Mussolini made the trains run on time

On a very sunny Saturday Joel, Raffaele and I took a morning train to Naples.  I’ve always wanted to see it and last year Joel didn’t get to go very many places because of my broken foot, so we’re off.  I asked Raffaele to join us because I could not imagine wandering around there in the heat and not knowing how to get anywhere. The night before I told Raffaele what I wanted to see and we planned accordingly.

We got on the train in Telese and changed in Caserta for a train To Naples. No one collected out tickets. When we arrived at the station Raffaele said we should buy tickets for the underground so we would not have to so much walking.  The underground line we needed wasn’t running! We were told to take a bus across the street.  We waited and waited and waited and waited as many buses stopped and picked up people but none were the right bus for us.  Finally it arrived and it was insane to try to get on the bus. Even a rush hour Number 6 subway doesn’t get this jammed. A young man offered me his seat which meant he had to stand but not on the floor, the seats are slightly raised so he teetered on the edge. More people tried to get and at each stop people on the bus yelled at them to get off the doors would not close! Then the man sitting next to me brings a photo up on his phone and points to a man standing just in front of Raffaele- He is a known pickpocket and the police publish his photo to warn the public, OMG.  No tickets were collected.

I wanted to see The Veiled Christ, so after buying tickets, we stood in line. Once in you are warned repeatedly not to take any photos.

Magnificent Sculpture
The Veiled Christ
Giuseppe Sanmartino

It was a very moving experience – you slowly circled the roped off sculpture with a small group of people (they only allow so many in at a time) and you hear the intake of breaths, and the exclamations as the viewers see the extraordinary artistry of this piece.; The veil with its myriad delicate folds and draping, then the hands, then the bones  and the veins and you marvel at how this could have been done out of marble?

After that we needed to ground ourselves with some food, so we stopped at Toto and Peppino’s, a nice little restaurant where we could sit outside in the shade and have some pizza (what else?) and insalata.  FYI Toto and Peppino were a famous Italian pair of comedic actors much like Abbott and Costello.

Next,  The National Archeological Museum Of Naples.  I said I only wanted to see the Pompeii exhibit, however, apparently we had to walk through some sculptures of god and goddesses which were impressive.  I think Raffaele was disappointed in my lack of enthusiasm for the sculpture so I had to play the sort of American no European really likes, and tell him about Metropolitan Museum Of Art in New York and how it is FILLED with sculpture and paintings that I have seen many times.  He, however, was curious about the MET. Was it larger than this? Yes very much so. Does it have other cultures represented? Yes, floors dedicated to ancient civilizations, whole wings of Medieval armory, Egyptian pyramids, and on and on. I think I will send him a book about our wonderful museum.


You can see the burned areas of the mosaic


Quite intact mosaic

I was actually not pleased the Pompeii exhibit since it was primarily a lot of paintings and mosaics, all marvelous and obviously salvaged from the homes of wealthy Pompeiians.  I had hoped to see every day household items.  However there was one glass case filled with the most amazing measuring instruments.  There were brass ball plumb lines,  a primitive form of a protractor and other devices used in far future centuries.

There was also some erotic art on display along with some instruments of torture and a box full of anatomical body parts used to beseech the gods for various favors such as childbirth.


Sex has been around a long time


Zeus misbehaving as a swan

Then we have Zeus who liked to,transform  himself into various creatures and disguises so he could have his way with women, presumably those who were married to some mortal man.

We still had two churches to go and the famed Christmas Alley ( where all the the tchotchkes are sold and some of the Neoplolitan Christmas figurines.

First stop Chiese di Gesu Nuevo; This is by far the most baroque church I have ever been in.  It is overwhelmingly gilded and marbled and is that all in the name of glory to God? Neither Joel or Raffaele loved it.  I thought it was an over the top statement for sure but there was wedding about to be held when we were there. The whit carpet was rolled out, the altar was full of white flowers and I think that bride was one fortunate girl to have her wedding performed in such a grand place.


The Church of New Jesus Gesu Nuevo

At the other end of the spiritual expression of faith was the Chiese de Santa Chiara.  A lovely church, simple and dignified yet filled with spectacular stained glass windows, of which there was none in the baroque church.  AND there was wedding about to be held here too.  We saw the bride outside the church with her father and respectively waited till the bridal party made their way down the aisle and we followed them in.  Sitting off to the side we listened to the Mass in Italian and it was beautiful.


Joel in Santa Chiara’s Church


Saint Chiara above the altar Beautiful,stained glass

After a swift trip through Christmas Alley looking and poking through booth after booth pretty much selling the same things, we headed to the train station.  Our route took us down an infamous street named Forchella, an area known for the black market  cigarette trade now, but gangland shootings in the days when the camorra ruled the neighborhood.  I saw women with wooden boxes with lids hawking cigarettes and then when the siren of the approaching polizia could be heard as he tried vainly to get his vehicle up the street, the lids closed! The police had difficulty coming up the street because the people, the cars and the ever-present motorcycles did not open a path for it.

Finally on the train to Caserta.  At Caserta we were to connect to Telese BUT no train.  We waited and waited and waited and finally Raffaele tracked (pun intended) down an official who explained that the train was late due to police action farther back on the line. 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes….the train arrives and we are on our way home, it is late, dark and we’re hungry.

Oh well, they said, Mussolini made the trains run on time!

To Be Continued…




Thursday morning the alarms went off and we were out the door to meet Tina ( our friend from Molise/Campobasso), who was kind enough to join us on our trip to Caserta, but also to drive.

Tina is gracious, generous and the kind of Italian mother you’ve heard about….She has two sons who she loves dearly and within two minutes in her company, Joel became a prince.  If he wasn’t finished with his coffee, we would wait, because this was to be a free fun day with no rules!  You know that was music to his ears after 3 days with me, who was trying to get him up early to eat breakfast before noon!

We got in the car to go and Joel thought he should go back in the bar to get water.  Not necessary – Tina has bottles of frozen water packed, along with lunch for a picnic on the grounds of the Royal Palace.

Finally I was making the trip to Caserta to see The Royal Palace, the House of the Kings of Naples. Up until today, I thought the king was in Naples because Naples was the capital of Italy at that time. WRONG!  There was no unified country known as Italy, there was a kingdom that bordered just south around  Rome then looped northeast to what  might now be Abruzzo or Molise and included the entire southern peninsula and at times the Island of Sicily.

It was a warm sunny day and surprisingly there were no crowds at the Palace. We were so lucky.  Hot as it was outside, it was nice and cool inside and walking on marble floors within marble walls makes for a pleasant temperature on a hot day.

First picture of the day taken by Tina


I can’t believe you want me to walk up all those stairs!


Joel and Tina on ONE of the magnificent marble staircases

Did you know?  That this palace was designed in the style and fashion of Versailles? That it is the LARGEST royal palace in all of Europe?  Bigger than Buckingham Palace and bigger than Versailles and it has this magnificent garden planted in the shape of a violin.  I tried to get a good image of the garden which surrounds the Palace but was unable. Here is a photo taken as we traveled up the neck of the violin.


Angels adorn the neck of the violin and fish swim in the water.

And inside the grandeur continues to excess…


It might be a little much for our apartment.

For such an important king, such a small throne,


The King Of Naples throne

If you were not Michaelangelo, no one knows who painted al these magnificent ceilings.


Every Ceiling was a Masterpiece

All that glitters is not gold BUT IT IS MARBLE underneath!


All That Glitters…

And what could be better than a picnic on the Royal grounds?


Tina, A Wood Nymph

Joel hardly enjoyed his pizza.


Chowing Down a Slice.


This really has been a heck of a trip so far…By Wednesday I figured Joel would be over his jet lag NOT! So best to let him sleep late because we  have a 2:30 appointment with my friend, Raffaele to take us on a tour of the medieval village.  Sleep deprived and a little grumpy, it’s been hard to get him eating on an Italian time schedule.

We are blessed to have Raffaele as a tour guide because he actually lived in the medieval village. His was the world of these myriad stone paths and steep stone steps to where?


Enjoying the view!

We spent a couple hours traipsing through the labyrinth of narrow streets, spotting the churches, small plazas, steep stairs going where(?), the new doorways and the abandoned


I Wonder Who Lived There?

All throughout this formerly abandoned town (village) you can see the reclamation and restoration work of the 100+ expats who have bought homes here.  The following photo was taken on The Artist’s Way, a street called that because many of the houses are owned by artists, one being Clare Galloway, a Scottish painter who was the first foreigner who moved into Guardia.


Along the Artist’s Way

Clare was featured in three episodes of House Hunters International, probably the main impetus for infusion of  Americans and Canadians in Guardia.

In the midst of one of my descents down some stone stairs, my phone rang and it is Peter.  He was at the airport and his flight had been cancelled!  Was this airline crap ever going to end? He had been hanging around for hours with about 22 other angry passengers, getting mixed messages from TAP.  He thought they might get on an AIR Italia flight ( didn’t happen).  I would call him back when I left the village.

After the tour, we went to the Bar for a drink and joined a festive group of expat friends, Mike, Cindy, Steve, and Dawn.  It was lovely sitting out on the terrace sipping wine and nibbling on snacks ( except for the noisy diesel tractors coming home from the fields). I called Peter and he didn’t pick up – maybe he is on a flight.  So I contacted our house sitter who was going to leave tomorrow and asked him to contact Edith, our NYC cat sitter and ask her to feed the cats  because only God and  TAP know when Peter will get home!

Drinks turned into dinner at a new restaurant in town, Il Platano, the place is lovely, pizza is good, it’s really hard to get bad food here, lol 😂.  It was late, we had climbed up and down a lot so going home and to bed sounded like a great idea because we had to get up early the next day for a trip to Caserta.  I tried Peter one more time with no luck.

My phone rang at 1:30am! Guess who? My husband was excited to tell me that finally TAP flew them to Lisbon, put them up in a fancy hotel 50 minutes outside the airport and will fly the tomorrow to JFK.  I said, it’s 1:30am here, I’m in bed, have to get up early, glad you are at least in Lisbon, nice you are in fancy hotel, I took care of Seth who should call Edith, make sure you pay when you get home, pay the electric bill too, I love you, good night, talk to you….

To Be Continued…




So good to me.  Monday mornin’ , it was all I hoped it could be….

Peter left for Rome very early Monday morning, hitching a ride with two other expats heading out of Guardia.  Luigi (Pasquale’s father) drove the trio to Telese, the nearest town with train service.

It started out all right;  the alarm went off, he had packed the night before.  I mumbled from the bed, do you have your passport? Pills? Take a banana, I love you, make sure you close the door.  And went back to sleep.

A couple of hours later, he called in a real panic!  He didn’t have his passport, it was 90 degrees in Rome and he was soaking wet from the long walk from the Termini to the somewhat obscure hotel I had found.

What do you mean you don’t have your passport?  You heard me I don’t have it.  Well of course I said, you must have it.  However Peter claimed he searched all of his bags.  Thankfully, the desk clerk let him in so he could go to the room and search thoroughly because groping in his suitcases in the lobby was difficult.  I looked in the night stand drawers and all around the bedroom.  Now we were both in a panic!  He thought he would have to come back by train and I said, why, it’s not here!  Now I know that when I’m frantic and think I’ve lost something, I keep looking in the places where it should be and it isn’t – until it is!  While we were talking, he kept searching and there it was, tucked into a small zippered pocket he hadn’t noticed before.  Thank God, that disaster was averted.

On a lighter note, when the the trio had to change trains in Caserta, Kelly and Mike had a two page printout for their tickets and Peter had one, uh oh…. Kelly to the rescue.  He calls Pasquale (who had printed Peter’s ticket out the day before) who says, “Turn it over”! Lol.

Joel was expected to land in Naples at 7:30pm.  I had arranged for Pasquale to pick him up.  About 5:00I get a frantic call from Joel ( it’s been that kind of a day), saying he got off the plane in Milan and has no ticket to go to Naples, and the flight number on his itinerary is NOT on the departure board!  OMG 😮 So back and forth we go with: well find an Air Italy desk, there are no desks here only signs for gates, there must be maybe a sign for departures, go there where people check in, I told you I’m in a part of the terminal where there is nothing, but shops, I’m screwed. Go into a retail shop..what good is that going to do? Listen to me, go into a shop they all speak English, ask where you can get information about Air Italy! OK.  They send him to some gate where, yes the flight number was changed, guess they were keeping it a secret!  Joel sends me a text saying he is getting on plane 6:15.  I show this to Pasquale and he searches the departing flights from Milan to Naples and nothing is leaving then.  Texting Joel is futile – I think he must be on the plane already since it is now like 6:10.  Pasquale continues to search for a flight leaving Milan and I’m saying maybe we should go now so we are there when he lands.  I say, please call the Naples airport they must know when planes are landing!   Come to find out Pasquale never even heard of Air Italy!!! Now as I am looking at his computer screen, I see a flight from Milan, Flight #615! Geez Louise, Joel never made it clear that the new flight number was 615 or that he was getting on the plane 6:15 and you saw how he texted it.  Color me exasperated.  So the computer says the plane will land at 7:40 which means we should be on the road already, but while we were scrolling through the list of flights, he DID call the airport.  It took a while but finally he got a hold of someone who looked up the flight and said that plane wasn’t arriving till 9:30pm because it was going to stop in Rome on the way to Naples.  Thank God we called.

So time for a quick chicken dinner with Michael and then Pasquale and I took off for Naples Airport.  If you think your airport like LaGuardia in NY or West Palm in FLA where they don’t want you to stop for a minute to pick someone up with their luggage is tough, then don’t go to Naples Airport.  The police regularly come through and make all the cars move that are semi-parked and waiting for an arrival and don’t want to pay exorbitant parking fees.

Luckily I hopped out of the car, found Joel in an instant, and we were on our way.  Joel had now been traveling for 17 hours through at least 4 time zones and he was bleary-eyed and hungry.  We stopped for pizza and gelato on the way home and we got home just after midnight.  The last of  Monday’s madness.



Aside from the fact that it really has rained every day since we we have here, there have been some minor adventures.  But first the rain, OF COURSE THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS CLIMATE CHANGE!  Seriously rain every day at one time or another; rain at night, sunny morning, nice day, clouds in the afternoon,  gray day, sun pops out at 4:00pm, sun is out and we have a shower! Yesterday was nice all day and as we left a restaurant last night at about 9:30 pm it started to sprinkle. It just doesn’t stop.

Ahhh BUT the memorable moments…

The first incident  happened probably the second or third day we were here, but since it wasn’t part of of the GPS debacle, I didn’t mention it.  The house has double doors leading to a small balcony off the kitchen and I wanted to open up the to get some fresh air in and step out on the balcony.  There’s a top-to-bottom screen that rolls up like a shade and I struggled to release the latch mechanisms in each corner.  Peter heard me cursing the screen and yelled, “Just give it a good knock”.  And I did and it hit me back!


Bang, Bang The Screen Hit Me

Believe me I tried for an hour to figure out how to reduce this photo!!

I’ve had some delicious meals these past two weeks, too many to describe and most of the time I’d forget to take a photo.  However, I had two Birthday meals, so I did capture those fabulous pasta dishes.  Since I slept through most of my birthday, my first meal was dinner at La Meridian;  Orecchiette with porcini mushrooms.



The next  day I had my belated birthday lunch at La Piccola Perla Del Maltese  in Cusano Mutri.


La Piccola Perla dell Matese

After some bruschetta that was made in heaven, I had an amazing Spaghetti Carbonara,  every strand creamily delicious.


Spaghetti Carbonara

And then there was the morning we woke up to find we had no water!  I called Pasquale who already knew about it. He said there was a problem on the road and the next door neighbor had already reported it.  “Look out the window”, he said.


No Water!

Miraculously fixed in a couple of hours! And the bricks in the road were replaced.

No water, no problem,  there is always wine in Guardia!  On a warm Wednesday, we joined a few other expats (as how they refer to us) and visited a private vineyard and winery in Guardia Sanframondi which was located in the middle of all of their lush 20 hectares (just under 50 acres).


The Perfect Glass Of Wine in the Perfect Setting. Photo by Kelly Putney

We were given a thorough and informative tour of the entire operation.  Huge stainless steel vats were installed in the lower level where the grapes were processed.  The amount of equipment was overwhelming!  I can’t imagine the investment in machinery and this is not a big vineyard and we are in just one of Italy’s many wine producing regions.  What I learned however was that the fallinghina grape is grown here almost exclusively.  In fact Corte Normanna’s wine has received official certifications from the government which attest to its quality and authenticity of origin.  We spent a leisurely hour enjoying a light lunch of house made dishes and delicious cured meats and cheeses and of course wine.


Peter and I DID NOT KNOW a photo was being taken. We were listening intently to Alfredo

Alfredo, one of the two brothers who now run this family-owned generational vineyard, joined us and answered many questions and told us much about grape growing and how dependent they are on the weather fora good harvest.


Everyone is Smiling We Drank a Lot Of Wine

So far, we’ve closed at least two restaurants; one night at La Meridiana we left about 2am and it was after midnight when we finally let the staff of Alchime go home.  We’ve been eating out a lot (Peter’s definite preference) but I did manage to cook a few dinners in my great kitchen here.  Joel arrives tonight and I will be happy to cook more.  Went to the open air Sunday market and bought several items for this week. I HAVE to share:  3 blood oranges, 4 bananas, a small melon, a small bunch of Vesuvio tomatoes, 2 zucchini’s, a huge head of fennel, 2lbs of fava beans  = 5.50 Euros!!  So then I went to the olive, cheese and salted fish dealer.  It cost more than I expected but there were no prices on things per pound and even if I asked I’m not sure I would have gotten  the translation ( their dialect) quickly enough.  But that’s on me because all the dealers are patient with their new foreign customers of which we are many.  I bought a bag of green olives – this is where he puts them in and I say basta.  A quarter of a caciocavallo cheese, a good size piece of fresh ricotta (which I’m not sure what to do with yet), a small ball of mozzarella that his mama insisted I take, and about 1+ lb of pistachio nuts and finally 1 of these crazy big tarrella they make filled nuts – to eat along the way!  All that cost $14.50 Euros!  I’m sure I came out pretty good and we will eat well this week.


Caciocavallo Cheese


To Be Continued…





Picture is worth a thousand words…..


Corso Umberto A Study in Stone and Greenery


Mountains and Mountains and More Mountains. View from Guardia


A Curious, Cautious, Camouflaged Lizard on the Wall


Looking Down Down Down


View From My Window Bells in the Morning


Grape Vines, Planted Rows Mountains – This is Guardia


A Cloud Painting



Corso Umberto Roadside


Rising From A Rock BELIEVE




OMG if you’ve never traveled trying to use an Italian GPS, you have NOT experienced the real frustration of being totally lost in a foreign country, or finding  yourself in the middle of an olive grove because the voice said turn left!

We set out on the simplest of journeys and in one day had enough close calls to bring my blood pressure up and enough cortisol running through my nervous system to unnerve a Buddhist monk.

Maybe you remember from last year or maybe not because I don’t think I even mentioned the incident.  At some point last year I noticed a huge scrape on the right rear side of the rental car!  I nearly had a heart attack right then and there.  I was with Joel at the time and we wondered if this happened when we were led into some field with NO road, just a rutted path that we kept shifting the car from left to right.  Joel said no.  He insisted Peter did it backing out of the insane driveway which is actually not a driveway but an old public road.  Of course Peter was gone and could not defend himself.  Regardless of who did it, I was hysterical – I did not take insurance out on the car 🚗 and I could only imagine the scene and the cost at the drop off location. My last week was ruined.  I called Peter crying and he calmly said, talk to Pasquale. 

I did, and Pasquale says, “No worry, you meet me at the bar at 5:00, I take you to my friend, he fix your car.” Pasquale is like The Godfather in Guardia and in two days the car was “perfetto”. 

OK that’s the back story, with that in mind AND the fact that this damn FIAT 500L is bigger than I had hoped, I am ever vigilant of any scrape or scratch.  Therefore we are not long on the road when true to reputation, the GPS has directed us  onto a road/path that actually ended in clump of trees!

To make matters worse yet better, the car is equipped with a warning system for backing up. That is beeping and flashing yellow then red as Peter carefully attempts a K turn by inches. If he goes back, there is a drop off into water, if he goes forward there are trees and two rusty iron poles (God only knows why they are there).  I am out of the car trying to guide him with my frantic pounds on the back of the car yelling STOP!

We made it out unscathed that time, hoping this isn’t a percentage game.  Onward and this particular day we seem to be driving in all the wrong directions.  There’s nothing so uncomforting as driving on a narrow twisting road and having the GPS voice repeatedly say, “when possible turn around”!

Our next mishap was somehow we ended up in an olive grove. How you ask? Well the GPS satellite doesn’t recognize the difference between a path in an olive grove or vineyard and an actual road.  So here we go again traversing a narrow path completely surrounded by olive trees with no end in sight. We don’t know if there is an end and you cannot turn around.  Onward down a hill and there is an old man on the side of the road working.  We stop…He looks at us in utter amazement.  I don’t know the Italian word for lost so I throw up my hands and shrug my shoulders, and I think he understands.  He points down the road where there are two men and a woman and a truck and a tractor.  OK it’s worth a try.  We pull up and in between hand gestures and some Italian, I make it known we want to go to Guardia Sanframondi.  Thank God I know the Italian words for left, right, and straight.

After a while on the road, I can see Guardia’s medieval castle looming in the distance.  At least we know we can get home, but we have yet to get to our destination, which is this great vino and olive oil place called Forresta in Castlevenere.  I am determined to get there to see Assunta, the owner, and buy some of her tasty olive oil.


The Tasting Table

Destination reached, hugs, kisses and smiles.  It is so amazing to be in another country and return a year later to be greeted like old friends.  After we bought some olive oil, I promised Assunta that prossimo mesi  io ritorno con Joel, le actor.  They loved Joel who ate all their bread dipping it in olive oil.

To Be Continued…





This was the third year I planned to spend my birthday in Italy; this time right down to the arrival date of the day before.  Of course I didn’t plan on all the chaos of bloody noses, missed flights and arriving late the night before.  We told Pasquale and Anna we would see them for breakfast the next day (my birthday) and our plan was to go to my favorite restaurant in Cusano Mutri for a celebratory lunch.

Best laid plans and all that jazz were laid to rest as were Peter and I.  It rained during the night and I am one of those people who find it extraordinarily comforting to hear the rain falling, probably because I imagine from my working days whatever was scheduled will be cancelled!  The bedroom in Nonna’s House is very dark at night and so beautifully old world Italian with outside shutters closed, glass doors closed and indoor wooden shutters closed.  Huddled under three blankets for warmth ( it was freezing in the house with no heat) and in the pitch black we slept and slept.  

Early in the morning (EARLY) I heard the tractors going down the street to go to work, for this is a village married to the land as they say. I just rolled over and went back to sleep, never heard the church bells either from the nearby church. The room was dark, the bed was warm and we slept….till 4:00 in the afternoon!

Well so much for Cusano Mutri, we went to the Bar for Caffe Americano where we met some lovely people from New Orleans.  I always feel like Pasquale’s Bar is like Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca; all the foreigners end up there eventually. Swapping stories with travelers near and far is a constant pastime in Guardia and done more often than not sitting around the outside table at the Bar.


Photo from Guardiaguide.wordpress.com. PASQUALE’S BAR

 But we decided we better go grocery shopping 🛒, the fun things one does on their birthday!  Off to the DECO supermarket where the manager beamed and heartily welcomed me like I was family- I still maintain it’s because no one else spends so much $$at one time in his store.  They are very weird about giving you bags too, I think you are supposed to bring some, because last year when the checkout girl was not putting groceries in bags he reprimanded her – again this customer just spent 95 Euros!  This year he asked me if I had bags? No, did we arrive last night?(in Italian), Si.  So bags for me and then a gift – a huge DECO shopping bag which we loaded up with beer, milk, orange juice*, tomato pasata, and some pasta. I give him my most charming smile and tell him Mille grazies, io ritorno.

Another stop at the 50 cent store to pick a few household essentials which I fully intend to charge Pasquale for and we are home and ready for a dinner out.  Our favorite restaurant in Guardia (admittedly not a lot of choices) is La Meridiana and you are almost always guaranteed to run into someone you’ve met before:  Sure enough across the room is the New Orleans crowd enjoying their last meal in town as they are off to Rome tomorrow.  

We ate like Italians with antipasta , primi piatti, secundo, Dolci and the manager brought us a delicious grappa flavored with arranciata. Delightful way to end my shortened birthday but I’v already decided to go to lunch to tomorrow in Cusano Mutri.

To be continued…




We are airborne and headed for Lisbon FINALLY.  There’s not much to say about the flight except that the seat and space are more comfortable than American Airlines but TAP does not serve snacks.  We were in the air for probably 45 minutes and then they brought around coffee, tea, juice, wine or beer.  Sorry Peter, no gin ☹️ and we even had our mini shaker with us.  According to the captain the serving of alcohol in the air is regulated by the government.  OK but what does that have to with peanuts, pretzels or blue corn chips? Remember how disdainfully you thought of those meager offerings?  Well we had breakfast around 9:30am and nothing else to eat except for coffee and a few chips Peter bought pre the nose bleed incident. We were starving!

About an hour later dinner was served; it was chunks of beef, mashed potatoes, green beans- I ate it all.  Then the entire plan went to sleep, but not us.  I forgot to bring an Ambien with me and because in Newark the flight was so full they checked our carry-on luggage for free WHICH I reminded the manger at JFK, so by being Miss Smarty Pants I kissed my Tylenol PM bon  voyage – it was now in the baggage compartment.  I watched a movie but you know, you can only shift your weight around so many times; I couldn’t find a comfortable position and it was a loooonnnng  night.

We had only minutes to spare to catch the flight to Rome but we did and soon we would be on terra firma, Italia.  Landing, luggage retrieval all went fairly routine and we went off to find the car rental office.

At the Hertz desk I immediately remind them that I called several times to insure that I would get either a Fiat 500L or a VW Golf. Yes they had one if I could wait a bit, it was being washed. When we got the keys and went into the garage to get the car I was SHOCKED, UPSET, DISTRAUGHT, anxious, okay, overtired and really carrying on BECAUSE the Fiat 500L is a BIG CAR!  You don’t know how much time I spent online researching the cars available and calculating the length. That’s how I came up with those two models which looked so small online and were listed  as both economy and compact.  Wringing my hands, walking around and around the car, saying over and over again, oh this is awful, this is too big. This car is way too big for Guardia.  Look at that Fiat Panda Peter, that’s the size car I wanted, even smaller, OMG what are we going to Do?  You can see how easily sleep deprivation and starvation can make a prisoner crazy because I was crazy at that moment.

I decide to march back in and freely admit I made a mistake, I need a smaller car!  Which I did to no avail. Madam this is the car you ordered, look here on the slip. Yes I know I asked for this car but I thought it would be much smaller.  You want a smaller car? Yes I want a smaller car, This is the smallest car we have. How can you say that when I saw a Fiat Panda out ther?  Ahhh, but you requested an automatic transmission. The Fiat 500L is the smallest with automatic transmission.

Totally defeated and despondent I return to the garage to inform Peter, who tries logic by telling me it is like a mini SUV – clearly an oxymoron that only this moron ordered. We have an SUV at home which I am quite comfortable driving IN AMERICA.

The problems with the FIAT and me are: Guardia and surroundings are in the mountains; narrow, hairpin curves, steep climbs, no shoulders, and most of all Italian drivers who literally drive up your ass and pass on the right on a curve, a straightaway or in a parking lot!!

We had no choice but to hit the road since we had a 2-3 hour ride ahead of us.  I had no idea how Peter was  going to be able to drive after our 24 hour no sleep trip and we both were not looking forward to navigating the mountains of Campania in the dark.

We had to stop for a piece of pizza at roadside rest stop which in Italy is actually a real treat since the food is always great and the places are like mini malls.  But that did put us into dusk and then dark. However, at the car rental place I made a last minute decision to rent the GPS because the car didn’t come with one. Originally I planned to use Google maps on my phone but the data plan offered by Verizon was pricey, I couldn’t get the SIM card I wanted till I arrived in Guardia and in the end Hertz discounted the rental. I carefully budgeted this trip and in about 27 hours I blew it with the ride from the shore to Newark and from Newark to JFK so in the state of mind I was in 5pm on Monday evening in Rome’s airport, paying more $$ for the peace of mind to get where we needed to go tonight and everywhere else for the couple of weeks seemed like a good idea and it was….we arrived in Guardia Sanframondi at about 9:30pm. We looked like we felt. Said hello, hugs, kisses and got the key to Nonna’s House where we crashed. Good night.

To be continued…



closeup photo of yellow taxi

Photo by Adrianna Calvo on Pexels.com


We got in the cab and if my blood pressure wasn’t high enough to start another nose bleed then, I’m fit to climb Mt Everest!  I was fuming. I just couldn’t understand going over the damn Verrazano Bridge – the most expensive crossing in The City.  We were on the road 3 minutes and we were in traffic as far as the eye could see.  Here’s the visual:  Sunday night in August on the Garden State returning from the shore, the   Bourne Bridge on Friday night in July, the Long Island Expressway two hours before sunset on Passover, in other words a frigging nightmare!

The driver is in the right lane and backseat driver that I am, I’m watching which cars are passing us on the left. We are literally inching along and as we approach the Goethals Bridge, I swear two more lanes merge in.

We have already missed our flight and connecting flight to Rome so we won’t be there on time to pick up the car I ordered. The car that I called about 3 times demanding I must have either the Fiat 500L or VW Gulf. So now in the taxi at about 8pm I am calling Kemwell the middle man car rental company in Maine to ask them to change the time of pick up.  Of course they can’t reach Rome now because the time difference is 7 hours ahead and I won’t know if we are confirmed because just maybe I will be in the air!

The driver told us it would take an hour; I guess that would be at 2:00am because now we are approaching the hour mark and we see our first sign of approaching the bridge. Giving credit where due and also he knew he had a crazy woman sitting behind him, the cab driver really put the pedal to the metal whenever he could and began to weave around cars to gain ground.  I have been sending prayers of intercession to St Jude constantly during the trip- well in between cursing the trip.

As soon as we got close to airport he asked what terminal and that’s when I sprung the surprise stop on him. CITI-MED!! Supposedly located in Bldg 75 in JFK on North Hangar Rd. I tell him I have to pick up something.  He puts the address in WAZE and says it’s the exit BEYOND the airport. See it IS part of the airport but the part where there are buildings and cargo offices. Way off in the distance you can see the lights of the terminals.  Look at a map and JFK airport is probably larger than the village we are in! It’s left, right, right, left meantime we seem to be very far from real airport.  There is Building 75 ALL CLOSED up by appearances. We drive around one side and back, there is one light on for a shipping company (it is 9:30 on a Sunday). I jump out of the cab and rush in asking is there a CITI-MED here? Go to the next door upstairs.

I raced out, waved to Peter in cab and found elevator.  It opens and I am in a lunch room. I am so frantic, I am crazy.  I find their telephone number and call and say where are you? I am in Bldg 75 and need to find you. Why? do you need a doctor? Yes I had a nosebleed and need.. Oh you need to go to the emergency room. No it stopped I need a release to get on my flight. Oh OK where are you? I don’t know in a room with a soda machine.. OK turn left and left again room 204. With phone still in my ear I turn left then right and say where are you I can’t find your room!  Hold on I will come and find you. I quickly backtrack and see a woman at the end of the other hall. I rush to her talking a mile a minute telling her what happened and she was aghast that we took a cab from Newark Airport to JFK.  Don’t worry I’ll give you the release, you’ll make your flight, sign here. Bless you bless you thank you!  Look Peter I got it.

I am not in the taxi one minute and my other nostril starts to bleed. OMG OMG  please God not now we can’t miss 2 flights. I am pinching my nose so hard all the way to the terminal. I am not looking down or picking up any luggage -it stopped.

We get to to desk to check in. The counter staff sees that our luggage is all tagged from  Newark and says the manager will take care of us. We wait. He looks at our tickets and says he is aware of our situation. I hand him the medical release. He says there is a problem. Oh no don’t tell me there’s a problem now, what? He explains that although Newark called us in for this 11:30 departure, they did not book us into the connecting flight from Lisbon to Rome which is fully booked. Well what followed in an interchange between the manager who stayed calm and me who became increasingly agitated will be hard to report but here is some of what I said not in any order now;  I didn’t miss my flight, they made me miss my flight. If the TAP staff in Newark made a mistake, you must fix it. Do you think we would have paid $150. (Driver wanted more$$ for second stop) to get from Newark to here if we didn’t expect to be on a flight thru to Rome? I am not leaving this counter till we straighten this out. Do you have any idea of the domino effect of changing flights? I have paid for lodging, a rental car, etc. We are not going back to Manhattan.  THEN he says, hold on I may be able to work something out.  AND WE ARE BOOKED on a connecting flight that leaves within an hour after we land in Lisbon and we will be able to get to the car rental on time.

To e continued…