For the past five years, my wife, Kim, has expressed her desire to go to Italy. This, in itself, is not a bad thing at all. Italy is a terrific country with countless things to see and do.
You could literally spend a month in Rome and not even scratch the surface of what it has to offer tourists, and that's just Rome. There is also the northern canal city of Venice or the southern stops of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. If that isn’t enough, there is the world-class art museum, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence or the fashion mecca of Milan.
There is so much in Italy, a visit would be the epitome of a European vacation.
So what’s the problem? Why haven't I just taken Kim?
Well, I’ve already been there. My desire to see countries I have not visited such as South Africa, Poland and Australia is greater. These places are simply higher on my bucket list.
So what have I done about it?
Well, thinking it might quench my wife’s thirst to experience la bella Italia, I bought her a Fiat. Unfortunately my plan didn’t work. If anything, it made her hunger for real pizza even greater and at a very high financial cost.
On my trip a few years ago, I threw a coin into Trevi Fountain, therefore assuring my return in the future. Thanks to my wife's desires, that impending visit may be sooner than I had planned.
I’ve been looking at my photographs to inspire me. As I did, I started to lose myself in wonderful memories.
My daughter Amber and I were walking towards the Pantheon on a brisk January afternoon. We’d just visited Vatican City and were walking back to the hotel when we decided to take a slight detour to see the famous 2,000-year-old church with its rotunda oculus open to the sky.
Not only is the Pantheon the final resting place for the painter Rafael, it’s also billed as the best-preserved building from the Roman Empire within the entire city.
We heard a melodic voice with an accompanying guitar and were drawn away from our path to see where it was coming from.
As we rounded a corner, we could see in the distance a man and what appeared to be an adolescent boy, probably his son. We had no idea what the boy was singing about because the lyrics were in Italian, but he crooned as if he possessed decades of voice training. He cheerfully sang while the older man played as people tossed coins into the open guitar case at their feet.
All I could think was "Wow! That kid has some pipes."
The Pantheon — and the musical performance — was also worth the detour.
Vatican City, the headquarters of the Catholic Church and home of the pope, is not to be neglected on a trip to Rome. Not everyone may realize that although it is completely encompassed by Rome, Vatican City is its own state. It has its own money, its own flag, and even its own postage stamps as well as its own ambassadors.
The Vatican Museum boasts one of the best art collections in the world and could take hours to walk through to see the sites.
The Sistine Chapel, with its famous ceiling art painted by Michelangelo, is breathtaking when viewed from below. It is also the chapel where Catholic cardinals hold conclave, which is the process of electing a new pope.
We were awed by St. Peter’s Square and St. Peter's Basilica; I don’t think there are adequate words in any language to describe them. From the air, the square is shaped like a keyhole and is surrounded by the centuries-old statues of one hundred and forty saints on the colonnades. In addition to this, surmounted on the balustrade is Christ the Redeemer, John the Baptist and 11 apostles.
The colorful Swiss Guard, with their blue, red, and mustard uniforms, watch over all of Vatican City. Even though they are dressed for pageantry, they have all served in the Swiss army and take their assignment to the pope seriously.
A few of the other main attractions of Rome are, of course, the Coliseum and the Forum. One was used for the gladiators and the other as a place to gather to listen to the emperor; both are equally ancient and fascinating.
We floated through the Coliseum first. Built to accommodate 30,000-50,000 spectators, the Coliseum was used for bloody battles and animal hunts and possibly for re-created naval battles, all for the sake of entertainment. Even though it’s partially ruined due to earthquakes and stone robbers, it’s still the emblem of Imperial Rome.
The Forum is an expansive rectangular ground of ruined columns, arches and buildings. It is where people gathered to hear their leaders speak and where public elections and criminal trials were held — all of this beginning in the same century in which Christ was born. Yes, they are that old.
This is still just a fraction of what we found in Rome.
Throughout the city are eight ancient Egyptian obelisks and five ancient Roman obelisks located in various places — one inside St. Peter’s Square. Other locations include the top of the Spanish Steps and the fountain Quattro Fiumi in Piazza Navona, which was once a famous ancient chariot racing oval.
The most impressive aspect of Rome to me was its antiquity. Almost everything is older than anything found in the United States, and a generous helping of structures are two millennia old. It’s really quite incredible.
After all this reminiscing, I really don’t have a good answer as to why I haven’t taken Kim to Italy. In fact, I probably could have saved some money and avoided the Fiat dealership entirely by fulfilling her travel desires.
I’m just happy I came to my senses before purchasing a Beretta handgun or a Gucci purse.
Chris Hale is an aviation maintenance technician for a major airline and has traveled extensively with his family. In his spare time, he writes novels inspired by places he's been. Find out more about his books and other articles at chrisahale.com.