Sometimes you don’t realize how great something is until after it has happened.

This was true of my trip to Italy many years ago.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the trip.

I probably had more fun on that trip than on any trip my family took during that time.

But at only eight years old I didn’t realize how few American kids got to visit Italy.

So, the real beauty of the trip really didn’t hit me until several years afterward.

Probably the most interesting moment came on my family’s first day in Rome.

We ate breakfast at an outdoor café.

I sat in my chair, drinking orange juice with bits of pulp in it, and looked at the streets around me.

There was something unusual about these streets.

By that time, I’d seen probably over a dozen streets in various European countries.

Something about Rome’s street view caught my attention, showed that this place was different from any other place I’d visited.

There were the windows, long and vertical instead of wide and horizontal.

There were the stone walls, so stained by age that they didn’t seem to be any single color.

Of course, there were the hundreds of Italians and tourists eating under giant umbrellas in other cafes.

All of these things seemed to shout out, “We are Rome! And we are not like anywhere else!”

I saw many other things during my trip.

I stood near the Coliseum and the Trevi Fountain.

I rode a boat to Capri.

I stood with about eight zillion other people in the Vatican and listened to Pope John Paul II give an address.

But somehow, that moment during the first day in Rome captures everything that was unique about the vacation for me.

Sitting in that café, I saw that Italy was unique and beautiful and not like anything else I had seen.

Today, when the streets of various places in France, England and other countries blur in my mind, I still remember Italy’s streets very clearly.