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Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

A lot of planning went into this trip/adventure/experience in Italy in order to make it  happen at a reasonable price and to accomodate two people traveling together but returning separately.

For one thing, we flew in and out of Rome which is not convenient to Guardia Sanframondi.  That neccessitatated each of us spending the night in Rome before we left for the USA for morning flights.  Also since Joel would be arriving in Rome at night, he would have to stay a night before taking a train in the morning to Campania to join me.

Peter left Guardia early on a Monday morning for Rome. He wanted to be able to spend the day there and meet up with Christina, our friend we met last year who manages a  B&B there.  Pasquale, who can arrange almost anything, got Peter a driver to take him to Rome right to the hotel, which I had booked right near the train station.  After he checked into the hotel I think he did have a few minutes of anxiety; it’s hard to be in a place where you don’t speak the language although in Rome that’s not such an issue BUT Peter didn’t also have a telephone there. Somehow he talked a bartender in the cccccc hotel into allowing him to make a phone call to me.  Without a smart phone or iPad he couldn’t check himself in early and didn’t remember his flight time or number.  I calmed him down and assured him I would get all this information to Christina through WhatsApp and she would relate it to him.  Really technology overseas can be your savior! samsung-galaxy-s6.

He spent the day roaming around Rome; the 9AD7035D-DE1F-46EC-BB2F-AF608C30D08F

And he found his way to the Luxe-Adventure-Traveler-Rome-Italy-Trevi-Fountain-1

He even discovered Rome’s own underground metro system which I might add he was a little disappointed in because they only have 3 lines AND the cars and stations are not very clean or pretty – Graffiti everywhere!!! IMG_5146

Later on he met up with Christina and they had tea and dinner while they waited for Joel to arrive.  Joel was due to land around 8:30pm and expected to join Peter around 9:30.  And when he did he was starving!  OK so they’ll all eat another dinner!  Look at cute these two guys are in Roma….  IMG-20180514-WA0003-2.jpg

I had them booked at the Hotel Marsala, Peter said his room was fine, Joel said his room smelled like dirty socks.  The next morning Peter took off to the airport and Joel headed to the Termini to find the train that would take him to Telese where he would be picked up and brought to Guardia.

ARRIVEDERCI ROMA

FAST FORWARD: All good things come to end eventually and the time had come for Joel and I to take our leave of Guardia Sanframondi.  It was sad, there were tears, we gave away any remaining food and we headed north to Rome, where we would spend the night and leave for the airport the next morning. 

With the pedal to the metal we made as good time as we could because we had to get the car returned by 1pm.  At least I didn’t have to encounter Andreas, the ass who was at the counter when I rented the car a month earlier.  Finally after more hairpin turns in the parking garage, we reached the 5th floor where two guys began poring over the car – finally I said, “It’s perfetto”! And we were off to the Hotel Marsala which was within walking distance but not by car which is exactly what can happen in Rome or Florence.  You can see your destination however to get there by taxi 🚕 (you remember the multiple suitcases), well we went this way, that way, and around and finally we arrived.  I was so hot and tired, I couldn’t imagine taking a room such as I imposed on Joel and Peter (single bed, shared bathroom in the hall)! So I upgraded us to a private bath and WiFi.  My room was glorious.  

I just wanted to rest because we had an evening planned for us by Jessica, one of my daughter, Chiara’s college dorm mates! Jessica moved to Italy shortly after college graduation to work in the travel industry. She married an Italian and they live in a very toney neighborhood in Rome with their adorable little girl, Beatrice.

Well Jessica outdid herself and arranged for a fabulous 2 hour golf cart tour of Rome for Joel and I.  She knew I would have  a really difficult time hobbling around with my boot and cane.  It was so much fun and our driver/private tour guide was exactly what you would expect – very good looking, tall, lean and very Italian! 

We zipped around central Rome, stopped at Church, Joel wanted to see, saw the Colliseum and learned that originally it had been totally covered in marble ( I’m not surprised after having seen marble in every house and store and bar in Guardia). The marble was stripped off to build the Basilica and the Papal Palace.  Of course we went to Trevi Fountain where Joel tossed the obligatory 3 coins in the fountain. He had received explicit instructions from our new Guardia friend, Michael on how to throw coins the night before.  I’m pretty sure he got the correct arm over the appropriate shoulder considering both he and Mike discussed this over many glasses of Luigi’s excellent wine and topped off with Limoncello.

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“Take it from me Joel, it works”.

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Mom to Joel: “Hey that’s a lot of Limoncello you’re chugging there”

 

 

Now if they work he will fall in love, get married and return to Rome….MMmmmm

To be continued…

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Stop, Look and there you’ll see that all the white taxis are coming from around the corner and they have people in them, let’s go that way. I can only imagine how we looked; Peter loaded down with bags hanging from his shoulders, some suitcases rolling, I’m bobbling along on my cane, quite the pair.

We made good time getting to the center of Rome and our driver dropped us off on the appropriate side of the Termini (which is important because I swear the station is the size of the Coliseum).

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I tried to plan ahead for everything; I made the train reservations weeks ago.  I converted currency so I wouldn’t get ripped off at the airport and I would have €uros to pay the taxi. Oh so smart- BUT what I didn’t remember was that I had to get some small bills AND that the cab drivers in Italy don’t expect tips. SOoooo the $53€uro cab fare had me in a bind.  I had a fifty and a ten, was tired and couldn’t figure out a tip, because Italian cabs charge for luggage too.  Oh well, that $€7 tip re-enforced the driver’s opinion that Americans are either rich and generous or stupid but at least not Ugly Americans.  FD6366CD-F097-4F4D-BD4F-E9571560417A.jpeg

Now it was just a matter of waiting to see out train’s departure  announced on the big board – just like Penn Station. We waited, and waited, and waited. Pretty soon I was sitting on the floor ( I still can’t believe it), I was so tired, my foot was aching. Train was scheduled to depart at 12:18 and by the time it was 12:10 and the binario (platform) was still not posted, I suggested Peter go to the Italo booth and see what’s what. Naturally there was a line AND he had to take a number! Like in a butcher shop!!  Good thing he went, apparently the last stop on the 🚂 is Brescia, so that’s the town that appears on the screen. Who knew?  Don’t ask, don’t tell.

Here we are again trying to transport 5 pieces of luggage, 2 alter cockers, 1 cane  and a partridge in a pear tree through a swarming crowd (think the subway at 8:30am) and locate platform 6, Carriage #5 (think West 45th St at 7:45pm). We got to Carriage #5 and WE COULDN’T LIFT THE LUGGAGE UP THE TWO STEPS into the train!!! Oh what a scene; Literally we look like we are out of Central Casting. Unwashed, unshaven, the ubiquitous black string passport bag swinging down in front of me, Peter straining to pull the big suitcase up the stairs, ay yi yi! Finally some man who truly would like to board the train, picks up the bag and plops it down in the aisle. I wondered where the suitcases would go – they gather behind the last seat. BUT We still have another bag too heavy for me to lift and I’m still outside and Peter is in. This rather strong looking young woman looks at me and the cane and shakes her head and picks up the bag and pushes it onto the train where Peter can retrieve it and store with the other. A thousand Mille grazies are pouring forth from me as I get on the train. I half expected to hear 👏 not because I did anything but because finally I’m out of everyone’s  way and they can get on the train. We found space for the smaller bags, settled down and shortly into the trip fell sound 💤.

Sleep is an amazing state especially when you’ve been up for over 24 hours.  THEN, “Signora, SIGnora, SIGNORA” –  I wake up with a horrific start and cry “ Oh no I was sleeping”.  That precious elusive sleep was snatched away with a “Tickets please”.

To be continued…

 

 

 

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For once in our lives we actually left for the airport on time, no racing out the door, no panic because we could not find a cab.  Off to a good start.  Let’s begin by saying I’m probably not the best packer, so for me to pack for a month’s stay in a place where they hang their underwear out on the front balcony was a real challenge and we ended up with 1 LARGE suitcase, 1 Carry-on suitcase,  2 small Travel cases and 1 large  leather tote and a cane of course.

First things first, we knew our best bet was to get me in a wheelchair because you know the gate I’m going to is ALWAYS the farthest away.  I like to look at the boards of the other 9 gates as I drag my bags along to see if they are going someplace I’d rather be.

Never being handicapped before, I had no idea of how fantastic it was to travel this way.  I was wheeled up to the counter because I had a bag to check (and no Juanita we we were not overweight). Madeia took care of us, with the broadest most perfect ivory smile I have ever seen. She laughed, she told us about her singing career and her idol, Billie Holiday.  We promised to be in the audience when she performed some day in Carnegie Hall and I do believe she will get there.

She signaled for someone to take us to the TSA check and me and the wheelchair just cruised to head of line and we let Peter come with us.  For some reason I was pre-approved but he was not, Mmmm.  Who knew Mr. Press was a security risk? Anyway I had to put all my bags on belt and hobble thru the X-ray.  I didn’t beep but they ran the wand over the boot – let us not forget the infamous shoe bomber! Once thru I’m left sort of standing there leaning like the Tower of Pisa waiting for the man and the wheelchair to appear and at the same time look over at the conveyer for my bags.

FC482810-7C9E-4F66-9933-BAD5EE1D2B60.jpegI see all but the tote which of course has my phone, my iPad, and my euros. I’m really panicking and if you can imagine what a whirling dervish with a limp would look like like -that’s me as I scan my entire perimeter looking for that bag and Peter joins in looking for his passport. Kindly man shows up with chair and wonders what the problem is? Where is my bag?  Apparently it is under further examination….

It’s noon, we left at 10:10, still no coffee, still no breakfast.   C554415C-58A1-4490-BFA9-381229FC0AECI wish I could remember kindly man’s name but I can’t, says Dunkin Donuts and that sounds good to me.  Wait a minute, didn’t I envision a month of frutta, formaggio, Parma e caffe per colazione every morning for a month?? Oh well still in USA. I drew the line at the coffee though insisting we go to Starbucks after we got the donuts. Look how quickly one can become a diva sitting on a throne! LOL.

Finally onto the plane for a quick flight to Charlotte NC for a 2+ hour layover  where I suggested we eat some real food because I remembered last year they didn’t serve dinner till around 11pm. When it was time to start boarding, this adorable young man shows up –  Kevin Hill.  Oh my, after a protracted winter of gray days and the stress of the last few days, that Southern charm was rolling off his tongue like ice cream melting on a warm day. He “yes mam’ed”  and “Miss Laura’ed” me every few words all the way from the gate right up to the plane. I told him he needed to trade up that green uniform working for the airport and get a blue, red and white Americann Airlines uniform to cash in on the perks.  With his south of the Mason Dixon line charm,  he would make a great attendant.

I booked each of us an aisle seat at opposite ends of a 4 seat row.  I figured we would work it out and so I talked Peter into giving his seat up to sit next to me.  BUT that wasn’t so smart since my bad foot was not on the aisle and we wedged in there pretty tight.  Halfway through the delicious airline meal, the man in front of Peter shoves his seat back  in full force, just about knocking his meal off the tray. Shortly thereafter the woman in front of me does the same.  THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME! I sit on the aisle  so I can access the bathroom and not disturb anyone else – these other people sit in the aisle seat because they are the size of a cow.

Long night, could not sleep, pretty scrunched up. I can’t even turn sideways but the rude disgusting person in front of me with her seat pushed back and blanket up to her chin , legs stretched out in front of her watching tv like she was in her living room. I was miserable 😩. I tried taking the boot off and letting it  rest on the plastic bag holding the pillow and blanket but my foot kept falling off the slippery plastic.

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I tried to take some Tylenol to ease the pain in my arthritic knees and wanted to stand up so I asked Peter to turn on his light. All the controls were on an unlit  panel and in a  moment an attendant appeared  – how embarrassing ! I tell her we don’t need any help, it was a mistake. She says, “perhaps you do, you are holding pills”. I try to explain in shorthand that my knees hurt, my foot can’t move, nor can I get up because the seat in front is so far back and and I had been thinking of going to rear of plane to see if I could sit in back with her and prop leg up. At first she said it was against regs  but then said seeing how I’m in distress, it would be ok. I opted for the Tylenol and would see if they worked. They didn’t!

Now I notice Peter is waching The Phantom Thread and I want to watch it also but my screen isn’t quite functioning correctly. We can’t get my screen to move to another page so Peter starts tapping really hard on the screen and rapidly. All of a sudden the seat in front of me jerks forward! Ha! I guess she thought I was sending a message , Oh please let me just make it thru this night and off the plane.

Plane was scheduled to land at 9:30am and we needed to get luggage, go thru customs get a 🚕 and get to Rome Termini (train station) where we had reservations for a train to Florence. Well first ondoes not mean first off. Quite the contrary.  I was told to move up to front of plane to wait for the wheelchair.  Got to sit in Business class and was able to fantasize how easy it would be to sleep there. Well turns out several people were gathered and directed off the plane not onto a jetway with a wheelchair waiting- no it was like a large tram on stilts because it was at plane exit level. We sat on benches along the walls. They were all over 80 I swear and not a cast, cane or boot among them!!! We began to move along, going God knows where. We stop. A young girl calls out a name and after several attempts we figure out she is saying McCarthy. That couple exits. I’m wondering how we are going to get our luggage go through customs and get that taxi to the train on time. There were like 2 couples nearer to the door than me but the nice Italian man who was the driver, looked at me and held his hand out to escort me out to the platform that then lowered you to ground level where the wheelchair was waiting.  What a contraption and how efficient!

We are wheeled to yet another terminal and I see the place looks empty, maybe the lines for customs has come and gone. NOT. Long hot lines of overtired, unwashed, teeth undressed people shifting their weight and dragging luggage.  Ahhh the wheelchair rules. Right to a special deal, no line, no questions. Nobody cares why we are here or how long we will stay or did we vote for Trump (ha ha only kidding)!

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DID THE STARS ALIGN OR WAS IT JUST COINCIDENCE?

 

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The Stars Aligned                              Photo credit Wikipedia

I left the plane before Peter because I had my carry-on luggage nearby.  I was waiting for him beyond the gate when so easy on the eyes Dario came by. As he was passing by, he said, “Enjoy your stay in Rome”.  To which I replied, “We’re not staying in Rome”.  He slowed down and asked me where were we going.  I told him we were going into south central Italy, in the mountains to a small village.  HE STOPPED.  He asked me what village were we going to. “Guardia Sanframondi”.  His hand hit his forehead and he shouted, “NO! That’s my village, this is not possible, this is too much”.  We hug and kiss cheeks as if we were old time paisans. He was literally in shock as we both sort of reviewed the sequence of events;  He was sitting behind me next to an empty seat on a plane that was 3 rows wide holding more than 225 passengers.  I spoke to him, he smiled and agreed to a seat switch.  He boarded in NYC because he had been looking into an opportunity with the United Nations, he flew to Rome rather than Naples so he could look in on his mother (so Italian), who lived just outside of Rome. He casually stopped and wished me well for my stay in Rome and then THE STARS ALIGNED.  We both considered what the odds could possibly be-if he sat on the other side of the plane I would have never met him,  So many ifs and ands….

Dario asks me how I happened to pick Guardia Sanframondi, so I relate how I saw an episode or clip from an International House Hunters show about the village where Americans were buying homes and that I planned to go to my grandfather’s birth village which I believed was nearby.  He wants to talk more, but he must go because he also has to be back in Guardia to pick his daughter up from school,  (I saw the ring earlier, I knew he was married) so we should have coffee.  YES, we should have coffee. Dario gives me his card and we exchange WHATS APP information – you have to love technology! Apparently he is Agronomist, he studies plant pathology and works for a company that has developed a viable pesticide without side effects that are dangerous to both humans and animals.  Dario kindly draws us a map of how to get out of the airport and to Guardia (remember my map is still in NYC ).

After retrieving luggage we decide to eat a panini (so Italian) and have a coffee before our 3 hour drive.  It literally took us 20 minutes to find where the car rentals were located – Signs were confusing.  Finally we found the area and see 10 couples lined up with huge amounts of luggage and all of them have golf clubs in tow.  I didn’t think Rome had a golf course, lol.  And there were lots of other people all gathered in the Hertz/Thrifty/Dollar area.  I stand and stand and wait and wait some more – 25 minutes to be exact and as I try to position myself closer to a counter, a woman behind me says, “You have to get a number”.  OMG!!! It’s now 10:30 in the morning and we landed at 7:45am.  We are not making much progress BUT we for sure know we are no longer in NYC – where things can take place in a New York minute.

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to be continued…..

 

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The Tales, Trials, and Tribulations of Travels with Peterlori

For the those readers of mine who have in the past enjoyed the tales of my trials and tribulations in travel, I think you’re in for a treat.  This trip was long in the  planning stage;  As the New Year rang in, the stark reality of turning 70 this year hit me,  and well,  that and a fairly significant real estate deal gone south, caused me to re-assess a LOT of things. What followed were a series of days and weeks when the phrases Carpe diem, You only live once and Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today and lastly, My God, this is a BIG one!  That’s the prologue to my finally deciding to go for it!  I’m going to celebrate my 70th birthday in Italy!!

And so in the wee hours of the morning (a.k.a. I can’t sleep because my mind is racing), I searched and searched and then researched and read and read some more and  then I did the following:  I booked a flight to Rome (because Naples was more expensive) so reasonably I was jumping up and down at my desk.  Then through Facebook, I communicated with the owner of a B&B in Guardia Sanframondi, in Campania Italy.  I checked out whether we should train it to the village from Rome but realized it would be best to rent a car so we could drive around once there.  So I went online and rented one, you have to love the internet.

But why Guardia Sanframondi you ask?  Well, last year I saw a segment of Sunday Morning that featured this town as a place many Americans were buying homes in this medieval town – I was intrigued.  Then I found out that Guardia was within an hour’s driving distance to Mirrabello di Santico which is the village my paternal grandfather was born and raised till at age of 16, he took off for America.  Mirrabello di Santico is in the province of Molise.  Several years ago, my cousin Kathi did extensive genealogical research and during the Christmas holiday, she showed me many of the documents she had uncovered.  Since no one is still alive who would know the history, things seemed a bit confusing. My cousin said the family came from Mirrabello, my grandfather used to refer to Naples, my grandmother said her family was from the province of Abruzzo but we believe it was Salerno, my father often told me I must be Calabrese (a slur referring to my being stubborn), and to that add the fact that over the years, some of the borders of those provinces blurred.  This landmark birthday was the perfect time to find my roots.

The Provinces of Italy

We’re Basically In The RED

Over the next couple of months I corresponded with my soon-to-be host, Pasquale Orso.  Pasquale owns a B&B, La Tana dell’ Orso, http://www.bborso.com/ but more about him later.  I began my compulsive organizing, much list-making, reading blogs and printing out reams of information: directions, maps, reservation confirmations, airline confirmations,  house rules for the Airbnb (where we would stay in Rome), airport information as well as several pages of family genealogical information and a letter from my grandfather to his mother which I hoped to have translated.  I also made arrangements for a friend to stay in our apartment and take care of our cats for a few days and hired Edith, a cat sitter and friend, to feed and care for Nick and Nora once our friend left.  Additionally keys were designated for both parties, the doorman notified, and the Super agreed to move our car to accommodate New York City’s alternate side parking rules.  Whew!  

Monday evening May 15th was D-Day (Departure date) and in the days prior, clothes were ironed and laid out all over the apartment.  The night before I folded everything with tissue paper and packed my shirts and pants in these great plastic  packing bags my sister-in-law, Juanita gave me.  The next morning I insisted on washing my hair and then packed last minute make-up etc.. Of course being true to myself, I also dusted the bedroom, put clean sheets on the bed, laid out fresh towels for my house guest and put a new bar of soap in the shower.  

We are almost ready to leave – Peter said we should leave about 2:30pm.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:20pm.  I took the airline confirmations out of the folder they were in and tried to reach the airline to see if we could change our seats.  That exercise went nowhere after about 15 minutes of wait time.   I had hard-boiled eggs to eat on the plane, packed some carrots and tarelli (Italian biscuits) and packed them into my handbag.  I made it a point to take a handbag that would be large enough to hold my Kindle, my iPad and the folders of information I collected.

Tarelli

Tarelli – photo “borrowed” from Wildeastblog.com

As the clock creeped towards 3:00pm I flew into my crazy-we-got-to-go mode, barking orders to Peter and lamenting over the fact that we would not be able to greet Jade, our friend who would stay in the apartment.  Kiss the cats, grab the suitcases  and lock the door.  As it happened we met Jade coming out of the elevator as we were going down.  Quick hug and kiss, we GOT TO GO!  In the lobby the doorman stops me before I can go out and hail a taxi.  It seems I forgot to complete a form notifying the building that I have a house guest who has my permission and key to come and go.  Peter has found the mailman who was still in the building and asks him to give our mail to the front desk.

We are off!!!  And if you are wondering why I went into such great detail about my preparations, just wait till you read on.

                                                                                                  to be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some people refer to the hot humid days of July and  August as dog daysDid you ever wonder why?  The phrase has a celestial origin;  In the days of ancient Rome, the brightest star, Sirius often rose in the sky either slightly before or at the same time as sunsrise.  This is no longer true, due to the precession of equinoxes.  Since the star was so close to the sun, it was thought that this star, Sirius, was responsible for the sultry days.

Finley and Francesca, smart as they are, have no concept of Roman history or for that matter, astronomy or astrology.  So for them, these hot days of summer can eeasily be summed up as Popsicle Days.  And why not?  What better way is there to wile away an afternoon after a couple of hours in the pool, than to just suck down a fruit-flavored ice pop.  And sharing it with your sister – PRICELESS!!!!

West Hampton LI. Finley Ray and Francesca Clark.

Not now, I’m licking my popsicle

 

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