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Ten Great Weeks in Italy

Author: Host Ciao
Date of Trip: October 2007

Sicily–Two Weeks, Two Tours
The island is beautiful. I enjoyed wandering in Palermo for two days. The on and off bus tour was very tiring, but did see a lot and hear a lot of interesting info. Unfortunately 45 people and all explanations in Spanish and English, taking too long in some places, plus itinerary and last hotel were different than either of the ones I had before. Must have been about 10 different tour companies combined into this one tour, people from Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Canada, US and maybe more. We did see a lot of beautiful places so I have to say that the problems were worth it, but if I were to do this again I would take the tour with one of the big tour companies such as Globus. We saw the buses so I know they do this.

Now on second day of second tour. About yesterday, I can say I survived and had a good time if sometimes wondering what I had gotten into. It was a bit more of an adventure day than I had expected, but on the whole fun. We walked down, down and over a crumbling dry stone wall and down some more. Then through a narrow bramble filled passageway into a cave once used for producing oil and also now dripping water–a bit slippery and muddy. Back out of there and up, up up through the fields again. It wasn’t as bad going up as I had feared. I had to wash off my shoes when we got back to hotel.

Then the so-called jungle safari began, reminded me of jeeping in Utah though not as dry and dusty. We went through bamboo “jungles” rocky stream beds, very rocky and tipping paths. All in all a very bouncy and shaky hour and a half or so. We had two jeeps, and I think the leader of the tour and driver of the first jeep fancied himself either at Peter O’Toole as Lawrence or Valentino as the sheik since his long black scarf ended up turban with flying tail style around his head. We would stop and rest occasionally when, I think, he wanted a cigarette. Both very good drivers. And a lot of laughing though one of the men on the tour didn’t seem too happy with the adventuring. Our reward was to taste the chocolate of Modica, grainy but pretty good. Then more off road riding.

We had a huge lunch at an agriturismo out in the wilderness by a lake–about ten kinds of anti pasti, two pastas, stuffed meat rolls, sausage and roasted potatoes, fruit and cannoli, of course jugs of wine and water. Then we rolled out of the dining room and in two batches of people most of us rode their four horses for about 15 minutes. I decided what the hell and with help of a stone wall and a boost made it to the top of Luna. She was a nice horse and her baby and another baby followed us on the ride. The only problem with Luna was she wanted to stop and eat so we ended up behind the group a bit. Through a rocky stream and up a steep bank and then thankfully on road back where again with help managed to get my right leg over Luna’s top and off to the stone wall. We then went to the old part of Ragusa and had a gelato and granita tasting–as if we needed it! Back home to rest a bit before dinner.

This afternoon we cook not sure what all, but foccacia and pasta with squid ( or whatever) ink (about this I’m not too sure, but I said I would at least try everything.) The morning is free so I am going to read and maybe start to re–organize my stuff since we are only here one more night.

Foodie Report
I last wrote about the adventure bit so it’s time for the foodie report to kick in. I mentioned what we were going to cook, but I will add a bit more. We made scaccia, which is a kind of filled bread. The pastry cook at the resort had made the dough, and the first step of the fillings, but we put it together. One type was filled with cooked eggplant, tomato, onion and caciocavallo cheese and these were like small calzones but in a bread type dough. Which reminds me don’t check some of the spelling because I have no notes with me.

The other type of scacciae was my favorite. It was more of a roll and flip kind of treat. Fillings for this ranged from tomato sauce, to raw onion with ricotta, to a combination. I made the one with the raw onion as most people who know me could guess. The pastry chef also showed us how to make small tarts filled with ricotta, sugar and lemon peel.

The head chef had cleaned all the fresh sardines, thank goodness, but he showed us how to do it. He just used his hands! He made the filling but we put together the sardine “sandwiches” and breaded them for deep frying. He also showed us how to clean the cuttlefish and remove the ink sack–as if any of us ever wanted to! He also made the sauce while we watched.

For dinner that night at Poggio del Sole (Little Hill of the Sun) we were served what we cooked. I really enjoyed my scarce. However, if I were very, very hungry I would eat the pasta with cuttlefish ink sauce. I was not very, very hungry! And black sauce isn’t what I would call appetizing to look at. To each his own I guess.

The best cooking adventure was two days later in Villagrande, a town a ways up Etna. We sat around the kitchen table of Elenor Consigli, a well known food historian and Sicilian Cook. It was a really great experience. She first told us some of the history of Sicilian cooking and the influences from the many cultures that had lived there–Greek, Roman, Arab, Spanish and French. Then she told us how to make the dessert a cinnamon jelly mold and also how to do it with coffee and lemon. We helped form the meatballs that would be in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. And she explained the spinach and roasted potatoes–called oven potatoes. Then with dough already prepared, she set up to making cavatappi pasta and also trying some other cuts.

Then while she and her two helpers finished up, we went to her garden for prosecco and orange juice. After lunch she gave us signed certificates that we had completed a course in Cucina del Sole, Kitchen of the Sun. We each also received a linen towel with the image of Sicily and many important sites on it. There was also a drawing during a break and hey! I won a kitchen mitt and hot pan holder set!

I think it was a tremendous four and a half hours, and I hope my foodie readers enjoy reading about it. And note to family–you will never have to try cuttlefish ink pasta. No other promises though.

I don’t want to leave Sicily alone without a few more comments. Lori and Bob of Wish You Were Here Tours and their guide Theresa organized a great time for us. This was my second trip with them and I enjoyed it a lot. We also visited two wineries and, of course, did plenty of tasting. One of our dinners at the agriturismo on Etna featured a wine tasting too. While I would have preferred to stay in hotels in a town instead of out in the country, both places were very nice and featured great food–and too much of it!

This and the previous week were Wish You Were Here’s first time in Sicily, and there were very few problems. The first hotel Poggio del Sole, was not quite finished so there was no spa or indoor-outdoor pool. Not only did we eat at the hotels, but we ate pizza at a place that I would venture to guess very, very seldom sees any tourists. We also had a special meal at the Don Camillo restaurant in Syracuse, a restaurant I had heard of. The first course did not thrill me since it consisted of five marinated kinds of seafood–I prefer cooked by heat, not marinade. However, I tried a bit of every thing including the marinated little shrimp that looked unfortunately a lot like the iris borers I had in my garden once. The pasta with sword fish was good, but too much. Then we had a couple of baked prawns with caponata. Each one provided about one bite. The main course was sword fish with a light tomato caper sauce and very good. And then there was a dessert of three layers of different mousse. All in all a very good time. Almost forgot to say that we finally did see the top of Mt. Etna on the Friday we were there, a beautiful, clear view of it puffing away, but as the morning went on it disappeared until the rains came at noon.

On to Campania

I took the train from Catania to Naples. And in Messina the train was just driven onto the ferry boat and we crossed to the mainland in about 20 minutes. The train started out with four cars, but grew as we went along and I must say that it was not one of the better Tren Italia specimens that I have ridden on. Also when we arrived in Naples we found out that we came in under the main tracks of the station so had to go upstairs. Surprise! The escalator was broken. There was a porter who practically kidnapped the people I was walking with, because they wanted the train to Sorrento. He strapped their bags with a belt, grabbed one of mine and proceeded up the steps. My ride was up there waiting, and I had to go after the porter and tip him, of course, to get my bag back.

On the drive to Sorrento I could see snow, not just on Vesuvius but on all the other mountains around the area. People in the towns were wearing winter coats. I must say I was surprised. I had been here in Novemberfive years ago without any snow on the peaks. Briefly, the weather did get warmer but lots of rain!

I do like Sorrento though it seemed a bit expensive, butI didn’t wander too far from the center. The first day I went on the Amalfi Drive ride with a driver–one of my indulgences. The drive is beautiful even in cloudy weather. I was surprised at the number of big tour buses winding around the 1200 curves. One bus ahead of us had to back up and go ahead three times to make it around a steep uphill curve between Amalfi and Ravello. I almost applauded with the peopleI could see on the bus. I realized that I shouldn’t be surprised since last time I was here it was November and the season was pretty much over.

On Tuesday I was supposed to have a cooking class, but that went up in the air when the company scheduled a tour group of American women for the class and whoever was running the group would not give permission for me to take the class with them. Their guide called and asked but the person in charge said no. I was offered a free class later in the week but I had tours scheduled. It was an interesting place. I guess it is a very modern resort. The room we waited in was the Jackie Room complete with two way over life-sized pictures of, yes, Jackie Kennedy. I could tell most of the women knew each other so i wasn’t too surprised to find out they were a tour group.

I leave Naples tomorrow–yes, I am a bit behind on this–and head to Genoa for two days after a seven hour train ride. But my feet need the rest so it will be OK.

It’s been a while since I could get to a computer and I have lots of emails still to delete so instead of any details, I am going to give you some brief impressions of where I have been since my last report. I will fill in more details later for the Independent Traveler. I think I was still in Sorrento in my last report so here goes.

Capri in the rain and lots of it, but that didn’t dampen (excuse please; I couldn’t resist) my enthusiasm for the church or San Michele in Anacapri with its beautiful majolica floor showing the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve being evicted. Also toured Villa San Michele, a beautiful home that belonged to Axel Munthe and then theGardens of Augustus.

Pompeii provided sun shine which was great; mud there isnot fun. I listened to Everest erupting and an eye witness account by Pliny the Younger thanks to the excellent audio guide. I recommend it. I did the tourist thing and went to see “Sorrento Musical” which was fun with enjoyable music. However, I still can’t figure out why those of us that opted for dinner before the show hadto be there two hours before.

Naples is frustrating, filthy, fun, and fantastic. I went to two museums I had not visited before, Capodimonte and San Martini–both full of marvelous art. I enjoyed my walks through Spacanapoli, spent too much adding to my Nativity collection, saw two demonstrations that tied up traffic including the taxis I was in, and I also endured a wild taxi ride looking for Mailboxes, Etc. My hotel has its own restaurant so I was not out wandering at night near the railroad station.

My toes hurt! That is one of my main memories of Genoa. Some of the hills are so steep that my feet slid right into the toes of my shoes. I never lifted my eyes from the paving when going down because I had visions of tripping and just sliding on down the hill on my face or twisting and rolling on down. Actually the hills were not too bad to climb slowly. The aquarium is great; there are neat museums and art filled churches.

How about hot chocolate that was like eating warm chocolate pudding only better. I swear it was so thick it hardly ran off the spoon. This was in Turin, known for its chocolate and, of course, more museums, royal dwellings, the Shroud, and a great movie museum that is lots of fun.

I enjoyed my five days in Milan and had great weather. Only one day was windy and cold enough that I had to put on my gloves. Several people told me how lucky we were with the weather. I had hoped to see the full facade of the Duomo, but it is still about a quarter under wraps. It is so ornate that it is taking a very long time to test and fix. I saw Da Vinci’s Last Supper, went to the Ambrosiana Gallery, that I had never visited before, toured the Monumental Cemetary–and I do mean monumental.

Now I am in Verona and had to buy my tacky souvenir for this trip. I spent a whole 3 euros on a little Juliet and Romeo perched on her balcony–about two inches high. Tomorrow will be a busy day since now that it is winter most of the churches are closed on Monday along with the museums so I did not accomplish my goals for today. Will try to report from Venice, but who knows when and where I will find a computer.

Venice
On the trip from Verona to Venice, I stopped for most of a day in Padua. I took a bus from the train station to Il Santo, the Basilica of St. Anthony and wandered there and in other parts of the complex. Then I walked back through town as suggested by Rick Steves, visited one of the markets and came to a cafe which I realized was one I had read about, the Cafe Pedrocchi, which has been a landmark of the city since 1831. I had hot chocolate served in a little silver pot with a dish of panne, whipped cream,–very good! Then I went on up to the Scrovegni Chapel with its Giotto frescoes. I had reservations, but was able to go right in when I arrived an hour early as instructed. I would term this a must-see in Padua.

Well, the best laid plans and all of that! I am staying at the Ala Hotel here in Venice, and one I particularly like because it is so close to the vaporetto stop and there are not bridge steps to climb over. Well that was true for one day. I didn’t read very carefully or I would have known that coming up this Wednesday is the celebration of the Salute, the church of St. Mary of Health. They build a bridge on pontoons and it starts right next to “my” vaporetto stop which is closed. So tomorrow when I leave I will have to haul myself and my luggage over two sets of bridge steps or I may just cross the Salute bride to that stop and have some very few easy steps. The celebration is one that has gone on for years since the church was built in thanks for the ending of the plague. People go to the church by crossing the bridge and burn candles there asking for good health.

As I feared when I started my ramblings in Venice, I had planned to cover too much, but I gave it a really good try. I will need the train ride to Florence to rest my feet and make up three days of journal writing. Of course, my plans were not helped by my getting lost more than once. And I know this is supposed to happen in Venice, but sometimes it is frustrating. I did pretty much what I had planned, but had to give up on a couple of museums and churches that sounded interesting.

I had bought a Venice Pass for seven days. This included unlimited use of the vaporetto, free entrance to the civic museums, reduced entrance for some, free entrance to the 16 Chorus churches (ones run by an organization dedicated to preserving them) and two free entrances per day to the Commune of Venice WC’s, which are placed in strategic heavy tourist areas. These can come in handy since, while bars and restaurants have them, you need to be a patron, and these are often not marvelous.

I managed to eat several Venetian specialties, which I like very much: fegato (liver and onions) fried calamari, pasta fagioli (bean soup) and mixed fried fish. Had a very fun dinner last night with a couple I met through the Travelzine, one of the message boards I read and sometimes write to. Members schedule get togethers when they connect in messages about where they will be.

My hour on this machine is about up. I had lots of emails to delete as usual. And I must finish packing. I have to be off early because the vaporetto trip to the railroad station is pretty slow and I have to catch a train for a 10 minute ride to Mestre on the mainland to pick up my train to Florence.

I will report from there.

Tuscany
Happy Thanksgiving a couple of days late. I hope you all had a great holiday. I had splurged on my last dinner in Venice so decided I could do without a festive meal. I did celebrate on a walking tour called a Food Crawl. This is a Context tour lead by Emily Wise-Miller who has written a food guide to Florence. We stopped about 4 or 5 places. First we had a bit of Italian sparkling wine (not prosecco) with a small truffle butter panini. Our next stop was a new place she had found so it is not in her book and I couldn’t find it this morning. Oh well! We had two kinds of salami and three of cheese with a dab of raspberry and pepper jam to go with the cheese and some Chianti. We also stopped to have an almond paste cookie and at a chocolate shop where we tasted four kinds and then some gelato. This was a serious gelato place. The goodies are in stainless steel containers with lids, not piled up as the many gelato places you find on the main drag. All in all a good way to have a Thanksgiving treat.

Today (Saturday) is art day. I have already been to the Uffizi and must leave before long for my reservation for the Accademia to salute David once again and listen to the guards shout “no photo!”. There, of course, is much more to see there than David and a couple of other Michelangelo’s.

Yesterday I had a very pleasant train trip–meaning with no luggage! I went to Arezzo, where I had never been and only an hour away. The church of St. Francis there has some excellent frescos by Piero della Francesco (may not have the name correct) that were well worth seeing. I wandered the town a bit. According to one guide book the streets slope gently up to the park and Duomo on the edge of the town–a cliff. I’m not sure what the writer meant by slope gently because after the first church I hit some hills that would make Genoa proud–just as steep and actually longer. But I made it slowly to the top and then again slowly down to the station.

Did some general wandering after I got back and can report that Florence is dressing up for Natale. Several streets already have lighted garlands across them. And while the stores have not gone as wild as many in Lucca have, they are beginning to look Christmasy. Forgot to mention Lucca where I stopped for two nights after Venice. A nice town with great walls still surrounding its historical center. Yes, I did walk on the walls a bit. There is a great path, a couple of restaurants and lots of places to go back down. Lots and lots of Christmas in the windows in Lucca. Some were so outstanding that I had to take pictures.

Well, must be off for my date with David. Then at 5 pm I can go into the Duomo for the weekly Saturday night Mass in English, which will be nice. Because of the sheets that every Italian church seems to have for Mass, I can usually follow along pretty well until it comes to the sermon. Tonight it will be in English.

I loved my time in Florence, but did not give myself enough time there. The Florence marathon kept me from my long bus ride up to the Piazzelle Michelangelo on Sunday. so by the time I got up there on Monday the fog had come in and the view of Florence was nowhere to be seen. I did eat lunch at Zio Gigi’s (Uncle Gigi–go figure) that my brother discovered last year. The 7E lunch had gone up to 8E but I don’t know of a cheaper three course lunch. Add water and bread for 10.50E.

I will write more about hotels on the independent traveler, but have to say now that I think the Casci in Florence is among the best and most hospitable I have stayed in.

Umbria
I love this little town (Assisi) even though it is the hilliest yet. Makes Perugia look easy and Genoa nothing but really short hills. Today I went up, up, up and more up to the church of St. Clare and then still more up to the cathedral of St. Rufino. Then down, down, down, etc back to the hotel to rest my feet and write this. Later I will go up, up, up again to reach the center of town and probably revisit San Francesco where I spent most of yesterday afternoon.

I enjoyed Perugia and found some magnificent views since the town is built on a cliff. I also investigated the four sets of escalators that go up and down from the high Piazza del ‘Italia. i have to admit that I avoided some intriguing looking walks because of the hills, but I climbed my share and figured I had better save some hills for Assisi.

I tell myself that I must have all the books written about Assisi, but once again I found a couple I “had” to buy. The same goes for a couple of additions to my Nativity collection. but St. Francis is credited with setting up the first presepe (Nativity scene) so I figured I would find some here. Years ago I thought that if I ever won the lottery this town would be where I would buy my Italian retreat. Now, I fear I would also have to buy the world’s most powerful motorized chair with great brakes to live here. I feel very lucky to still be able to go up and down these hills. Up, again is easier because of pauses to catch breath; down might be easier on the breath, but harder on the knees. the town is so pretty and peaceful that I love coming here.

Tomorrow I am off to Orvieto and have to change trains twice, but after that only one more on and off trip. Yes, I can do them, but the luggage doesn’t get any easier muscling onto the train! all for now
As St. Francis would say, “Pax e Bene” Peace and good life

Rome–My Favorite
I’m smiling; I’m in Rome. I’m smiling; after 12 to 15 times on and off the trains (three times one trip) I don’t have to do that again! I didn’t even know about the big nationwide transportation strike on Friday until it was over and I found the Herald Tribune on Saturday! And I’m still smiling because yesterday evening, I found this year’s “mostra” or exhibition of 100 presepi that I remembered going to five years ago, and it was just as delightful. This is a display of Nativity scenes, some fancy as the Neapolitan ones, but there are some tiny ones in half a walnut shell, in a sea shell (three or four with magnifying glasses) one made out of cookies, another of buttons; how about one on a blue dress painted as one of the della Robbia Nativity creations with extra stars on the dress? However, my favorite and one that is very different was done in I think white ceramics but I have seen nothing better to show the joy of the season.

Picture a band\orchestra made up of a couple of shepherds, the standard cow and donkey (with a harmonica) the three kings doing a back to back circle dance with arms linked, one of their camels playing the violin. Then there were Mary and Joseph, tall and lanky, tossing the Baby up in the air and he seemed to be having a great time. The topper was the two angels, one kneeling with eyes covered by her\his hands the other with arms outstretched looking like she wanted to fly and rescue Jesus. I spent quite a bit of time with this one and did a lot of chuckling. And, as I said, I still am. I wish I could have taken pictures at least of that one, but no pictures. I did buy the catalogue, but it doesn’t do justice to many.

Today was my Roman cucina tour. We met at the market at Testaccio, looked around and decided what to cook. We ended up with broccolini, artichokes, two kinds of pasta–amatriciana and ala Gricio, forgive any spelling errors. Then we went to Volpetti, a marvelous meat and cheese shop and not related to the one I have seen closer to the Pantheon. Our final stop was a wine shop. Then we went to Maureen Fant’s apartment and helped her cook. Great fun and great food. Forgot to say we also had picked out persimmons and had those for dessert–a first for me. I had not idea they were so marvelously sweet and tasty. Tomorrow I “do” the Paletine, Forum and Colosseum also with Context Travel.

I have to go back no to finish Umbria. My final hill town was Orvieto, and the Duomo is every bit as marvelous as I have always heard–mosaics, statues, bas reliefs, spires, color. I didn’t even notice that three small parts were missing–being refurbished until I read it in a brochure. Inside there are two chapels, one frescoed by Signorelli with some marvelous nudes that came before Michelangelo and are not quite as muscular–nudes in a cathedral? Never fear it’s the end of the world with the raising of the dead and the Last Judgement with lots of nasty also nude devils and beautiful angel–clothed. Another hill town, of course and I did a bit of hill climbing to see some areas at the edge of the cliff Orvieto sits on. Also took the tour of Underground Orvieto, which was interesting. There are hundreds of caves under the city, going back to the Etruscans but also used for wine cellars, pigeon raising and even an olive oil press. Then to Rome.

I have to relate one more thing about my peaceful and beautiful Assisi. On my last night there what should happen in the big parking lot just below two or three hotels and on the edge of town, but a rock concert. Not too peaceful, but I didn’t have much trouble going to sleep, must have been all the hills and the repetitive drum beat. In fact I woke up once, probably the silence and thought they were done, but it was just the break! But again no problem going back to sleep.

Also I ended my last update with the greeting of St. Francis. However, because the little signs come it both languages I mixed up the Latin of Francis (and my own from eons ago) and the modern Italian. I prefer Francis and my former Latin teacher to the modern Italian so– “Pax et Bonum

Since last I wrote I went on an excellent walking tour of Roma Antica. It was four hour tour and we walked amidst the emperors’ palaces and saw the area where archeologists believe Rome began. Also we learned about a new find that they feel might back up the Romulus, Remus, and the wolf legend. This is not ready for visitors yet. Then we walked through the forum and from there to the Colosseum. I learn something new every time I take this tour.

After the tour I headed to the Capitoline Museums, ate lunch at the cafeteria and then wandered through the museums and through the connecting tunnel that also allows you to walk out into the excavated Tabularium (the ancient Roman archives) for a great view of the forum. I’ll sum up by saying that from about 8/40 am (can’t find the colon) until 6 pm I sat about half an hour for lunch and about 15 minutes on the bus back to the hotel when a kind man gave me a seat. My feet were crying!!

Today I went to St. Peter’s and arrived there about 8/15. It is marvelous to visit this huge church when there are very few people. It opens at 7 am. My appointment to visit the excavations under the basilica was at 9/15. It was again an excellent and interesting tour though I did not think it was quite as good as the last time I did it. The guide was knowledgeable but did not have the drawings that the priest who gave the tour four years ago did. Still well worth the time. It took about an hour and when we exited from the crypt where the popes are buried into the basilica by the altar of St. Adrrew, the crowds had arrived. I wandered a bit more, went into the treasury and then headed out. Found that the book store had closed which for me is probably a good thing. I don’t need any more books on St. Peter’s or Rome though I imagine I would find one I HAD to have.

I headed back to the hotel and then to lunch in a restaurant I have eaten in before, La Scalinata. I tried two items I had not eaten. One was lardon di Colonella (may have the name wrong), but it is a famous product from a town near Carrara. And yeah it is cured lard, more like bacon than what we can get at home. It is sliced very thinly and served on warm toasted bread and very good. The other dish was spaghetti cacio e pepe, spaghetti dressed with cheese, a bit of pasta water and lots of black pepper, good.

I ended my day by walking to a nearby Mailboxes, etc. and shipping home another package, of course, including books. The company has had lots of business from me in Naples, Milan, Florence and now Rome. Tonight I am heading back to the Christmas fair still looking for a Befana who doesn’t look like a Halloween witch. Befana brings presents to good children on January 6.

More Rome (as my favorite t-shirt says)
It took me several trips to the fair to find Befanas who wouldn’t scare the young ones I intended them for, but I finally succeeded though I prefer the ones I found five years ago. I certainly did not mind the trips to the fair. I have read an item from a writer who called it tacky, but I thought it was fun. And the kids who were there were having a great time. There was even a large Babbo Natale–Santa Claus to us–display there. There are games, booths of all kinds of Nativity scene items, a merry-go-round, and lots and lots of food booths, most that children would love. There were always crowds there and five years ago I even saw a bride and groom wandering there with photographer in tow.

I did several other tours while in Rome including and Angel and Demons tour, which was fun though the pouring rain sort of ruined the ending on the top of the Castel San Angelo. Another I enjoyed was a Roman Architecture tour, a Baroque Rome tour, and one underground Rome tour. I will write more about these after I return home and go over my journal. I went to the Borghese Gallery on my own, a must every time I am in Rome. I arranged the reservation so that after my tour hours were up I would go to dinner nearby at Vero Giarrosto Toscano. This is my brother’s favorite restaurant in Rome, and he had sent me euros left from his trip with the stipulation that I would have my birthday dinner there. I did this after killing a half hour of time until it opened by sitting in the very fancy Marriott lobby reading USA Today. Excellent vegetable antipasto and pasta carbonara–wine, of course but had no room for dessert.

A visit to Rome usually ends in frustration for me because I don’t give myself enough time to do all I want to do. Since I once spent three weeks here a 10-day stay such as this is not enough. I couldn’t decide what to do my last day so set out walking. I ended up going up to the top of the Victor Emmanuel monument. I found you can access the cafe about half way up the monument by climbing the steps off to the left of the Senate building on the Capitoline hill. From there a ride up several floors in a new, very modern, see-through elevator brought me to the level of the immense chariots with their also huge horses. From here by walking around I could see just about all of Rome. From each side there was a large map with keyed numbers to point out the sites I didn’t recognize. I spent a good hour plus up there and cannot think of a better way of spending my last day in Rome with the sun shining and the sky blue!. I then wandered over to the Christmas fair again and ended by eating at my favorite restaurant, L’ Archetto.

“Finally”
I’m home and believe I will add finally–not because I was particularly ready to come home, but because I arrived home 24 hours late. Oh yes! Charles DeGaulle airport struck again. I didn’t pay attention when I bought the ticket, but when I checked to reconfirm, my first thought was Oh Oh! I had only 45 minutes to make my connection–and I didn’t. My plane from Rome was 10 minutes late landing and by the time I got off I had less than half an hour to walk a long way, clear security again and make it another long way to the gate–too late. I wasn’t the only one who missed that flight and there were a lot of other people I talked to from other flights who had the same problem.

Now a night in Paris might sound really nice, but not in a hotel who knows how far outside of town and near nothing but other hotels. When I was talking to some other people waiting for the shuttle bus, we agreed it looked like the majority of the people in the hotel were “guests” of Air France. Yes, the airline did pay for our rooms, dinner and breakfast, but I would rather not have missed my flight.

Today I had to judge a cheerleading competition 100 miles away so tomorrow is laundry day and read mail day and probably pay a few bills day.

It was a great trip and I really would not have minded staying longer. But as I said I was glad to be done with getting luggage on and off the train. I head to Florida for Christmas on Tuesday so for my Independent Traveler readers, when I get back I will re-read my journal and organize my thoughts to make some comments on tours and hotels.

A presto, Host Ciao

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