What I love about travel is the unknown. It is a perfect excuse to buy many books and read about the places never seen, plan and dream. I know, you are thinking, "What's the big deal? It's Italy."
In 1999, this was a big deal for me, a major step outside of the comfort zone and I was doing it on my own. In fact, many of my friends wondered if it was safe for me to be traveling in a foreign country and whether I was fit enough to 'hike'.
Here's a bit more nostalgia for you. My flight to Italy was not quite full and we were able to walk the length of the plane and remain standing if we wished. I even had a seat between me and a very chatty gent, who kept me from sleeping. Oh the luxury of traveling in coach with a few extra seats and the ability to stretch your legs!
When I arrived in Rome, I was sleep deprived but somehow, jazzed by the possibilities of the journey. On landing, I navigated through Fiumicino to the train that would take me to Termini Station. It was six am and there were a few people milling about, signs in Italian and I made it to the terminal without a hitch. That's when I noticed the ache in my feet. You see planning a trip involves devising a wardrobe that needed to travel for two weeks. I had shoes for walking and hiking. I was wearing what were to be my walking shoes which as I stood waiting for the train seemed two sizes too small.
Knowing that check-in at any hotel would be in the afternoon, I booked my room at the Hotel Locarno a night before so I could arrive and check-in early.(http://www.hotellocarno.com/inglese/monumenti/piazza_popolo.htm)
This is where experience pays off. What I learned as I stood waiting for the train, then for the taxi with all of the foreigners asking me for directions because they thought I was Italian and finally getting to the hotel at ten, with the manager looking at me as if I was crazy, there is no need to book a day ahead because they will just let you into your room. Luckily, this was pre-euro so my pocketbook suffered minor damage.
My feet really hurt as I followed him to the tiny elevator leading to my room which overlooked the intersection of the via del Corso, via del Babuino and via di Ripetta. I thanked him, closed the door and sat on a very little but comfortable bed. This was the first time I could survey my feet and really understand the problem.
Looking about the room, happy to be starting my journey, I proceeded to remove my lovely, not inexpensive walking shoes, and felt pain and horror, as the back of the heel on not one but both of my feet proceeded to leave my body and become one with my, now, very expensive walking shoes. Not a good start to a trip that included hiking many miles.
Tears in my eyes, I crawled into the little bed and thought of my really comfy shoes very far away in America. I woke up six hours later, the roman sun finding its way into my window, hungry and wondering just how I was going to walk about Rome, get to Florence and then hike through Tuscany.
Hunger always wins. The fact I was in Italy and the food was there waiting, gave me strength. I knew I could find a way. Here's another piece of nostalgia--moleskin. For years, hikers relied on this amazing skin/fabric to cover blisters. Given my research I had packed a first aid kit that today would have kept me at airport security for at least two days.
I set up triage, pulling out of my suitcase, scissors, antibiotics, ointments, pain killers, moleskin and my relatively new hiking boots. My immediate thought was if I was going to dinner there was no way I could put on my walking shoes. So after applying the moleskin to each heel, I proceeded to put each foot into my hiking boots not without pain but with the knowledge that really good food and Rome was outside my room.
Here's the most amazing thing--once I got my feet into those boots, I could walk not just to dinner,but for miles. I felt no pain and it wasn't because I had great pain killers, they were great boots. I had an amazing dinner and proceeded to walk Rome in my hiking pants and boots for the next four days surrounded by high heels and armani suits. It didn't manner because I was knew that I could explore Rome and Florence knowing that the following week I would be walking 6-14 miles each day in Tuscany.
My salomons walked the Via del corso, the Vatican and hiked another 200 miles before I had to retire them.
Salomon stopped making hiking boots about four years ago. On our first hiking trip together, I bought Mr. Jackson a pair and he called them, "Marshmallows for the feet." So true and so sad because we can't get them anymore.