Our Trip to ITALIA

June 24, 2001 - July 5, 2001

Is there a soul who does not like history, art or spaghetti?  If there is, let him stay at home and not visit Italy.  This trip was memorable and all too short.  

We took Alitalia non-stop to Rome.  Booking on the internet was not easy.  Most of the "cheap" itineraries required a stopover that would waste at least six hours in an airport.  I went to Alitalia offices on Fifth Avenue to buy tickets that were priced somewhat less than that advertised on their website.  

Arriving early morning at Fiumicino Airport we had no trouble finding the train to Rome main rail station, Stazione Termini.   After we bought tickets to Venice, we looked around for a cash machine.   An ATM is the preferred method of obtaining local currency and they exist throughout the world wherever there is a bank.  The exchange rate is usually fair and you can get just the amount you need and you do not need to carry large amounts of  dollars or travelers' checks which can be stolen.   All the ATMs in Stazione Termini were out of order forcing us to exchange money at the local exorbitant unfavorable rate.

The rail systems in Europe are all subsidized and the trains are clean, reasonably priced and run on time.  We amused ourselves during the train trip to Venice (and throughout the entire trip) by learning Italian phrases and grammar and comparing the construction with Spanish.  There are enough cognates with English and Spanish that we could communicate by means of  nouns and modifiers?although verbs were a different story.  Our little Langenscheidt Italian-English dictionary was invaluable. 

Venice was all that we have been led to believe.  It used to be a major center of shipping commerce, but now is mostly a center of tourism.  No matter where you go, you end up in Piazza San Marco.  We stayed two nights at a charming hotel overlooking a canal (almost everything overlooks a canal) with a room clerk who snootily informed us that he did NOT speak ANY Spanish.  Of course, we took the obligatory overpriced gondola ride at dusk.

We took a short train ride to Florence.  At the station, Donna's reading of the map suggested that our hotel was just around the block, so being ones who are not inclined to waste money on taxis, we walked?and walked.  Fortunately, we travel light (one carry-on sized bag and one little shoulder bag each) so nothing was lost?save a few drops of perspiration.  We found Ken, Vicki and Elise sitting at a table outside their hotel.  They had just arrived from a trip through Scotland and the Netherlands.   

Ken and Vicki had done an apartment exchange with a family in Pescara, an Adriatic seaside vacation community, and one in Rome.  We rented a car in Florence and drove down to Pescara with a stop at Assisi.  

After two days we left Pescara and drove across the boot to Rome - First days taking up residence at a charming flat in the center of  the city and just off the famous Campo de Fiori.  It was a few steps from  Chiesa Sant'Andrea della Valle and Palazzo Farnese and a mile from Castel Sant'Angelo?locations where Puccini's Tosca took place.  We ate several times at a local restaurant called Costanzo's where we learned that "al fresco" means inside where the air conditioning is.

After a couple of days we took the train to Pompeii where we were careful to remain inside the station at Naples having heard terrifying stories of the murder and robbery in broad daylight there.

We returned to Rome - Last days again for a few more days to take in other tourist sites which are not only obligatory but also worth the effort.  I cannot describe the thrill of seeing The Colosseum  at the end of a busy road.

Would we return?  In a minute! 

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