Rome is not always easy. It can be brutally crowded and oppressively hot. The combination leads to frayed emotions and stress. Our trip was designed to minimize both. Most people travel to Rome in the summer, a huge influx of pilgrims come on the shoulders of Easter. The fall draws tourist crowds trying to avoid the crowds and relish in the Christmas season. No one goes in January. Everywhere we went, we were told how empty the place was and how lucky we were for coming in January. We went to the Roman forum and for a little while there was no one else around. The crowd grew steadily during the day, but for an hour the place was ours.
The downside is the rain and the cold. It rained most days, which I think is a minor inconvenience, since most of what we did was inside museums and churches, but some of our long walks become long slogs. The other problem is closures. Lots of tourist sites close early in January. I was worried about it before we went, but now realize the pace which we kept meant most people needed a break at 5 and were not really wanting the museums to stay open till 8.
To heal the wounded, we often stopped for a break. We had been, in part, on a Gelato (incredible Italian ice cream made from milk not cream) tour. Almost every day we would try Gelato from a different store. We judged and compared and even shared tastes. Our guide told us about a place in Florence that was “the best gelato in the world!” For days our mouths watered in anticipation. We arrived on our last day of touring at our last event and then we were going to end at the Gelato shop. We weaved through the rain covered streets and turned the corner. The guides shoulders dropped. We all stared in disbelief. It was closed for January due to the lack of crowds. Sadly, we boarded the bus for the return to Rome and the trip home. Everyone was a trooper. If this was the only penalty, then we had a made a good trade.
We had several bumps in the trip, a misplaced bag, a pocket picked, a very bad blister and a traffic jam. The traffic jam triggered a long wait and a ridiculous game on the bus (ask any of the travelers about the pirate alphabet), but my favorite moment of the trip. The tour host and guide both complimented our group on the way that they dealt with problems. no fit throwing, mostly laughter and seeing the bright side.
On the Monday I left for Rome, I hurt my back. It had not hurt this bad in years. Many times I had to stop and rest and take lots of pain medicine. It was a bummer. I tried not to let it interfere, but I was often uncomfortable and people looked at me with worried concern. I felt like a distraction. When I passed a kidney stone in a flying box high above the Atlantic ocean on our flight home (FYI. the roar of the engines mask the sounds of screams) lots of things become much clearer. I woke up today with no back problem and I am celebrating.
Do you see the positive or the negative? Looking at the beautiful art, which I know was created during years of pain and difficulty, plague, famine and war, I was inspired that we can see beauty if we want to. We can’t control much, but we can control our outlook. When I am at my best, I choose to see beauty in the world.