Thursday, October 01, 2015

Buon Viaggio: 31 Days of Italy!

[Scroll down to read Day 1]
Italy Itinerary and Travel Tips
Terrazzo Dei Sogni: Our Accommodations in Rome
Rome Day 1: Basilica di San Clemente, Colosseum and Roman Forum
Eating Our Way Through Italy: An Introduction to Italian Food 
Cucina Romana: Discovering the Traditional Foods of Rome
Rome Day 2: The Vatican
Rome Day 2, Continued: Castel Sant'Angelo, the Tiber and My First Gelato 
Gelato for Days
Rome Day 3: Heart of Rome Walk 
Rome Day 3, Continued: Villa Borghese 
Rome to Napoli: High Speed Train Ride
Villa San Gennariello: Our Accommodations in Campania 
Campania Day 4: Pompeii
La Tradizione: Unforgettable Restaurant
Naples Day 5: National Archaeological Museum
Naples Day 5: Spaccanapoli and Neapolitan Street Food
Naples Day 5: Cappella Sansevero - Veiled Christ
Naples Day 5: Santa Chiara 
Italian Traffic: Fearing for My Life
Naples Day 5: Churches, Piazzas and the Harbor
Dinner in Naples: Locanda del Cerriglio (Pasta alla Genovese)
Portici to Bomerano: The Great Taxi Disaster
Sentiero Degli Dei: Bomerano to Nocelle
Sentiero Degli Dei: Nocelle to Montepertuso to Positano
Campania Day 6: Positano and Sorrento
Return to La Tradizione
Cappuccino at the Naples Train Station: Onward to Florence
AM Collection: Our Accommodations in Florence
Florence Day 7: Galleria degli Uffizi
Florence Day 7: Santa Croce
Florence Day 7: Piazzale Michelangelo (and Hitting the Wall)
Tuscany Day 8: Chianti Wine and Food Safari
Tuscany Day 8: Lunch in Rignana
Florence Day 9: Duomo
Florence Day 9: San Lorenzo
Florence Day 9: Mercato Centrale
Florence Day 9: Santa Maria Novella
Foods of Firenze and Tuscan Legends
Accademia & Bargello 
Florence Day 10: Palazzo Vecchio
Florence Day 10 Heart of the City Walk
Italian Artisans
Florence Day 10: Il Latini

This July marked 10 years of marriage for Steve and me, and for years we’ve been talking about going on a special trip to celebrate our first decade. With the ages of our kids, plus the extra week of vacation time Steve earned by reaching the ten-year mark at work, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for an extended getaway.

Of course, vacations aren’t free, and one of the things that made this one extra special was how we were able to afford it. When my grandmother passed away a couple of years ago, my mom and her siblings all got some money from the sale of the house my grandfather built. Mom generously chose to pass some of her inheritance along to my brother and me, telling us to do something special with it in memory of Grandma June. Steve made some well-timed investments in 3D printing stocks and then got out at just the right time, and the money nearly tripled—enough to pay for most of a big trip. Then Steve got bumped from an international flight for a business trip this spring, and Delta’s reimbursement more than covered one of our flights!

The planning wasn’t without drama, though. We had long tossed around the idea of a Mediterranean cruise, and early this summer we finally started making official plans. By late June we had booked it, planning to spend three days in Rome before leaving on a 7-night cruise in the Western Mediterranean. But in early July, we found out that due to an error on our travel agent’s part, we had lost our spot on the ship and the cruise was sold out.

To make a long story short, after a crazy day of scrambling to assess alternatives, we chose to cancel the cruise plans but go ahead and travel on the same dates, spending all ten days in Italy. Our agent felt terrible, of course, and took full responsibility for the mixup, and while it was stressful and upsetting at the time, it was also an occasion to be encouraged by evidence of God’s grace at work in my heart.

There was a time in my life when I would have been very angry with the agent, and probably would have let her have it over the phone. I would have been so eager to distance myself from the possibility that *I* could ever make such a mistake. Thankfully the Lord has mellowed me out and replaced a lot of the pride in my heart with empathy. I can’t deny that I felt stunned and frustrated at first, but I was also very aware that I *could* make the same kind of mistake. I wanted to be upset, but how would I have felt if it had been my responsibility to make the final payment, and I’d forgotten—how would I have wanted my husband to respond to me? In light of the extravagant grace that God has extended to me, at the cost of His own Son’s life, for stubbornness and rebellion far worse than merely an honest mistake—how could I not extend grace to our travel agent for a simple error that could have been mine to make?

I was so disappointed and yet so very aware that the situation was the epitome of “first world problems”: “Oh no, my dream vacation got ‘ruined’—yet I’m probably not going to lose any money and I’m still going to be able to take an amazing vacation”?! Pretty ridiculous to use the word “ruined” in the grand scheme of things!

I believe that God reigns over the smallest details, including vacation plans, and whether or not I understand what is happening or why, at the end of the day I have to trust that His way is best. Peace did not come without wrestling, but God was kind to grant me perspective and kindness. (Of course, our agent’s humility and bending over backwards to make things right, including paying the penalty fees when we had to cancel our flights and start over, went a long way as well.)

While I would have loved to experience a cruise, I was also glad that we would be able to experience more of Italy. And I was encouraged to realize that God really is at work in me, growing me!

So with that, planning began in earnest. We ended up making all of our travel arrangements ourselves, and I won’t deny that it was a hectic couple of months spent researching and booking things. But in the end, it was worth all the stress. Our trip was so memorable, both in “wow, that was so amazing” ways and in “oh my goodness, what a fiasco” ways—experiences we will remember fondly and/or laugh about for a lifetime. We spent ten days in Italy celebrating ten years of marriage, both the vacation and the relationship extravagant gifts from an extravagant God.

So for this year's "Write 31 Days" blog challenge, I'm going to take time to capture memories from our trip while they're still fresh--to sort through my hundreds of photos and share highlights with you. Tomorrow, then: Andiamo a Italia! Let’s go to Italy!

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