Italy: Day 1

We left for Italy on Saturday (May 13) from Pittsburgh. We flew to New York’s JFK airport, where we had a 4 hour layover- fun! Especially since the airport hadn’t turned on the A/C yet so it was nice and steamy. We hung out in a bar and ate sandwiches and waited until it was time to find our gate.

Finding our gate was loads of fun. Our boarding passes said ‘T1’, which we realized meant Terminal 1. We were currently in Terminal 3, so we looked at every map we could find and NONE OF THEM listed Terminal 1. WTF?! We wandered up and down, thinking we must have missed a sign or something… but there was nothing. Finally, we asked someone and they directed us to ‘go outside and walk down the sidewalk’. Yeah. We had to go OUTSIDE, through a construction area, lugging our carry ons and everything, near busy traffic. Where was the freaking shuttle, dude? We asked a second person, and got the same answer. HMPH. Pittsburgh International totally kicks JFK Airport’s ass.

Anyway, luckily we had plenty of time to get to our plane, so everything was fine from there on out. Our flight left JFK at 9:15pm and we settled in to try to get some sleep before we landed in the morning (5:30am Pittsburgh time, 11:30am Rome time) I think I got about 20 minutes of sleep the whole night. Yeah it was awesome! We watched Fun with Dick and Jane and played games on the chair consoles. And the plane had these screens that showed exactly where we were in the air, altitude, outside air temperature, speed, etc. For geeks like us, it helped pass the time a little bit. Except when I would doze off and wake up to see only 2 minutes had gone off of the ‘Estimated Time to Landing’ part of the screen, I’d get pretty frustrated!

Finally, we landed. We got our first stamps on our passports, collected our baggage, and met our tour representative who took us to our taxi.

Let me just take a minute to explain what driving in Italy is like. Or at least, driving in Rome. You know the lines that are painted on the highway to designate those things we call ‘lanes’? Yeah. Well they have them too. But NO ONE PAYS ATTENTION TO THEM. Weaving in and out in their little ‘SmartCars’, keeping no further than 3 inches away from the car in front of them.. it was an exhilarating ride, let me tell you!

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During the 30 minute drive from the airport to our hotel in downtown Rome, when I wasn’t clutching my chest in fear at the driving, I stared in awe out my window. I WAS HERE. Italy. It was hard for me to fathom, really. I got a little teary, thinking about it.

Growing up, I was poor. We didn’t have much other than each other- my mom, dad, sister, and me. We had food of course, but other than the bare necessities, that was pretty much it. I didn’t have designer clothes like my friends at school. I had clothes from Hills, usually from layaway. I didn’t get a car when I turned 16 like other kids I knew. I got the keys to parents’ used Ford (after much begging, of course!) I didn’t have my own bedroom. I shared a tiny, tiny one with my sister until I was 19. My family didn’t go to the beach for vacation. We went camping a few hours’ drive away. And really, all of those things are fine with me. It was my life and it’s been a great one. And because of all of that and how I grew up, when I was riding in a taxi in Italy going to my fancy-pants hotel with my husband, it made me truly appreciate it. And made me think about how far I’ve come, how hard Dan and I have worked for the past few years and it was FINALLY PAYING OFF.

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I got teary-eyed again when I saw the Colosseum. It was gigantic, looming beside us as we waited a red light (thankfully and surprisingly, they DO stop at red lights in Rome) I had seen pictures in my art history book in college and thought ‘Wow, how cool would it be to go and see that for real?’ Dan and I had said while taking the required art class that someday, we’d like to go to Italy. “Someday”… like before we died. And here we were, not even 30, IN ROME. EEEEEEE!

We arrived at our hotel and were greeted by our guide for the week- Nicola. She is British and just cute as can be! I’m a big sucker for British accents, so I was in love with her right away :) Plus, she was really nice and patient with our cluelessness and extremely helpful. And she speaks fluent Italian (she’s married to an Italian man!) She helped us check in and we headed up to our room.

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We rested for a while, took showers, and then headed out for our first bit of sightseeing. Then we had a meeting with our group- about 30 other US travelers. We talked about our itinerary for the week and after that, we all went on a short walk a few blocks in either direction around our hotel to see the closest restaurants, the pharmacy, the grocery store, and the ATM machine. Then we headed back to the hotel and CRASHED. The next morning was an early one- we were leaving around 8 for our first official sight-seeing tour!


  1. jadensmommy24

    May 24, 2006 10:10 pm

    I’m glad you got to take the trip to Italy, you totally desreve it. You and Dan have such good values and morals, which is nice to see. Jon grew up with four siblings and a step-brother in a trailer, so he so appreciative of many things.

  2. Sandy

    May 24, 2006 10:27 pm

    Eee! Going to Europe for the first time (heck, going ANYWHERE for the first time…) is such a surreal experience. So amazing. You’re like, challenging yourself to ‘wake up’ from your dream.

    Can’t wait for Day 2!

  3. megan

    May 25, 2006 4:40 am

    ohhh yes! roman roads!! so scary! how did you go with trying to cross the street, particularly near the colosseum? the advice we got? just walk out and stare the drivers down and they will come to a halt, like magic.

    so true!!

    but i got a bit nervous seeing dan behind the wheel in one photo…did you guys rent a car?

    so glad you had a great time, and am loving your photos. reminds me of my own trip!

  4. Jen

    May 25, 2006 9:38 am

    hm, for some reason I’m not getting emails about comments. I missed these!

    No, that picture of Dan was on the way to the airport about 2 miles from our house :) hehe We definitely weren’t brave enough to rent a car over there! And yes, the intersection by the Colosseum was almost comical! haha

    Part of me I think will always feel guilty anytime I do anything nice for myself that costs money. Blame it on growing up without much and always learning to do without, who knows. I was almost embarrassed to tell people we were taking this trip! Which I know is really silly, but at times it just felt extravagant and I worry too much about what other people think anyway. But I just kept reminding myself that we have worked so hard to get where we are and WE DESERVE IT, DAMNIT! :)

  5. Sunshine

    May 25, 2006 10:15 am

    you DO deserve it. so glad you had a good time. looking forward to hearing more about it.

  6. Laura

    May 25, 2006 2:56 pm

    Hehe. I loved all of the pictures. The thought of traveling to Europe makes me edgy. I don’t think I’m brave enough!

  7. Melissa

    May 25, 2006 7:03 pm

    Glad you had such a great trip, Jen–you guys deserved it. :) I love your photos and reading about what you did each day!

    My husband grew up in Europe so of course he’s already been to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, England, etc (how jealous am I?)… so now he wants to go to more exotic places like Australia and New Zealand. But first we’re going back to Europe. We did visit his family in Hungary last year, and now I can’t wait to see the places where MY grandparents grew up (England and Italy). Plus it’s very important to us that our child be cultured, so traveling will always be a big part of our lives. The world is amazing and I think it’s worth every cent. :)

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