Italy – Travel Days Part 1

Italy – Travel Days Part 1

1 April 2016

The one thing that worries me before any trip is getting sick. In Cambodia, we met up with a group that had just finished the tour of Thailand and one woman had shown up on tour in Thailand very sick, and of course, gave it to everyone on her tour. By the end of the second day, people in our group were getting sick.

So, the last thing I want is to be *that* person.

Two days before travel, I woke up with a sore throat and I was finding it hard to swallow and I know I usually get sick once my throat is like this. After I had gotten sick on my return from Panama, I researched how to best avoid getting sick besides the usual keep your hands washed. I learned that a cold or flu virus will often start as a sore throat as we inhale the virus and it latches on to the moist, cool surroundings in the throat. This is why we tend to get sick in the winter and this is the reason menthol cough drops work. They heat up the throat and dissuade the virus from spreading.

So, I figure, if menthol works, so does anything that heats up the throat. So, I got up, had hot tea with cough drops in between. I wrapped a warm bean bag around my neck, had home-made chicken soup and took it easy. I took my anti-histamine, decongestants and used a saline nose spray. I also googled for more hints and tips that included the warm salt water gargle. Heck, I even gargled a sip of my Grant’s whiskey.

And would you believe it stopped whatever it was in its tracks. By mid-day yesterday, it was all but gone.

So, the key is to not wait. Once you get that tickle that says sore throat, go at it with all guns blazing.

Just remember not to use decongestants or decongestant nasal sprays for more than 3 days at a time to avoid rebound. (I go 3 days on/3 days off if it lasts that long).

So, I woke this morning feeling even better and got a taxi to the airport for ten. It’s an RDF day (rain, drizzle, fog) but thankfully the fog is high. Granted, the airport has a new, one of a kind, instrument landing system that makes it possible to land in almost any conditions. Which is great being this is the foggiest airport on Earth.

20160401_115106I checked in and I think my Premium Economy seat on the Frankfurt leg got me priority luggage, which is nice given that I only have two hours in Frankfurt. My Elite Aeroplan status gets me into the lounge where the tea is hot and the wifi is fast.

The flight to Toronto was probably the second-bumpiest flight I’ve been on. Since I am Premium Economy on the Frankfurt leg, I got treated to a free café lunch with snack and watched Mockingjay Part 2 and the rest of Mr. Holmes, which I’ve been trying to catch over the last two trips.

I had 3 ½ hours in TO so I headed for the Air Canada domestic lounge for a cup of tea and fast wifi – which Pearson is generally lacking in its international departures. As I’m sitting in the lounge, I get an update from Lufthansa of a gate change. Gotta love email notifications. Hopefully, Lufthansa can make up for my previous less than great experiences with the airline.

And boy, was I in for a surprise.

So, I finish up my tea and I’m off for the marathon walk to the International departure lounge. Think it added fifteen hundred steps to my counter.

The line-up for the flight started pretty early so I joined it before it went halfway back to the d

omestic terminal. They announced a twenty-minute delay in boarding and I was just standing there, listening to music and decided to take one earbud out to listen to the announcements.

And sure enough, I hear my name. I’m half afraid to give up my place in line but I go up and the counter agent gives me another boarding pass and points to the business class line-up. I stop in my tracks and look at my seat number.


On a 747, that’s in the nose. In business class.

Upgraded! Woohoo!!

I think all the premium economy crowd got upgraded as there was a bunch of us wearing curious smirks as we boarded. Yup. I can’t get any closer to the front.

20160401_183425I get my choice of juice or champagne and the hot towel treatment. There’s a comfort kit in a Samsonite bag that has all the usual amenities. The seat is a not quite a pod but the seat is full flat. And I think the controls in the room right above me (the cockpit) are easier to figure out than the one that controls the seat. I eventually find the TV control and the USB plug-in and settle in.

20160402_012404We’re off a half hour late, but the pilot tells us we should still get in on time as there is a good tail wind.

I know. We met it as a head wind flying from St. John’s.

So I change my watch and do some mental calculations. It’s a seven hour flight. Now, usually, I can get five hours of sleep on a seven hour flight. So, I put on the movie The 33 and wait for dinner. And wait. And wait. They start with nuts then drinks then more drinks then appetizer then salad. By the time I finished my brownie, we were three hours into the flight.

Then the flight attendant asked if we wanted to be woken for breakfast.

In my mind, if dinner was to be a three hour ordeal, I’d get an hour of sleep. Both myself and the guy next to me said no.

I managed to get my seat flat and settled in for a snooze. I immediately regretted the brownie.

So, while I fly over the Atlantic, here’s a brief history of Italy to help put some later information into perspective. If you’re familiar with Italian history, you can carry on to Travel Days Part 2.

Italy has a very long history. The first inhabitants of the region, primarily in the Tuscan area, were the Etruscans. Their origins are unknown, but rather than being the result of local migration from the Greek peninsula, DNA testing of Etruscan remains point to an ancient connection with the Near East going back up to five thousand years. To the south, there were a collection of tribes called the Latins who would go on to become the Romans. Building Rome on hills was likely an Etruscan tradition which was likely a way to avoid malaria not to mention that it is easily defended. Some believe the Etruscans inhabited Rome before the Latins moved north. The Romans would benefit from Etruscan construction techniques and planning as well as from their political structures. Both cultures were also influenced by the Greeks, but the inability of the Etruscans to work together for common defence led to their defeat by the Latins in 510 BCE. The last Etruscan city fell in 265 BCE.

As Dr. Shephard used to say on Lost….you either live together or die alone.

The Romans were an expansionist civilization from the start. They moved quickly to conquer central Italy where they clashed with the remaining Etruscans and the Gauls. They moved south as well and by 272 BCE, they controlled most of southern Italy.

From here, they came into contact with Carthage, an empire that was founded by the Phoenicians from Lebanon. They ruled much of north Africa, Sicily, Corsica and Sardinia. The Punic Wars lasted from 264-241 BCE and ended with Rome gaining the latter three territories. The Second Punic War involved Hannibal who attacked from the land using elephants starting in 218 BCE. He defeated the Romans three times but ran out of resources and was defeated himself. The Romans then paid a visit to north Africa and defeated Carthage in 202 BCE. The Third Punic War fifty years later resulted in the erasure of the Carthage culture by Rome and their rise in the western Mediterranean.

At the same time, Rome moved north, taking over all of northern Italy from the Celts by 90 BCE. By 148 BCE, Macedon became a province of Rome and their wars had resulted in a large number of prisoners of wars who became slaves as well as a great deal of wealth for the Romans. The following century would see a number of slave revolts and changing leadership as Roman generals took control and continued the expansion to the north and east.

In 49 BCE, Julius Caesar marched on Rome and deposed General Pompey but was himself assassinated four years later. Attempts to return to the previous form of government eventually failed and the Roman Republic ended in 27 BCE when Augustus became emperor.

The Roman Empire was at its peak by the mid second century with the rule of Hadrian. Roman territory was at its farthest extent including Britain and began to decline as political instability and external pressure took its toll. After Constantine, the empire was split into two and little cooperation between the two with external forces invading their territory contributed to the failure of the empire. The last emperor was deposed in 476 CE and life continued under Germanic rule.

In 535 CE the eastern half of the empire, known as the Byzantine Empire invaded Italy and centuries of warfare and unrest followed with Italy sat in the middle of a tug of war between various powers including the Byzantines, the French, the Lombards, the Normans, the Spanish and the Germans.

Northern Italy would lose a third of its population to plague in the 14th century but recovered and Italy went on to become a centre for the arts. The country was subjected to continued invasions from France and Spain into the 15th and 16th centuries. The Treaty of Cateau-Camresis in 1559 severed any control the French had in Italy and Italy was then left to the Spanish. The 16th century would also see the Inquisition persecute Protestants in Italy. In the century that followed, the economy of Italy declined and the country suffered another plague. Spanish control began to wane in the late 17th century and the War of Spanish Succession ended their presence in Italy in 1733 but left the country at the hands of the Austrians.

Italy would continue to see parts of the country change hands and then in 1796, Napoleon showed up and his influence would be the first semblance of unity the country had seen more than a thousand years.  After Napoleon’s defeat, the country saw a number of rebellions and Austrian intervention. The Italians strived for unity, hoping the Pope would help but he was forced to flee Italy in 1848 only to be restored a year later when the French returned.

Continued unrest started to see calls for unification. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel became king and in 1870, the French withdrew from Rome to defend itself from Prussia. With the liberation of Rome, Italy was united.

Years of political instability would culminate after the First World War with the rise of fascism. Mussolini rose to power in 1922. In 1929, he made a pact with the Roman Catholic Church that saw the creation of the Vatican as an independent state. In return, the Pope recognized the Kingdom of Italy.

Italy remained neutral in the Second World War until June, 1940 when it joined the Axis powers. It surrendered in May 1945. Following the war, the country held a referendum and declared itself a republic. A recipient of Marshall Plan funds, Italy’s economy thrived. Industry, however, was concentrated in the north and the south fell behind economically. Political instability continued through the end of the twentieth century and the Italians faced a period of terrorist activity in the seventies and eighties.

Today, the population of Italy is more than sixty million and the north remains the more industrialized region of the nation. Italy was admitted into the EU in 1999 but in recent years its economy has declined, threatening the stability of the European economy.


Go to Travel Day Part 2

Go to Table of Contents

%d bloggers like this: