Friday, August 06, 2010

Yep, we foreign tourists have Italy all to ourselves!!

I guess that's what happens when you don't really plan your vacation -- or, rather, leave an unfortunate hole in your plans...

See, we were supposed to be spending this vacation in China. My husband was invited to speak at a conference, and we'd been planning this for more than a year. I even organized the most elaborate system you can imagine so that my parents would come visit us in Switzerland (and pick up the kids and take them to the US), and I'd fly to the US to visit (and pick up the kids) after the China trip. Then, we we foolish enough to put off getting our visas for China until the last minute -- and China unexpectedly changed the rules for French people to get visas! There were a bunch of new rules and bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and we didn't have time to get the visas!

It must have changed all of the sudden because other French friends going to the conference didn't have this problem. Every French person I've talked to has guessed the Sarkozy must have said something to offend the Chinese.

So what to do on short notice???

The obvious choice was a trip to Italy. It has the advantage that, from Zurich, you can have the idea to go one morning, and then go hop on a train and be there that afternoon. Plus, we loved our trip to Lago Maggiore last year, but if you look at a map, you'll see that we hardly left Switzerland. And I've always wanted to see Rome.

The disadvantage -- from not planning ahead! -- is that this is the middle of the tourist season, so everything is overrun with tourists. And everything that's not touristy is closed for the month because everyone who lives in the popular-to-visit cities is currently on vacation somewhere else (except those who happen to be directly employed by the tourism industry).

One fun part is that it's like a second honeymoon. Or even like a first honeymoon since, technically, we never did go on a honeymoon. (Though being in Florence may not be quite as suited to that as, say, JulieAnn's choice of SLC since here you're rather strongly tempted to get out of the room to see all of the amazing art and architecture.) I'll post some pics when I can. (Of the art and architecture.)

Another fun thing is that my sweetie and I studied Italian together when we were first married, so practicing it brings back some fun memories. I've brought the book we read together so long ago: 40 Le├žons pour Parler Italien.

One of the silly sentences from the book became kind of a running gag for us. There's a part where the turist orders spaghetti, and specifies that she wants it "al dente." The Italian waiter explains that in Italy the spaghetti is always served al dente: Gli spaghetti Italiani sono sempre al dente. So when we couldn't think of a relevant, coherent sentence in Italian, we'd just have fun claiming that all sorts of things are always al dente. The latest one we've come up with is the foreign tourists (like us). Whenever we see any of our fellow foreign tourists doing something particularly silly or touristy, we just sigh and remark I turisti stranieri sono sempre al dente.

It doesn't really mean anything, but somehow it fits. ;)


Aerin said...

Sorry to hear the visa thing fell through. That's awful. I've always wanted to see the catacombs in Rome personally (which is no doubt a place full of foreign tourists).

Tour Italy Now said...

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