So I was reading a friend's blog this evening and felt like a slacker. She's taking a road trip across America and is blogging her progress. As she wrote about seeing sights both different and familiar in our various states, I found myself thinking that I had my own travel experiences to record and for some reason, have been putting it off. Well, the procrastination ends here, folks. Welcome to Italia!
We began our tour in Milan. Actually, we weren't even scheduled to see Milan, but we had to kill some time waiting for part of our party (the tour company had split our flights...not an optimum experience) so we were taken to downtown Milan. My first impression of Italy was that it was HOT, and there was no shade! We walked (which became the overall theme of the trip) to a large cathedral and square and were left to do some exploring.
Fortunately, there was someplace I wanted to explore...an Italian mall. Let me say that it looked nothing like any mall here, as it was housed in old buildings and entered via a beautiful arch. Within were several stores I recognized, including a McDonalds. Still, the atmosphere was sufficiently foreign, so we found it acceptable. The main draw of the mall, however, was a mosaic on the floor. Seems there was this bull, and the Milanese believe it is good fortune to grind your heel into the testicles of the bull. Apparently it was also some sort of political insult hundreds of years ago, but we were all game to crush the
bull's testicles. As you can see, people have been grinding these balls for a long time.
As I was to find out, the Italians have some sort of superstition or ritual for most of the things in their lives. I kept waiting to be told that I was walking down the street the wrong way, or that I had to enter a room backwards for good luck. That was my first peek at the cultural differences between our countries. Our superstitions are kind of negative...don't walk under a ladder...don't break a mirror....step on a crack, break your mother's back...that kind of stuff. Theirs are all positive. Do this for good fortune, for good luck, to ensure you'll return. See. Positive. Not a bad way to approach life, even if you are grinding a bull's testicles to insult some nobleman from the past.
Our afternoon in Milan was nice, but we were very ready to pick up the rest of our party and head to our hotel outside of Venice. We were ready, but apparently hadn't performed the ritual concerning good travel conditions because there was a delay. We picked up the rest of our party just fine, but we were sharing the bus with two other groups. One from Virginia, which came in with our boys, and one from California. The California group's flight had been delayed so we had to wait for them. On the bus. In the heat. Finally, they arrived and we were on our way....our way was a four hour bus ride across Italy to the other coast. Not to worry, or so we thought. Too bad we didn't know of a ritual to guarantee speedy travel. There was an accident on the road ahead, which snarled traffic for around 30 miles. Yes, 30 miles. That's another difference between the USA and Italy. Clearing an accident is not the efficient operation we're used to. We saw this again in Rome, but more about that in a later post. Needless to say, we hadn't prepared for being on a bus for that many hours, and at some point, our bodies began to...rebel. We needed a rest room!!!
Rest stops on Italian highways are beautiful, but pretty widely spaced, and the everlasting traffic jam was keeping us from one for far too long! By the time we got to the rest stop we flew off that bus and into rest rooms with....no toilet seats! More culture shock. Apparently Italians don't believe in putting seats in because no one will use them. My reaction was usually, "Hmm, this is interesting." but the kids reacted far more strongly. LOL I could see this trip was educational on so many more levels than they expected, but they adjusted more quickly than I first thought.
That first day in Italy was really just a very long bus ride, broken up with a couple of quick glances around the country. When we finally got to our hotel, we were absolutely exhausted and everyone just headed to bed. Besides, tomorrow we were going to Venice!!!
We arrived here about 11 pm on July 1st. Considering we had been traveling since noon on June 30th, I'd say we had a very full day of travel!