And Not Even A Tushy Squeeze

(My Disappointing Italian Adventure)

By Kimberly Kosta

It was the market crash of 2008 and one of the coldest winters parts of Europe had seen in 40 years, so naturally my ex and I decided it was the perfect time to go on a UK/Euro Trip. (And have been endlessly self-flagellating myself for ever since). A solid week of this trip would be spent in Italy, and like all young romantics it was the one place I was most excited to see.

We packed up two years of our lives spent in South Korea to go back home to Canada in under a week (the last 48 hours being a DOUZY). The plan was to hit up Europe and Great Britain on the way, thinking all the pieces would fall into place beautifully. We managed to dismantle our lives more or less successfully in the time that we had except for the fact that we weren’t able to make one final shipment at the post office. As a result, we had extra things to carry, but planned to find a post office in Europe where we’d unburden ourselves later. Another result of our rushed exit was that I couldn’t relax or sleep (even on the long flight) so by the time we landed in Rome, I’d been awake for some 40 hours and counting as we slogged through unfamiliar territory in the cold and dark. I had one bag of clothes on my back, and one bag in my arms which was heavy – and I desperately wanted to put it down.

Quiz time: Which bag do you think had USD3,000 worth of stuff in it? Which one had the DSL Camera with the new lens, the passport, cellphone and wallet? Which one had half a manuscript and thousands of pictures stored in a brand new netbook (which in Korea cost nearly USD1,000 alone)? Hint: It wasn’t the bag resting comfortably around my shoulders. I can’t even be mad at the thief. I almost felt bad that I hadn’t bothered gift-wrapping everything while I was practically handing it over to him (or her). At least they had a merry Christmas. (Is there an opposite to Mensa? If so, I should be their president for life. NEVER PUT YOUR BAG DOWN IN ITALY).

I heard once that theft is such a “thing” in Italy, that there’s actually a tour company that will rob their clients (they always return their stuff of course), just to give people the ultimate Italian experience. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is it’s a perfect way to sum up what you can expect there. Seriously. Lock up your very soul if you want to keep it. Even the taxi driver on the way to the police station tried to pull a fast one. Let that sink in for a minute.

As for what happened to me, I didn’t cry (though I wanted to, believe me). But not only was I now exhausted, ashamed, scared, confused, embarrassed and with a good heaping of hurt feelings on the side, but I wasn’t able to go sleep it off right away. I had to file a police report (only way to get an emergency passport). So, nerves shattered I went to the station to fill out the paper work where we were asked to wait for an hour while the police played cards. That’s after waiting around for them to acknowledge us in the first place which I got the feeling they really weren’t in the mood to do. But I still didn’t cry. No sense ruining everyone else’s vacation even more than I felt like I already had.

Once I was processed and had the necessary paperwork for the embassy, we were finally able to go to the hostel. No WIFI as promised. Owner was an ex cop himself who just shrugged when we asked about it. Welcome to Italy, I thought.

Rome was…inspiring in pockets, I guess? It does have beautiful architecture and artefacts, but did any of it touch my soul? Not really. What I remember is the graffiti. I remember the trash and litter in the streets. I remember the way the older ladies all looked like they’d just stepped out of the eighties: wearing fur, tanned so much they looked like raisins wearing bright red lipstick and sporting long red nails with clouds of perfume following them. The men were hot as reputed. I laughed that not a single one grabbed my tushy after all I’d been through (I kid, I kid). The young women were super pretty too. But no one was friendly.

I remember it was 2 pm one day and I walked into an unlocked store with all the lights on and a guy on a cell phone just held up his hand to me and snapped “WE’RE CLOSED.” I tried to apologize and explain the sign said ‘open’ and he cut me off to repeat the declaration. Fine, screw you I thought. I remember the taxi’s being crooked and everyone was sour. I remember trying to get out of Italy by Venice and the clerk looking suicidal (or maybe homicidal). He hated us. He hated having to HELP us. I mean, nearly ten years later and I still feel the effects of his glare on my soul: Much like chemo on the remains of my naïve assumptions that people were basically good. (Don’t worry, it grew back).

In sum, I remember Italy being unfriendly, uninteresting, and DIFFICULT with a side of USD10 table water and a fee to use the toilet should you have the need to heave up your discontent in a public place somewhere. Or just cry your eyes out privately so you don’t ruin other people’s good time. Which I never did.

I swear.