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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Saltzman

When in Rome...

Pizza, pasta, cornetto, gelato. Mangia, mangia!

When asked what he liked best about Italy by a fellow tourist, my grandson, Dian, didn’t hesitate before answering, “The food.”

Yes, daily gelato (confession: sometimes grandma allowed it twice a day!) was certainly a highlight of our ten-day trip to Italy. And there was so much more.

My goals for taking my grandchildren on individual trips to places of their choice are to create time for bonding, to allow them to select a place that interests them, and to build lifelong memories. I think our Italy trip was a success on all counts.

With his interest in Roman history, Dian chose Italy so he could walk where the gladiators had run. So, on our very first day, we took a three-hour tour of the Colosseum, marveling at this engineering feat of ancient Rome, including the 76 entrances so 50,000 spectators could exit in a matter of minutes.

We had planned many of our tours in advance and left substantial down time for just exploring, so every day was an opportunity to make choices and memories. In Rome, in addition to the Colosseum, our stops

included the Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Arch of Constantine and the Sistine Chapel. In Florence we visited the Leonardo Da Vinci interactive museum, (a trip highlight for Dian), Ponte Vecchio, the

Academia with the statue of David and the Uffizi. We took a bus trip through Tuscany to Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano and had lunch at a local winery (grape juice for Dian). And finally, Venice ­– the Rialto Bridge; Doges Palace and its secret passages; St. Mark’s Square and countless other plazas, each with its own architecturally unique church; a gondola ride with a singing gondolier; and the vaporetto to the small islands of Murano and Burano.

The trip gave me many opportunities to experience Mussar traits:

Curiosity about the Renaissance art and artists. Why did Michelangelo prefer to work alone? How did Leonardo create his flying machine? How many gondoliers are still working in

Venice? How did Casanova escape from Doges prison? (We bought the book!)

Joy at waking up in the morning and seeing my grandson in the adjacent bed, ready for another day of adventure.

Awe at Italian ingenuity, creativity and artistry that created magnificent art and architecture centuries ago and preserved it through the ages.

The kindness of the service providers – the concierge in Florence who made sure the croissants were delivered by 6:30 a.m. so we could get some before we left on

our daylong bus tour; the Rome airport driver who shared his knowledge of Italy; and the Murano glass artist who helped us create bracelets for Heidi and Selam.

The humility of trying to read the impossibly small print on the Venice map, getting lost traversing the winding streets and endless canal bridges, and stopping to ask for help from shopkeepers and restauranteurs, all of whom were glad to assist. I felt humble that we spoke so little Italian while they all spoke such proficient English.

Our patience, tested as we waited in line to get gelato, enter the museums and sometimes just navigate the narrow tourist-filled alleys of Venice and the congested avenues of Rome.

Sights, sounds, smells, tastes and Mussar learning created a grandma-grandson adventure filled with sweetness. And it wasn’t just the gelato.

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