Rather than attempt a full-on recap, this week I’ll just be sketching out a couple stories. It’s not laziness – I’m keeping the format freeeesh.
Story #1: Stalking Rick Steves
On Monday, we visited the Vatican Museums – more overwhelmingly gigantic and significant than any other collection we’ve seen so far, like probably just a couple levels beneath the Louvre in terms of scale. Nonetheless, my usual “museuming” routine (cappuccino, picking a wing, finding a quirk in each painting I look at, etc.) got me through the first few galleries with no scratches and very little stress, carrying me to the courtyard which houses the “Laocoon.” I stood in front of that feat of twisted marble and listened to a couple classmates discuss its legendary origins, pretty distracted, a mental haze which I was promptly snapped out of with seven simple words: “hey, do you guys know Rick Steves?” I looked at the speaker, answering yes, WHY – “oh, he was just standing over there in the middle” – WHAT
I’ve never ditched a group of people faster. I’d spent my whole life wondering what my purpose could possibly be, and suddenly it was so clear: I had to find and follow Rick Steves, King of Travel, through the Vatican Museums. What was he doing there? Who was he with? Would he hire me as a television cohost/travel writer? I felt like Laocoon himself trying to disentangle myself from the crowd of camera-holding limbs surrounding me, finally reaching an open pocket and – hark! – there was the back of Rick Steves.
I stood there, quite unsure what to do with myself. Sometimes I have a difficult time acting normal around, like, normal people, but you throw me in the ring with a pretty famous person and I stoop to levels of awkwardness beyond the capability of most humans. I am painfully aware of this aspect of my personality. So obviously the best option in this situation is to wordlessly hover around Rick Steves and his tour guide for a solid 45 minutes, all the while failing miserably to make this seem unintentional. Rick, if you ever read this: I was not very interested in that tapestry depicting Julius Caesar’s assassination, I was just waiting for you to catch the f up.
So yes, I spent a good amount of my time in the Vatican Museums following Rick Steves around and mooching off his private tour. Did I introduce myself? No, I just let him eye me suspiciously as I trailed through the map gallery and Raphael rooms. Did I learn a lot? Yes, I would highly recommend “tour stealing,” as it is very easy and very informative and less embarrassing than an audio guide. Did I brush Rick Steves’ shoulder and thus gain his travel wisdom? I did indeed brush the shoulder of this legend of a man, but as for the transfer of power, only time will tell. Cross your fingers. Also I got two other pictures of the back of his head #score
Story #2: My First Italian Friend
There is a restaurant near our apartment whose sole commodity is french fries – the place is called “FRIES: delicious potatoes.” It is great, we need more things like this in the States. Karly and I decided FRIES was a necessary pit stop today (on our way to gelato, no less), and so we went, got our FRIES, and sat in the square. We were picking through the last remnants when we were approached by a spunky little girl on her bike, brown hair in a ponytail and inquisitive look on her face. “Patatine?” she asked, gesturing to our nearly empty cones of fries, and I answered “si.” One point for me. I know the word for french fries. But then she started speaking quickly in Italian, and that one point disappeared and I quickly plummeted into the negatives. In gruesomely butchered Italian, I asked if she spoke any English – haha nope. This girl was like seven, maybe eight. She shook her head. “Italiano.” For some reason or another she decided to stick around after this linguistic chasm was revealed, probably either to laugh at us or pilfer fries. Regardless, I was determined to converse with this little girl despite my tiny, tiny bank of Italian words and phrases. I told her I was American, following that with an “e tu?”, which I’m not even sure is a thing in this language. She looked confused. I pointed at her, “Italiana?” “Si, Italiana di Roma.” She then asked where in America we were from, and I answered Seattle, not expecting her to recognize the name. “Oh!” her face brightened, “iCarly!” A resounding “si” from Karly and me, along with some laughter. So cute.
It did not take us long to exhaust that line of conversation, so we moved on to names. She didn’t like the English pronunciation of my name, as evidenced by a grimace when I presented my ugly, un-rolled “r,” but she accepted once I tweaked it a bit. She didn’t like Maddy’s name either, so we opted for some variant of Madelena. Caitlin was changed to Catalina. Following introductions, one of my friends tried to ask “how are you” and was promptly corrected by our new friend, Adelai, with a head-shake of disbelief and the correct pronunciation. This girl’s sass game was admirably strong. And after establishing that we were “tutto inglese,” she peaced out and rolled away on her little bike. There’s only so much you can say with such a huge language barrier. But I was very impressed with Adelai’s dauntlessness in carrying on a conversation with us, and I liked her spunk. A lot. The other girls got the impression that she hated us, but I think she found us endearingly clueless. I’m fine with that.
I won’t go in-depth (I’m tired and coming down with a cold, my bed is calling very loudly), but I can’t post this without mentioning our visit to Tivoli today. The Renaissance gardens at Villa D’Este are beyond any words I could put here, so I’ll show you some pictures. Maybe you remember a certain movie from the early 2000’s with a scene shot here? No? Hilary Duff???