“Are you all packed? Ron, your mother will be here soon, so get any last minute items packed, if you haven't already.”
That was a foolish question to ask, I think they repacked their suitcases at least three times. You could tell they were nervous, they must have paced back and forth at least 10 times before Ron’s mother pulled into our drive way. “Let’s go boys, get your suitcases.”
Arriving at the airport, Ron’s mother gave him his passport, I had arranged with her to get him one when I discussed attending the college courses. “Here’s your passport Toby, please take care of it.”As I expected, he handed it back to me to keep for him. When Ron saw that, he gave me his as well.
It was obvious it was the boys first time flying. They were all eyes as we boarded. I knew I’d enjoy this trip as much as they would. Opening eyes to the world, or in this case Italy, was something that generates knowledge on a first hand basis. If you have never flown, then you can understand the excitement of two teenagers. Very attentive to the steward, checking the pocket behind the seats, looking around at the other flyers, and paying attention when the steward went through the safety instructions. I wonder how many flights before they ignored these instructions as must frequent flyers do.
The flight was over night landing us at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome in the morning.My mind couldn’t help but go back to the time Clair and I first made this trip, the excitement in her eyes I’ll never forget. And now I see the same excitement in theeyes of the boys.
“We have to clear customs and get our luggage and then we’ll be on our way. Have your passports handy.”I let the boys go first through passport control. I couldn’t help but notice their faces, they were very somber.Smiles only shown when they saw me exiting passport control.
We followed the crowd to collect our luggage. The boys saw a man standing there with a rifle. Looking at me, “They are Carabinieri, the military arm of the Italian police.I think their presence here is to discourage anyone’s idea that this would be an easy entry into Italy. We’re okay, look there’s our luggage.”
I had arrange for the hotel to send a taxi to pick us up. “Okay boys, look for a taxi with a placard saying Hotel Majestic Via Venatu, that will be our taxi.”
“Uncle Jeff, there’s a man holding a card with your name on it.”
“That’s us,” I should have known that they would asked Pietro to pick us up. “Hello Pietro, it’s nice to see you again. I hope that the hotel has arrange for your services for the next few days?”
“Buon giorno, Signore Madison. Si, Signore Madison, as you say, I am on call for you.”
“Buon, these are my nephews Tobias and Ronald. I think we’ll keep you busy for few days. I have a list of places they’ll want to go.”
Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted by the manager. “Signore Madison, it’s good to see you again. We have reserved your room and as requested, we have a room close to yours for your nephews. I’ll have a porter show you to your rooms.”
“Thank you Signore Bianchi. It’s good to be back in Italy, my wife enjoyed our visits here. Pietro, give us an hour and then come back to pick us up. Maybe we can visit the Palatine Hill and then have lunch at that small restaurant on the Via del Corso.”
That was my plan before reaching our room, “Uncle, can we take a shower before going out?”
“Yes, but make it cold and quick. No sleeping or you’ll be tired for several days. We need to reset your internal clocks. Staying awake until 6 tonight will be best.”
I waited a full hour and no boys. I knocked on their door, no answer. I opened their door and they were both asleep. “Get up, I told you not to sleep.”
“We were tired and just wanted to take a little nap.”
“Look, I know you’re tired, so am I. But I have traveled to Europe many times and it’s always best not to go to sleep when we arrive. You sleep now and you’ll be unable to sleep tonight. Trust me on this. Let’s go, Pietro is waiting for us.” The boys got up, “Go splash some cold water on your face and don’t forget your cameras.”
We met Pietro in the lobby, “Who fell asleep, I know it was not Signore Madison?”
“It was us. We wanted to test the bed and we fell asleep. Uncle woke us, we’re sorry for the delay.”
I smiled as the boys got into the taxi. Maybe on our next trip I’ll let them sleep then they’ll understand. The ride to the Palatine Hill took longer than I remembered. Traffic is always a problem in Rome, narrow streets and crazy drivers, I’d never drive here.
“This is Palatine Hill, once the home of Roman emperors. Look, from here you can see the Colosseum and Capitoline Hill. There’s a museum here where you can get more information. There’s the ruins of the Roman Forum and the Circus Maximus. Do you know the story of how Rome was founded?”
“Wasn’t it something about wolves?”
“Yes it was, Romulus and Remus. It is said they lived here in an iron hut. The hut still can be seen today but it’s all fiction. A nice story, but because of that story, the emperors built their homes here. Let’s go to the museum and see what they have.” The boys were all eyes as we wander through the museum. We had to buy a few books concerning not only the Palatine Hill but Roman history as well, particularly the founding of Rome.
“Are you boys hungry?”I smiled as it dawn on them that we hadn’t eaten since this morning. “Let’s pay for your books and then Pietro can drive us to a restaurant for lunch.” The cashier smiled and offered the boys a pin that said, ‘I visited Palatine Hill.’ It was in English the boys asked if she had one in Italian, she had and the boys smiled as they pined them on their shirt.
The restaurant Pietro chose was the same one Clair and I always had visited. When I followed the boys in, the owner recognized Pietro and me. We had to chat for a few moments while one of the waiters showed the boys to a table. There’s something nice about being welcomed into a foreign country by friends who live and work there. The owner selected our menu, which I knew he would, and our wine. I looked at the boys as their glasses were filled with the wine. “It’s normal for Europeans to have a glass of wine with their meals. Eat a little before you sample the wine.”
“Pietro, after lunch take us to the Coliseum and then back to the hotel. I think the boys will be ready to go to sleep. Plan on having breakfast with us in the morning.”
Now in Europe and specially Italy, lunch isn’t a 15 minute gobble the food down. From the antipasto to the dessert we ate for 1 1/2 hours. Between courses and chatting, time seemed to move fast until one checked their watch.I thank our host and headed to the Colosseum. The boys were totally enthralled with the tour. From the side looking down you could see the rooms under the floor of the Colosseum where gladiators and wild animals stayed. I think the Colosseum would appeal to any boy. Looking at them you could almost see them picturing themselves asgladiators.
Exploring finished, pictures taken, it was time to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. I knew the boys would be up early but they had their books to read, for a little while. “If you get hungry, there are snacks in that small refrigerator, but no alcohol.Try and get a good nights sleep, we have a lot of places to visit tomorrow.”