When my hubby Bill surprised me with tickets to Italy to celebrate our 12 wedding anniversary and suggested that I plan the trip as I Â“knew Italy,Â” I thought Â“Oh my! Did I still Â“knowÂ” Italy 30 years after my last visit?Â”
When Bill, as our three week journey drew to a close, told me that IÂ’d plotted a Â“dreamÂ” which he was loath to leave, I knew IÂ’d succeeded in remembering. We had our share of mishaps. We got lost in Naples, our rental car received a mysterious passenger side gouging while parked, BillÂ’s wallet was filched while we rode the bus to the Catacombs. But these were minor happenings compared with the wonders we viewed, the kindnesses we received, the family and friends we met, the meals we ate which were so delicious that I have no desire to ever eat out in an American restaurant again.
How do I write about such a trip? How do I write about it and keep my Gather readers engrossed? No guarantee about that but I can try. WeÂ’ll start with the evening of our arrival and first day.
Lessons learned on arriving
Our first challenge waited for us on arrival at the Fiumicino Airport outside Rome when we found we could not rent a luggage dolly because our lowest denomination euro was a Â€100 bill and not the 50 centavos coin.
Lesson number one: always bring smaller euro bills and coinage with you. YouÂ’ll need it for luggage carts, tips, and taxi rides.
Because we could not rent a cart, Bill attempted to piggyback our other bags onto his brand new oversized- pull-along luggage. The bag did not cooperate. It severed ties with its handle.
Lesson number two: do not piggy back more than one bag on a pull-along piece of luggage.
We needed a dolly. Forget the help desk. It was empty. A passing janitor whom I approached for help threw up his hands, went off muttering something about crazy Americans and then surprised us with the first of the many kindnesses Bill and I would encounter on this trip. He paid for a dolly himself and brought it to us!
Our next mishap was the shuttle ride to the apartment which should have taken 40-50 minutes but actually took close to two hours because other passengers required drop-offÂ’s hither and yon and we were the last to board. The cost for the ride was Â€45. We thought that with a Â€5 tip the driver should have no trouble breaking our Â€100 bill.
Lesson number three: take a taxi. It costs around the same, you get there a lot faster, and the driver is more likely to have change. Our shuttle driver did not have change.
While we scrambled to find someone who could break our Â€100, the shuttle driver nervously pointed out that he was blocking other traffic from entering or exiting the narrow street below the apartment which we were renting for our stay in Rome. The apartment owner, Carlo, helped us break the 100, then helped us haul our luggage up the three stories to the apartment. Hauling heavy luggage that far, even with the help of the owner, was not easy.
Lesson number four: if you rent an apartment, do not presume that it will have an elevator. WeÂ’d rented the charming Casa di Stella on Via Mario dei Fiori, one block away from the Piazza di Spagna. WeÂ’d not thought to ask what floor the apartment was on.
So much to see, so little time
There was no time to waste. Once weÂ’d deposited our luggage and signed the rental contract, Bill and I left the apartment for our first sightseeing adventure: The Spanish Steps. My deceased husband Vittorio, who lived at the top of those steps on Via Gregoriana, had ridden his bicycle down those steps as a kid. On our way up the steps to the famed Church and convent of Trinita dei Monti where I had stayed while Vittorio wrestled with the Vatican over permission to leave the priesthood to marry me, we were approached by one of the ubiquitous rose vendors found throughout Rome. Bowing deeply and smiling, he handed me two roses for Â“amore,Â” insisting they were free. Of course we paid him. Meanwhile, the had to negotiate a narrow pathway up those broad steps which were loaded with tourists, including several groups of youth singing at the top of their lungs.
It might seem strange that I would show my beloved hubby Bill places that were important to Vittorio and me. I felt awkward about this at first, but as it was Bill who insisted I finished writing Vittorio and my story and who is therefore responsible for the resulting memoir The Scent of God, and Bill who asked me to plan this trip based on my past experiences with Vittorio in Italy, I trusted that we would form our own special relationship with these places and that the past would enhance the present and it happened just as IÂ’d hoped it would.
Our first evening in Rome came to a lovely close when, having traversed Via Gregoriana and having shown Bill where Vittorio grew up, we found a little restaurant called Carole Case eÂ’n Osteria where we sat at a small table on a platform above the sidewalk and ate bambollot allÂ’amaticianaÂ—a type of fat-ridged pasta with a spicy roman sauce made with bacon, sipped a delicious glass of vino rosso della casa, and carried on a lively conversation with a woman from Norway who lives several months a year in Italy.
Beryl is the award-winning author of the Scent of God, a Book Sense Pick for April 2006 and was named Â“Best of Minnesota 2006 Authors.Â” Her website is www.berylsingletonbissell.com, and she writes several blogs. A travel blog at www.berylsbissell.blogspot.com; www.findingtimeforgod.blogspot.com; and www.beryl.gather.com