Whirlwind Italy

(Guest post for ShawnSmallStories.com)

McQuitty sibsLast summer my husband Gordon and I took a whirlwind trip of Italy with my entire family. When most people use phrases like “entire family,” they mean their parents and maybe their sister. When I say it, I mean my parents, my sister Liz who lives in California, my sister Bonnie who is a missionary in East Asia, my brother Jonathan who is a worship pastor in Florida, and my other brother Jeff who is a student at the University of Texas in Austin. From the far-flung reaches of the inhabitable world, the McQuitty Clan reunited to check off an item on my mother’s bucket list: taking her brood to Italy. Amazingly, I’m the only married one of my siblings — Gordon was the one and only tagalong — so this trip was now or never.

Our last family vacation was circa 2001 when we drove to the beach. A brother I will not name filled the car with sulpherous fumes. That’s about all I can remember. That and the fact I had an amazing tan, which was the last recorded tan in recent personal history. McQuitty Clan car trips always seemed to involve human gas and a heckuva lot of complaining, so I was skeptical when my father announced he would be driving us all over the Italian Boot in a 9-passenger Mercedes van. My visions of this automobile included curtains on the windows and my mother throwing Fruit Roll Ups at our heads from the front seat. My demons from 1994 obviously persist.

And while the van did provide ample opportunity for the old antics, what proved the most challenging was finding our way. Pretty much anywhere. Whether it was locating the hotel in Milan, understanding the verbal cues from our disembodied Garmin voice, or finding parking in Rome — turns out, you can’t just stop on a sidewalk and leave your car sitting there — transportation and general navigation became our ever-present test of fortitude.

That’s not to say it wasn’t fun. After ditching the van and losing our way in Rome — hoofing it through the subway tunnels like hungry, foreign moles — we experienced the best possible kind of transportation: the Segue. My mother had booked an evening tour of Rome with a guide named Matteo (was that his name? I can’t verify this, but it sounds right), who must have been the most adorable Segue tour guide in Italy. Which really means he was the most adorable human being in the European continent.

Sisters at the TreviI have two words for you: orange vests. And two more: large helmets. Were we a night construction crew? Crossing gaurds? No, we were here to see the sights. And sights we saw while becoming a spectacle ourselves. As if we hadn’t been sufficiently on-display when, an hour before the tour left, my brother Jeff taught us his signature shimmying dance move in front of the Segue offices. Picture, if you will, a group the size of an American baseball team convulsing together on a public street to the beat of inaudible music.

“You have to impose your will upon the traffic,” yelled Matteo over his shoulder as he inched his way out into the five-lane roundabout. We were about a block from Michelangelo’s old house, and I wondered if Michelangelo ever imposed his will upon traffic in such a reckless — yet alluring — way.

We filed through the old streets of Rome at alarming speeds, buzzing by outdoor cafes where people looked up from their gnocchi and snapped pictures with their iPhones. When we arrived at the Parthenon, we stopped to drink from one of the old city water fountains. These look about as sanitary as a New York fire hydrant, but produce water that tastes crisper than a bottle of Evian recently pulled off a commercial shoot set.

We eventually found ourselves in front of the Trevi Fountain where my mother handed us pennies like we were still her little ones. We tossed them over our shoulders along with our secret, food-related wishes. You couldn’t hear them “thunk” in the water because of the noise from the crowd that was gathered there, but we each took turns verifying successful tosses. We began to forget how much we resembled safety-conscious convicts.

on the wallWe re-boarded our Segues (re-assumed? re-mounted?), tipped Matteo, and glided home to the street where Jeff had taught us the dance. After turning in our bright orange vests and helmets, we walked about ten miles home on the uneven cobbles from two centuries ago.

And I’m happy to report that, at least on that late-night walk, we didn’t get lost one single time. Even while shimmying.

Post a Comment

Spam protection by WP Captcha-Free