I landed in Rome on a Sunday, spent the entire day touring the city, and on Monday morning, I met with my Italian colleagues at their office in Rome to discuss a few projects that they have in the works. It was so much fun to spend time with Italians and I loved how they would often communicate with each other, before working out the appropriate response for me in English. I must admit, I felt so ignorant that I was only able to speak one language, whereas several of my colleagues were fluent in multiple languages including Italian, French, German, Spanish and English.
There were a few things that really struck me about my time in Europe. The first thing was the size of cars (small), elevators (really small)...
And the people - relative to people in the US - were really, really small from a body fat perspective. This last one surprised me because the people in Italy know how to EAT. Yet, they aren't eating all of the carbs and fats that we eat, and their portions are considerably smaller. When people would ask me if I was an American, I was slightly offended because I wondered if they thought I looked pudgy??
When my colleagues took me to their cafeteria for lunch, I was amazed.
Following lunch, we stopped in to the cafe, for a coffee - which was the second one that I'd consumed that day. Around this point, is when I learned that the Italian's take their coffee very seriously.
Keep in mind, I am NOT a coffee drinker. While I enjoy the smell of it, the taste makes my hair and toes curl. But there I was in Rome, and when my colleagues asked if I would have a coffee with them, I eagerly replied, "Of course, because when in Rome....!" to which they gave me a puzzled look because they'd never heard that expression before.
When in Rome ... do as the Romans do?
They'd never heard that before?
The cups are small and only hold a shot of coffee, but that was more than enough for me. (Jet Lag + 2 Cups of Espresso = The reason I was asleep at 8 PM and wide awake from 12-4 AM.)
On Tuesday, I departed Rome in the early morning and flew north to Milan.
Although I was in meetings all day Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to see this beautiful rainbow.
And the comedic sight of my colleagues, capturing a photo of it with their phones.
In the evening, we toured around the city and took in the breathtaking architecture...
And this bull, who is the bearer of good luck - if tourists jam their heel in to his jewels, and then spin around three times (hence the reason for the 2-inch deep circular groove at his groin).
The clothing in Milan was amazing (these are children's garments!)...
The wine in Milan was amazing.
The food in Milan was amazing.
The scenery and quaintness in Milan was amazing.
And the talent, in the form of artists - such as this pianist, who stood inside the piano and played Beethoven upside down...
While meandering around a room in Milan was amazing. (Note: this picture was Henry's favorite from my entire trip because of Batman and Wolverine ... not because of the man who was standing inside a grand piano and playing Beethoven UPSIDE DOWN.)
On Thursday, we set out to visit project sites, and drove to the far north of Italy - approximately ten kilometers (6 miles) from the Switzerland border.
The temperature dropped considerably, and because the weather was approximately 1 degree Celcius; 33 degrees Fahrenheit ... my colleagues decided that in order to warm up, we needed to make a number of stops for coffee. The first cafe stop was at a gas station, and I was once again struck by the healthful food options. Look at these fresh sandwiches available from a gas station!! (In the US, I'm afraid we'd have the options of a microwave burrito, bag of beef jerky, or peanut M&Ms.)
At this stop, I finally confessed to my colleagues that I do not like coffee and am having a difficult time tolerating it, straight. So they suggested that I try this drink instead. But after less than two sips, I could sense my body was launching a revolt. (FYI: You're not in Rome anymore. The saying isn't, "When in Milan. So you might want to put that cup down before your stomach catapults coffee unto thee floor.")
So I switched to cioccolata calda (hot chocolate), although this looked more like hot pudding....
This was coffee stop #4 for the day. And that monster cup of cioccolata on the end belongs to the potentially chubby American who can't drink what is purportedly the best coffee on the planet.
Friday morning, I scrambled out of bed seven minutes before my taxi was scheduled to take me to the airport (this was a common theme for me while in Europe; I significantly overslept almost every single day). Surprisingly, the one thing that I forgot in my rush to get out the door, was my cell phone charger. But what I took with me is the dream to go back and spend more time in this beautiful area.
The only thing that could have made my trip better, is if I'd had my husband and children with me. So I've put Charlie on alert that when the children are older, perhaps 12 and 14, we are going to take them out of school and travel around the world for one year.
The planning has already begun.
Charlie has told me his first stop in Italy will be to a cafe, because unlike his wife - he loves coffee.