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Fulfilling My Grand Italian Dream

[ 3 ] May 1, 2011 |

When I was 19 I set off on my first overseas adventure, an adventure to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting Europe.  Ever since I was young I had been fascinated by Europe, most likely thanks to all the souvenirs my Dad brought back from his many work trips to France, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, the list goes on.  My windowsill was lined with my miniature dreams, my dreams of visiting the Eiffel Tower, my dreams of visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, my dream to ride on a Double Decker bus in London, my dream to travel.  But there was one country that always appeared in my childhood travel dreams, a country that I longed to visit the most, that country was Italy!

When I was 9 years old I decided that I wanted to learn Italian, I was convinced that If I learnt all the words to ‘Volare’ and read along with the English translation then I would eventually be able to fluently speak Italian or such the simplicity of a 9 year olds childhood mind would believe.  Unfortunately though I did manage to learn all the words and to this day sill remember them, the only Italian I really picked up from the song was  “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” (Blue painted in the blue) yeah like that was going to help me!

My dream to visit Italy became an intense fascination into the country, every school project I could do on a country or It’s cuisines I picked Italy.  In grade 6 I did my major geography project on Italy, in my grade 9 home economics class I cooked a 3 course Italian feast for my food presentation. But the fascination didn’t stop at school projects, any movie with an Italian theme I wanted to watch, over and over again.  I don’t know how many times I watched the ‘Lizzie McGuire’ movie wishing I was a pop super star in Rome with a hot Italian boyfriend.  And I just couldn’t get enough of Mary Kate and Ashley’s ‘When in Rome.’

When I was in High School my Dad went on a trip to Italy and visited Florence, Naples and Pompeii.  I couldn’t get enough of all his stories, eating way too much food with an Italian family, sleeping on a bed with a giant crucifix on the wall above his head, visiting Pompeii, I was envious!  I wanted to go to Italy.  And with that after working two jobs for a year and a half I saved up enough money to finally go to Europe, to finally fulfill my grand Italian dream.

Below are some of the highlights from my trip to Italy in 2008 and all the dreams I fulfilled:

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Standing in the Mighty Colloseum…

One of the first things that entered my find when I thought of Italy was the Colloseum, after all it was legendary!  The moment I caught that first glimpse of the Colloseum was a breathtaking, “wake me up I’m dreaming” moment. After all the years of seeing pictures of the Colloseum in books, finally I was there standing on the ancient ground upon which the mighty Gladiators fought to their deaths.  But this wasn’t what really had me excited! Blame the architecture enthusiast in me, it was the revolutionary way the Colloseum was built and designed that really had me excited. I was finally seeing it for real, I could study it’s design and construction from outside the pages of a book!  I had read all about the architecture of the Colloseum, what I was excited to see was the vaulted arches built using concrete, one of the earliest examples of this revolutionary building method that would change the way buildings were constructed from then after.  The people I was with thought I was pretty weird, staring up in awe at the arches and pointing out that they were constructed with the earliest use of concrete in history. Rome tours for them meant the excitement of being where gladiators had been and they couldn’t understand how I could be so excited by some ancient concrete!

Colosseum

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Treading where Caesar once trod in the Roman Imperial Forum…

The Roman Imperial Forum was once the centre of Roman life, it was here where government buildings stood, here where elections were held, where some of the greatest speeches were presented.  Legendary Roman figures Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, Constantine the Great and Octavius (Augustus) all at one point in history had trodden these grounds.  It was here where one of the biggest Roman drama that went on to inspire a Shakespeare play played out,  Marc Antony’s oration at Julius Caesar’s funeral that caused an uprising of the locals against Caesar’s assassins eventually driving the murderers out of Rome.  How could I not be excited to stand in such a historic place where so many historic tales I had studied had taken place. Standing in that forum surrounded by the mighty ruins of Rome’s great past I let my mind drift and imagine what life would have been like, the city center bustling at the height of the Roman empire.

Roman Imperial Forum

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Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain…

The Trevi Fountain for me really was one of the most stunning sights in Rome, the turquoise water cascading down the waterfall, the beautiful statues on the top seemingly reaching up for the heavens. The atmosphere was electric, everyone in the crowd was excited to be there, everyone sitting down eating gelati was smiling with satisfaction and everyone who like me was throwing coins into the fountain making a wish all had that look on their face that said “even if that wish doesn’t come true, hell I can’t complain I’m at the Trevi Fountain!” Throwing that first coin over my shoulder and into the fountain was an exciting moment, in fact I was so excited I don’t even remember what I wished for!  I do however remember the second wish, to return to Rome.  It is tradition that If you throw in a second coin into the fountain that you will one day again return to Rome, it hasn’t happened yet but soon enough it will!

Trevi Fountain

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Hanging out in proximity of the Pope…ok maybe being in a Da Vinci code setting!…

Anyone in the western world has grown up hearing about the Pope, even if they’re not Catholic. But for me quite honestly (no disrespect intended) I couldn’t really care less about the old guy that led the Catholic Church.  What I cared about was the history of Vatican City, the architecture, the art, MICHELANGELO! But what I was interested in the most was seeing the settings in which Robert Langdon’s adventures played out in Dan Brown’s best selling novel the Da Vinci Code. Walking around St Peter’s Basilica and other parts of Vatican City in my mind I was watching Professor Robert Langdon investigate a murder and track down the truth behind the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  To me, Vatican City felt more like the setting of a novel then a spiritual place of worship.  It was too huge, too flashy and had far too much gold for me to feel any sense of spirituality.  It felt more like a place to show off the ‘physical riches’ of Catholicism rather than a place for the quiet contemplation of mortality and god.

St Peter's Basilica

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Cruising along the Venice canals with a lover…

Ever since I watched an episode of the soap opera ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ when the Forrester’s went to Venice I knew I had to go.  Of course what I learned from that episode was choose wisely who you want to take to Venice. It’s probably not such a great idea to go with your ex-husband,  new lover, the guy you’re really in love with and other members of the family who hate you. After dreaming about the romance of Venice for years after watching that episode I ended up cruising down the romantic canals of Venice with…a bunch of friends.  So while I didn’t fulfill my entire dream, I didn’t really care, either way Venice’s canals were pure magic even if I was enjoying what should have been a romantic moment with 5 other people!

Venice Canals

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Visiting the site of the most famous volcanic eruption in history…

When I was in grade 3 I read a picture book about the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, I was fascinated.  When I was in High School my Dad went on a work trip to Italy and fulfilled ‘My Dream’ of visiting Pompeii, I was intensely jealous! He rubbed it in even more by showing me all the fascinating photo’s and telling me the historic stories and all that he had learned from his tour guide.  When I finally got to visit Pompeii I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit all the places I had read about, to see the ancient fast food restaurant, to see the beautifully decorated tiles that had remained preserved under a layer of ash for nearly two thousand years! Unfortunately for me my tour group was whisked through so fast all I really got to admire was the picture catalog in the ancient brothel.  I couldn’t help but be disappointed, I saw hardly any of what I wanted to see and although I fulfilled the dream of standing on that ground, when I left I felt like I was leaving with my dream only half fulfilled.  Looking back, although it was disappointing, the positive thing to come out of it is now I have an excuse to go back again!

Pompeii

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Seeing Michelangelo’s Statue of David in Florence…

When I was in High School I was that art nerd that spent many lunch hours slaving away over her painting in the art room.  Ever since I was a little kid I’d loved art, I was always drawing, gluing things, finding creative uses for cereal boxes.  So it was unsurprising that all through school I chose to do art classes.  I loved creating art but I also loved studying art.  When I studied the human form and proportion we spent a lot of time studying the works of Michelangelo but particularly his most famous work the ‘Statue of David’.  When I was in Florence, visiting the museum and seeing the statue for real was the one thing I ‘had to’ do.  And see it I did, stare at his hands I did, it was true what I had learned in art class, his hands did look un-proportionately large!  I wish I had had the guts to take a sneaky photo of the real statue but being to worried about getting in trouble from security I had to settle for a photo of a smaller replica statue in one of Florence’s many piazza’s.

Statue of David

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Holding up the leaning tower of Pisa.

In primary school I did a research project on Italy where I learned all about the Leaning Tower of Pisa and it’s legendary lean.  But as a child with no clue of the laws of physics I thought it was just a pretty cool building standing on a very bizarre angle. Seeing it for real was the moment I thought “Wow, it’s really actually learning! How on earth is it still standing.”  Although much of its dramatic lean had been corrected by the time I visited it still was very clearly leaning. I couldn’t resist, I had to take that classic tacky pose that every tourist takes at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the pose where it looks like you’re either holding up the tower or pushing it over! That photo will forever represent my first trip to Europe at 19!

Leaning Tower of Pisal

After all the years dreaming of Italy finally visiting was a dream come true.  Finally I was able to fulfill that childhood dream! But somehow ticking off all the places I wanted to see didn’t leave me completely fulfilled, instead I was left yearning for more.  Yearning to discover more of Italy then just what I leaned at school, to discover more than what my Dad had experienced, to discover more than just history but to actually live it’s culture. I fulfilled my dream to visit, but Italy will forever be a dream that I continue to have, that continues to expand, that I constantly strive to fulfill. Italy is a country that I will forever want to return to!

What was your ‘dream’ travel destination, the destination you always dreamed about as a kid? How did you feel when you finally got to fulfill the dream of visiting? Leave your comments below.

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Category: Europe

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include http://ourtravellifestyle.com, http://vagabondfamily.org, http://nunomad.com and now http://on-our-way-travel.com. View author profile.

Comments (3)

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  1. Connie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Amazing photos! Italy was one of my travel dreams as well and I had a wonderful time, even if I spent two weeks out of the four there with my then-boyfriend, his annoying older brother and their crazy parents! You’re right, a canal in Venice with them was NOT ideal!

  2. Sasha says:

    Oh my goodness, crazy rents, now that is certainly not an ideal canal ride! You’ll just have to go back with another special guy! :)

  3. [...] In Verona, Italy everything fun is banned! No bathing in fountains, no camping, no eating near monuments and no [...]

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