Day 1: Rome

Rome: Terrace Roof of Hotel Abitart near Ostiense Railway Station, 7PM

This morning I was out the door by 8:30 and headed to the gym to meet my personal trainer. They say that you are supposed to have more energy in the morning to workout but certainly this is not the case for me. I am not a morning person, in fact I am sluggish and tired in the morning. After forty minutes of some intense boxing and calisthenics I drove home, feeling sore all over. I’ve gotten used to the perennial muscle soreness. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it used to as it reminds me I’m pushing myself and building muscle.

It was 10:30 AM by the time I got home and I hadn’t packed a thing. Most people would have been frantic, but not me. I can pack a bag for two weeks in give or take forty minutes. I don’t stress and I don’t fuss. If it’s not in the bag, or if I can’t remember to put it in the bag I probably don’t need it. In the rare cases where I’ve really needed something, guess what, I have cash. Bag was packed and by 11:30 I had cleared the fridge of stuff that would go bad, taken out the garbage, watered the plants and cleaned the kitchen and the living room. I am very efficient under pressure.

My dad showed up to take us to the airport at 12:30 and after taking out a few key things from our bags we were at exactly 50lbs each. Win.

As expected, the Alitalia counter was interesting. When I booked the tickets back in May, I had to do so through their call center because their website was down. The customer service rep misspelled both our names and it was a huge 4 hour ordeal on the phone as she repeatedly canceled and rebooked our flights using pretty much any and all credit cards I owned. When she finally did issue the tickets, Rob’s name was STILL spelled wrong. In the proceeding weeks we tried to call and got transferred to a closet. We were told someone would call us back or write us back and indeed no one did. We came to loathe Alitalia customer service and honestly have vowed not to ever try to book through their call center again.

At the airport counter they were able to easily find my reservation but when it came to Rob’s the agent looked us in the face and said, “Sorry this reservation does not exist and the flight is full.” This was the moment we were waiting for. Luckily I had emails, receipts and all kinds of instant data at my fingertips. Sometimes technology and smart phones do come through. Back into the system he went, punching numbers and trying to figure out what happened to our reservation. We were getting to Rome somehow.

After a long wait he finally did return and gave us that smile that said everything was fine. The booking system and the reservation system are separate and we were on one but not the other under two different numbers. Luckily I didn’t have to get Cuban on his ass and cause a scene. There was no way after all this trouble that I was paying them for the mistake to alter the tickets – hell they should pay me for all of the trouble.

Thing about travel is, you must remain FLEXIBLE. Inflexible people do very poorly when things go awry. Knowing when to relax and go with the flow is very important to enjoying yourself. Nothing ever goes as expected but that, at least for me, is where the interesting anecdotes happen. These snags is what makes life interesting.

During security check I opted for the pat down. This x ray machine thing is simply a huge infringement on privacy and I hate this idea. Yes, I would rather have a human being touch me than go through this thing. It just annoys me.

The flight was actually not bad save for a screamer who sat a few rows behind us. Every so often we were woken up by that screech that made our hair stand on end. Babies and planes DO NOT MIX. It had been a while since I had been on an international flight to Europe. My favorite moment always comes when you’ve settled to sleep a little (cause it’s like midnight) and lo and behold the lights come back ON and the sun is rising outside. It’s when your brain goes, NO!!! That is just not right!

I got through a good chunk of my book on the Holographic nature of the universe and Rob embarked on Marcus Aurelius’s famous Meditations–a good start I think to this semi-metaphysical journey with Dr. Wayne Dyer. I think we are both searching for something–meaning perhaps–like the next person. This year has been so incredibly profound for me. I feel as if I’ve really grown spiritually and this trip, supported heavily by lectures from this incredibly inspirational man, is just another building block to expanding our consciousness.

So yes, this brings me to this very quirky place. I am sitting on the rooftop garden of Hotel Abitart, near Ostiense. If you have ever looked at a map of Rome, Ostiense is really on the edge of town and the area is very, very run down. The hotel is like a tiny slice of heaven in the middle of graffitied streets, vagrants, clothes lines and, what I would imagine compares to say…Spanish Harlem in New York City. We chose this place because of the proximity to Ostiense which is where our tour begins. We are staying in the Keith Herring Suite and for Europe, this room is like a mansion. It’s huge, colorful, comfortable and filled to the brim with art. We love it!

We slept till 3PM local time then went out for a walk. The neighborhood is really bad though and we didn’t want to chance walking back at night. It is really, really run down. Instead, we opted to stop at a local gelato place and were shocked when we had the absolute best ice cream of our lives. Nocciola and Exstasy del Demonio! The ecstasy of the demon chocolate ice cream was to die for!

Tomorrow we depart for a three hour ride to Assisi to walk along the footsteps of St. Francis. I have been to Assisi in the past but for Rob it is the first time.

More on that tomorrow but for now we’re going to enjoy some really good Italian food. Ciao