses, got on the bus, validated our tickets and 10 or so minutes later we were standing in front of the Verona Arena.
I almost didn’t go to Venice. Everyone I asked seemed to have a very strong feeling about it. Someone would tell me how filthy and smelly and crowded it is and I’d decide in a huff that, fuck it, it’s not worth the effort because I hate crowds and also smells. And then someone else would tell me how romantic it is, how beautiful and special and magical, and so, in the end I went.
Upon learning I had a nine-hour layover in Amsterdam, I immediately hit the google. Was that enough time for an adventure? How close is the airport to the city center? How hard is it to get out of the airport and back in a handful of hours? I had all the questions and the internet reassured me, told me that yeah, sure, I could totally get into the city and see some things with relative ease and that nine hours was plenty of time for a mini-adventure and airport escape.