One Day in Rome

The thing which never happens, has happened! On my upcoming trip to Italy I will have 24 full, unscheduled hours – all to myself.

No colleagues to entertain

No meetings to attend

No children to attend to

Just me, my map, and an ungodly amount of Frascati

I’ve visited Rome before, years ago, and after two weeks in Venice, Sienna, Cinque Terre, Bologna, and Florence I found it a sore disappointment: dirty, crowded, and overrun with tourists too lazy to do more than visit the big ten greatest hits.

But, Rome is the Eternal City for a reason. With a history that spans nearly 3,000 years Rome is one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe. Rome is commonly considered the birthplace of western civilization and was the capital city for the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.

So, yeah, I get that it is important … but so is Detroit; I don’t exactly want to visit every Christmas.

In fact, I’ve always kind of considered Rome the Italian city that tourists visit when they don’t really take their time to research the beauty that is Italy (hence the endless brigade of tourists marching nose-to-tail behind a flag wielding tour guide).

As for my interests, want amazing ruins, visit Turino, want breathtaking chapels – Venice, and don’t forget the art, culture, and food that is Florence!

However, I recognize that I’m sorta … well … wrong.  In 2011, Rome was the 18th-most-visited city in the world, 3rd most visited in the European Union, and the most popular tourist attraction in Italy (which is exactly the type of description that would keep me away). But, people love Rome. People eat, pray, and love their way to Rome and back year after year.

Rome is ruination and reinvention, thriving, bustling, sleepy, and special.  There is no denying that moment when you walk around a corner and come face to face with iconic ROME – the Trevi fountain, the Vatican, Hadrian’s Arch, or any of a thousand other spectacular glimpses into the astounding history of this eternal city.

So, I am putting on my rose colored glasses (they fit quite nicely after a catastrophically shitty trip to Bali, strep throat in Istanbul, and a July heat wave in Shanghai) and prepping for the next great adventure.

My itinerary for one day in Rome:

1. Skip the Caesar Shuffle and the Vatican, I’ve been there and done that. Instead I’ll start the day with a leisurely stroll and cappuccino in Trastevere.

2. Then, I’ll continue across the Tiber to the Parthenon, a visit to the daily markets of the Campo De’ Fiori, and a stroll through the Piazza Navona .

3. After a full day of wandering, I’ll end the afternoon with the Dolce Vita stroll (as coined by travel guru Rick Steves) starting with a glass of wine and snacks at the Piazza del Popolo then a saunter down the Via del Corso and up Via Condotti to the Spanish Steps to surround myself with smooching lovers and that feeling of being painfully alone … for just long enough to make a Skype call home to my family as they settle in to their day.

And, hopefully, this time Rome will leave me aching to return, understanding what those nose-to-tail tour group tourists have been raving about for years.

One Year in Review

The LaBelleValise blog is now one year old.  This blog started as a travel log on all the places work, life, and wanderlust takes me and over the past year the adventure has been better than I hoped.

Here are a few of the highlightswpid-20141203_115451.jpg

Made in China

It begins, the trip that tests if I’m actually qualified for the job I have.

When Sheryl Sandberg told women to use our power to “Lean In” she didn’t address what happens next. How do I go from landing the dream job and impressing my colleagues to actually believing all the hype about myself? Does everyone secretly believe they’re a complete career fraud? And, does that nagging fear ever go away?

Stamp my passport, it’s proving time.

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Cat on a Corrugated Tin Roof

Everybody likes a vacation, but adventure is an acquired taste.

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– Courtesy, Google Images Contributor

When I told people I’d be going to a high school in Nanjing, China, an English-learning Kindergarten class near Ubud, Bali, or a wedding in Cartagena, Columbia I sometimes got a funny, “Why the hell would you want to do that?” kind of look. But, to me, I giggle inside every time I think of it.

My next trip – Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey (in just a couple days) has me giddy with travel euphoria. Eight days at the W: fashion shows, food, music, the Bazaar, the hypnotizing sound of prayer call; I will love (and hate) every second of it. There will be Asia belly, fierce hunger, awkward fiscal interactions and social obligations, getting lost, and the 40% chin quiver pre-cry. Then, there will be mouth agape, shocked, delighted, “Holy Shit! This exists!” moments.

The universe is about to rough house me with lessons from a place I’ve never been!

My Travel Items: The Holy Grail

Everyone who travels eventually finds their must-have travel items. These are mine …

Shoe Fresh Sachets

1. Dryer Sheets – I love the way dryer sheets ensure everything comes out of your suitcase smelling fresh and clean.  I use them when packing, then store my empty suitcases with a few dryer sheets tucked into their nooks and crannies so they smell clean even after a muggy trip to the tropics.  I also recently discovered Downy Unstopables for making shoe sachets.

Passport Cases

2. Passport Case – I keep my passport in my purse or day bag and travel with it at easy access when going to other countries (it’s amazing how often you need it: booking trains, checking into hotels, exchanging money).

Monogrammed Beach Bag

3. Day Bag – I use this as my airplane carry on (make sure your purse will fit inside the bag so that you have one, easy-to-carry item for the airport). My day bag becomes the beach bag, my filing cabinet, and in a pinch a pillow during long layovers in lousy airports.

4. Lounging Clothes leggings make the perfect lounging pants, they can be paired with a nice tunic to make an outfit, and they can also take you to the gym (if you get ambitious). I don’t like to fly in leggings (for airplanes I like loose-fitting clothes) but they can roll up easily and tuck in your carry on if you have a long lay over and might want to change your clothes.

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5. My Tried and True Travel Outfit

Passport Case and Travel Book

6. The Book – I always buy a book on the place I’m going.  I prefer Rick Steves Guides when available (A lifetime of watching his travel documentaries on PBS and the amazing value-adds he brought to my trip to Italy – skip the line at the Sistine Chapel, yes please – have made me a life long advocate. Plus I can hear his voice in my head when I read his travel guides and it makes me feel like I have a buddy traveling with me.)

Recessed Outlets

7. Phone Charger – this goes without saying, but it’s one of those last-in items that can result in an expensive airport purchase if you forget.  Be sure you have the right adapter (they’re expensive for what they do, and every country is unique do your research).  My tip, get the smallest adapter you can, sometimes the outlets are recessed and although you ave the right adapter, you still can’t plug in because those American-bought adapters won’t fit. It’s hard to describe, but I gave you a picture for example.

Universal Adapter

Do not buy the universal adapter, they almost never fit into outlets in airports and low-end hotels, and even in high-end hotels it’s hit and miss.

8. Carry On Essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, hair tie
  • Swimsuit or one critical wardrobe item so that even if your bags are lost your trip isn’t ruined (this has been a life saver)
  • Print outs of the hotel you’re going to first, and the name of the car service you’re using for the first stop (I book a car for the first location on international travel; it makes landing and transitioning simpler when arriving in unfamiliar places where the difference between legitimate taxis and gypsy cabs can be hard to determine – hence the gypsy cab-tastrophe that happened to me in Qingdao, China in 2011.)
  • A good book that travels well (don’t take Anna Karenina through 18 hours of travel, it’s a door stop, not a travel read)
  • A notepad

9. Local Currency – Always have at least enough $$ in the local currency of where you’re going just in case.  My just in case turned out to be the Jakarta, Indonesia airport where I had to take a taxi from one terminal to the other.  It cost about $2.00 and I would have paid $6.00 to pull money out of the ATM, then would have had a hassle getting change.

10. Print Outs of the Itinerary – Often enough I’ve loaded my luggage in the back of the taxi, climbed into the back seat, then realized the address of where I am going is sitting in my suitcase in the trunk.