Saturday, December 11, 2004


DECEMBER 4, 2004

Today would have been my dad’s 78th birthday, and is also the feast day of St Barbara.

My sister and her friend Sandy are flying home today. We put them on the train from Orvieto to FCO yesterday afternoon, and they spent the night in the Hilton at the airport. It’s pricey…they got a special deal of €160 ($211!!!), but for them the convenience of not having to lug all their stuff to a Rome hotel and back, and not having to worry about finding their way in an unfamiliar setting made it worth the price. It made me feel a lot better too, knowing that they wouldn’t have to worry about a missed train in the morning.

I don’t know how they feel about it, but for Art and me the week just flew by! I can’t believe it went so fast! We saw a lot despite some rainy and foggy weather, we ate lots of good food, and we had lots of fun. For me it was especially nice to have other women to talk to. Although we felt as if we were pushing them to the point of exhaustion, I think they enjoyed their visit. We tried not to over-plan, but it was still a very busy week.

The first challenge they faced was arriving in Rome. They were taking advantage of one of the NWA coupons that came in a ValPack. The cost was $399 from Louisville to Rome, which was a great deal, but the downside is that you have to fly on NWA…nicknamed “NorthWORST” by many, and not without good reason. The flight attendants, with a FEW notable exceptions, are mean, tired, cranky, pissed off and generally NOT the people you would want to spend eight hours confined with.

Terri and Sandy flew out of Louisville on Thanksgiving afternoon after having an early Thanksgiving lunch with their families. Terri left the clean-up to her kids…all adults, and I hope they did their job. They don’t seem to realize all that my sister’s been through in the past few years, and just how much she not only NEEDED, but really DESERVED this vacation.

The flight to Louisville took them to Memphis where they would connect to the flight to Rome. For reasons that seemed to change several times, the flight was delayed, and subsequently they missed their connection in Amsterdam. I hate the NWA off season schedule because they don’t have the direct Detroit/Memphis to Rome flights. That layover in Amsterdam can be a killer. Originally they had about an hour to make the connecting flight, but once they missed it, the next flight to Rome wasn’t until later in the evening.

Meanwhile, Art and I were waiting at the Rome airport, expecting them on the 2:30 flight. We had left our car in Orvieto and had taken the train straight to FCO…it was a LOT cheaper than going to Rome Termini, checking into the hotel, and going back to the airport on the Leonardo Express. This meant that we had our luggage with us, and although it was a small bag since we were only going to be in Rome for 2 days, it was still something to lug around.

We waited and waited in the arrivals area. People seemed to be coming out very slowly, and finally, after about an hour, Art asked one of the people exiting if he had been on that flight. He told us that yes, he had, and that there had been some problems getting the luggage. He told us everything seemed to be working now, so we expected to see Terri and Sandy in a few minutes. But they never came.

Finally Art went upstairs to see if he could get any information. The people at the NWA desk said that since the last names were different, they couldn’t give us any info. Art explained that in the states, it’s standard for women to change their names when they marry, but when you’re in Rome….

While Art was upstairs, I called the hotel to see if by chance they had missed us and had gone straight to the hotel. It was a long shot, but I had to do something. Of course they weren’t at the hotel. I then tried to call Terri’s house to see if anyone was still there. I thought if she had missed the Louisville or Memphis flight, they might know about it. No one was home, so I left a message on the answering machine.

Meanwhile the NWA people were telling Art that they only way they could give him any info was if he filed a police report. That seemed a little drastic, so he returned downstairs to wait with me. After another l..o..n..g wait, we decided that maybe we should file the police report and see what they had to say. Of course that was an adventure in itself, but Art was lucky enough to get a nice guy. Originally he told Art that he wasn’t allowed to tell him anything, but then he relented and called someone at NWA to ask if Terri and Sandy had been on that flight. At this point we had three possible scenarios: #1, they had missed the flight out of Memphis, or #2, they had missed the flight out of Amsterdam, or #3, they actually were in the Rome airport, but had some sort of problem. We were not allowed to go into the arrivals area to look for them, so we were clueless….and trying not to panic.

Once the policeman got a hold of the NWA person, he spelled out the last names and was told, yes, they HAD been on the flight from Amsterdam. Okay…so what was the problem? Again, we waited for a while, then I decided this was getting crazy…the plane had landed over two hours ago…everyone else had come and gone…where could they be?

I went upstairs this time. Of course by now there was no one at the NWA desk. I guess they figure problems only happen during regular business hours. I walked to the airport information desk and asked if there was a number for the lost luggage desk. This was about the only place I could imagine they would be for so long. The woman at the desk said no. I explained the situation and she gave me the number for NWA information within the terminal and told me to use the white phone at the end of the desk.

The man who answered was the same person the policeman had spoken with, and he told me that yes, they had been on that flight, and yes, they should have been out by now. He was able to give me a number for the lost luggage desk, however, so that was my next call. Once I reached that desk, they told me that they couldn’t give me any information on passengers. I explained the situation AGAIN, and said, “IF I tell you my sister’s name, and IF she’s there, would it be possible for you to give her a message?” Incredibly, she agreed, so I gave her all the information, including our cell phone number. I was certain that Terri would have the number with her, but just to be sure…..

I went back downstairs to update Art, and after about fifteen minutes my phone rang!!! It was Terri! “WHERE THE F#*K ARE YOU?” I asked. The connection was terrible and I could barely hear her. When she told me what had happened, I was incredulous! They were still in Amsterdam!!! Because the Memphis flight was late, they had missed the Rome flight, and were now due to arrive at 9:30 p.m. Well, at least the mystery was solved and we knew they were safe! It would be a long wait in the airport for us, but it would also make for an even longer day for my sister and her friend. I felt so badly for them. I was glad to hear that they’d been smart enough to ask for a phone card and also for some food vouchers. Although the airlines will give you stuff like that, they’ll only give it IF you ask…they never offer it voluntarily.

Once I got off the phone with Terri, I called the NWA person who had told me that they had been on the earlier flight. Since this was the THIRD call he had received about this situation, I didn’t have to refresh his memory. Needless to say I was NOT happy! Why had he given me incorrect info? What kind of system was this that was so completely WRONG!? And then he said…”Oh, I looked at the wrong name…sorry” and this after Art had told me the police officer had SPELLED OUT my sister’s last name…and spelled it ITALIAN STYLE, so there should have been no mistake. What a bunch of losers!

Art and I wandered the terminal and got something to eat. The Rome terminal is very basic…had we been in Milan or Amsterdam or Detroit, we would have had plenty of things to see and do, but the Rome airport has about six shops and only two or three places to eat.

We watched the terminals and were happily surprised to see that the flight from Amsterdam would be about fifteen minutes early! Yeah! I had called the hotel to advise them of our later (and later) arrival, and knew that wouldn’t be a problem, but I knew that my sister and her friend would be zombies from the long long ordeal.

Unfortunately, although the plane landed early, there were problems with the luggage (again), so it was about 10:30 before they came through the doors. Art and I were amazed at how awake and energetic they both seemed to be. They must have been on the third or fourth or maybe even fifth wind by that time.

We divided up the luggage and headed for the train station. We took the more expensive Leonardo Express so that we wouldn’t have to change trains at the Tibertina station.

Of course by this time it was dark, so they didn’t get to see any thing on the way in, even though it’s not the most scenic of routes. The ride into Rome takes thirty minutes, and by the time we found our way to the hotel, it was after midnight. Our rooms were around the corner from one another, and we told Terri and Sandy we’d wake them in the morning for breakfast.

On Saturday morning after a nice breakfast (croissants, cereal, yogurt, rolls, ham, cheese, jelly, honey, coffee, tea, milk and juices!) we bought bus tickets and caught the bus to the Borghese Gallery. Our reservations were at eleven, and we had time before we went in to wander the grounds. Although not as large as New York’s Central Park, the Villa Borghese seems to be Rome’s equivalent.

We had chosen the Borghese for two reasons: first, it’s our personal favorite, and secondly, although Terri had told us they were interested in museums, we liked the idea that the Borghese is small. Two hours is more than enough time to see everything, and since this was their first day, we wanted to keep them moving so they didn’t collapse!

After we left the Borghese, we took the bus, then transferred to the metro and walked to a nice little restaurant we had read about near the Termini. Ristorante Regina is on via dei Mille, right around the corner from The Beehive, where we had stayed in September.

The restaurant is small, and we were lucky that we arrived when we did. A few minutes later and we might not have gotten a table. The best thing about this place was that we were the only non-Italians in the place.

We introduced my sister to Spaghetti Carbonara, and she loved it! Whew! My sister is a picky eater…even more so than I am, and we had wracked our brains to think of some things that she might like. She’s allergic to tomatoes, so that added to the challenge. Sandy, on the other hand, eats everything, so we were excited to introduce her to the many new and wonderful foods we had discovered.

After a delicious and relaxing lunch, we took the metro to the Coliseum. After wandering all around it, just to get the “feel”, we headed for the entrance, only to discover that during the off season, the Coliseum closes at three o’ clock! What?! We discovered a few minutes later that the same schedule also applies to the Forum. Well, we’d at least “shown” them these two sites, and knew that we could return the next day after our visit to the Vatican.

A quick ride on the metro took us back to Termini, and we introduced Terri and Sandy to their first gelato. I think they were both as pleased with gelato as we are…it’s one of the things we miss the most when we come to the states.

By this time we were all ready for a rest, so we walked back to the hotel. This was the first time Art and I have stayed at the Aberdeen, and we were quite pleased. We chose this hotel because Terri and Sandy really wanted a room with its own bathroom. The cost was reasonable…a special rate of €88 for a double. The rooms were spotless and furnished very nicely. The beds were comfortable, and so were the pillows…always a problem for me. Our room had only a shower, but Terri and Sandy’s room had a tub with a hand-held shower. Additionally, the Aberdeen is located on a quiet street, and includes a wonderful buffet breakfast.

As expected, once Terri and Sandy laid down for a short rest, they were done for the day! Art and I ventured out for a pizza, and made the mistake of stopping in a small pizzeria just down the street from the Aberdeen. I never could figure out what the name of this place is, but we nicknamed it “Pizza Grease”. It was probably the worst pizza I’ve ever had in my life, and we were astounded to see Italians eating there. Maybe they were tourists too, or just new to the area.

The desk clerk had told us that we would need to be at the Vatican early on Sunday morning…he suggested as early as 7:30, but we decided to wait just a little later. The Vatican is usually closed on Sunday, but on the last Sunday of each month, it’s open AND it’s free.

We took the metro to the Cipro stop, since we had read that this stop was closer to the Vatican museum. It wasn’t hard to decide where to go once we exited the metro station….we just followed the crowd. As we approached the museum entrance, we could see that there were already LOTS of people in line….and the line continued to grow once we rounded the corner. By the time we reached the end of the line, I realized that we were now closer to the Ottaviano stop! The line behind us increased rapidly, and it was only a little after eight! We thought the doors would open around nine…maybe 8:45, but we didn’t know for sure.

After standing in line for just a few minutes, a woman walked by and asked us if we would be interested in a tour in English. Art immediately said no, but I said “How much and how long?” The woman said she’d have to ask the guide, a good looking Italian man who was talking to other people in line. The cost of the tour was €30 each, and would last about 2 ½ hours. I was concerned about the time because I knew we needed to get back to the Coliseum before it closed at three. I also wanted to know if the tour would include St Peter’s, and we were told, yes, it did. Hmmmmm…..

Art then realized that taking this tour might get us in sooner than waiting in line, so he asked the guide, Roberto, and was told yes, groups go in first. After a short discussion, we decided that yes, it was worth it. Our time was just too limited to spend it waiting in line, so we took the plunge.

We were told to wait at the bar across the street from the museum entrance, and once Roberto and his helper had gotten the rest of the group together, we were given the password and headed for the group entrance. The line through security went fairly fast, and once our group of twelve was assembled, Roberto began the tour.

I think it’s hard to strike a balance between just “seeing” the sights, and actually knowing what you’re looking at. None of us are scholars, or have a passionate interest in art, but at some point, all the churches and all the museums start to blend together, and unless you have a guide you never learn the stories behind the art. For this visit, the €30 was well spent. Roberto gave us some background and a good overview of what we were about to see. He pointed out things that we would never have noticed, and made our visit much more enjoyable.

Once we had left the museum through the Sistine chapel and were headed for St. Paul’s, Roberto told us that the Pope would be giving his blessing in just a few minutes. It was almost noon, and a huge crowd was gathered in St. Peter’s Square, waiting for the Papal blessing.

Although we could see the window where he would appear, because he was in a wheelchair he sat back from the edge, and we couldn’t see him at all. We listened for a few minutes to the loudspeaker, but we really couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I hope just by being there we benefited from his blessings.

Roberto took us through St. Peter’s, and as usual, everyone was in awe. The size of it is overwhelming, and the detail in incredible. Everywhere you look there is something magnificent to see…statues, mosaics, columns, marble.

By the time we were finished, it was nearly one o’clock…our tour had lasted 3 ½ hours, not 2 ½, and I think we were all happy we had decided to make the investment. Our only problem was that now we had to grab something to eat and head for the Coliseum. We were thinking that maybe we’d just grab a panino from one of the street vendors at the Coliseum, but as we left the Vatican we stumbled onto some sort of Christmas gift fair, complete with a porchetta booth. Since porchetta was right after gelato on our “must try” list for Terri and Sandy, we bought some sandwiches and sat on the curb to eat them. A bottle of water for us and soft drinks for our guests completed the lunch…now we were ready to head for the Coliseum!

Although the line looked rather long, it really didn’t take us very long to get into the Coliseum. They keep moving the entrance around, and now you can’t walk on the flooring that’s been installed in the middle of the Coliseum as you could when we first visited in 2000. I thought €8 admission charge was a bit steep, but I told myself it goes for the preservation of the Coliseum.

After walking around and looking at both the inside of the Coliseum and the views of the Forum from the Coliseum, we luckily stumbled onto am exhibit on the second floor that seems to be hidden behind curtains, as if they don’t really want anyone to find it. As usually, we wished for more English translations, but still enjoyed the pictures and statues on display.

We managed to get into the Forum just minutes before they closed the gates, but Sandy and Art were tired of walking…they both have bad backs. Terri and I walked into the Forum and took a few pictures. Terri and I are both (unfortunately) people who have a hard time imagining what ruins looked like in their prime. Thank God for the Discovery channel and their computer generated recreations!

By this time we needed to head back to the hotel to pick up our luggage in order to make the train back to Orvieto. We stopped for snacks at McDonalds (I couldn’t seem to get Terri used to the idea that McDonalds is NOT the food of choice in Italy!), and we loaded all nine pieces of our luggage onto the train.

Once again, Terri and Sandy rode the train in complete darkness, missing the changing scenery as Lazio turned into Umbria. Once we arrived in Orvieto it was a relief to see our car still there, safe and sound.

The ride home from Orvieto is steep and VERY windy. That’s windy as in CURVY, not as in a lot of wind blowing! The combination of sitting in the back seat, jet lag, and the constant curving of the road had Terri and Sandy feeling pretty bad, and we arrived in San Venanzo not a moment too soon.

Once the luggage was in, we gave them a quick tour of the house, then let them unpack and relax in their room. I’m not sure what time we went to bed that night, but I’m sure it wasn’t very late….we knew that we needed to be up early the next morning, since the market in Marsciano is only there until one o’clock.

Because it’s winter, there aren’t as many fruit and vegetable vendors in the Monday morning market, but the ones who were there had lots of beautiful Sicilian oranges and clementines. We bought some of those, a few peppers, some eggplant and a few tomatoes.

We then took Terri and Sandy to the rest of the market…the part featuring everything from purses and shoes to pots and pans. We looked at scarves and tablecloths and sweaters. We stopped by the TecnoCasa office to introduce them to our friend Donatella, and then walked through the medieval section of Marsciano. We ended up at Ternana’s for lunch, and I think they really enjoyed not only the food, but also the warmth of the people. Unfortunately, Stefania’s is closed on Mondays, but we knew we’d stop in there for a gelato later in the week.

We had originally planned to visit the Perugina chocolate factory on Tuesday, but due to the planned national strike scheduled for that day, Corinna had emailed me that Monday would be better. For us, any day is a good day to visit a chocolate factory!

Corinna had told us that three o’clock was a good time for her, and when we found ourselves there early, we went ahead and did our shopping at the store. Terri and Sandy stocked up on chocolates to take back for friends and family, but if you’re reading this and didn’t get any, all I can tell you is that they had very good intentions!

At three we walked to the museum entrance, and one of the other employees recognized us. She called Corinna to tell her that we had arrived, and started the film that tells the story of how the chocolate gets from South America to the grocery shelf.

Once the film was over, Corinna had arrived and we headed off for our tour. As Corinna said, “Just follow the smell”! As always the aroma of chocolate is intoxicating, and smelling it while seeing it travel down the assembly line made us feel, literally, like kids in a candy factory!

Once the tour was over we looked at some of the memorabilia in the museum, and bought a few things that hadn’t been available in the store. Corinna had found some of the Nestlé Quick bars that Art likes, but had been unable to find lately. After that, it was time to head home…I really hadn’t wanted the day to be so long, but it had been unavoidable.

On Tuesday, despite the rain, we were headed for Assisi. We took the scenic back route, and I’m sure Terri and Sandy got sick of hearing us say “This is really beautiful when it’s not rainy and foggy”!

We parked in our usual spot at the far side of town and began the slow descent through the town towards the basilica. The rain varied from an annoying drizzle to a steady downpour. Luckily we were among just a few tourists in town, so walking with umbrellas wasn’t too dangerous, except to each other.

Once we reached the basilica, we took our time, wandering through the upper basilica, the lower basilica, the crypt, and then the room with the relics of St Francis. The fact that articles of his clothing and some of his personal belonging still remain is due to the fact that even in his own time, people knew that he was a blessed and holy man.

After Assisi, we drove to Ponte San Giovanni to meet Wendy for lunch. Art and I had tried a restaurant that Wendy hadn’t been to, so this was a good opportunity to introduce her to my sister and Sandy, and to let her try this newly discovered restaurant.

As expected, we were the only foreigners there, but with Wendy’s excellent Italian and perfect accent, the waiter was quite surprised when she told him she was an American too. He knew the four of us were, not only because of the way we looked and the fact that we spoke English and only broken Italian, but when Terri ordered a Coke, that was the clincher! He laughed at us, but we’re used to it by now!

We had a nice lunch, but I don’t remember what we had. I think I had a chicken breast, but that’s all I can remember.

After lunch we stopped by the IperCoop at Collestrada for a few groceries, then headed back to San Venanzo. As usual, we got off the E45 at San Martino in Campo and took the SS317, or the high road, back. Once again, all Terri and Sandy heard was how pretty the view was when the weather was nicer!

We made a quick dinner with some roasted chickens and fresh pasta, and spent the evening relaxing before going to bed. Because of the weather forecast, we had decided to go to Florence on Wednesday instead of Thursday, so we would have to get up very early to catch the train to Florence. We would need to leave San Venanzo no later than 6:30….for us it wasn’t that bad, but I’m sure Terri and Sandy were wondering what happened to their usual relaxing vacations!

We arrived in Florence at ten, and headed towards the Academia. We stopped for a coffee and pastry on the way, and found out that the Academia doesn’t take credit cards…cash only, and exact change seemed to be strongly suggested. Since we’ve only been to the Academia during the tourist season, we were amazed to walk right in!

David is celebrating his 500th birthday this year, and was cleaned and polished in preparation. I honestly couldn’t tell any difference, but maybe I’ve been concentrating on the wrong parts! At the Academia, all we need to see are David and “The Prisoners” to be satisfied.

After the Academia we walked to the San Lorenzo market. Museums and ancient ruins might be nice, but Terri and Sandy needed a shopping fix BAD!!!!
Sandy was looking for a few things…a scarf, a leather backpack/purse, and something for her son. I think Terri’s list was a little less specific, and since she’s really a jewelry person, she was more interested in jewelry stores, not in the market. We did manage to find a nice pair of leather gloves for her, but as expected, the stores on the Ponte Vecchio were just too overwhelming to make any decisions.

We found a place for lunch that had been recommended on the website of Diva Cucina, and once again, we were lucky to get there when we did. Had we been just a few minutes later, we wouldn’t have gotten a table.

After lunch we wandered some more…..Florence is one of our favorite cities in the world, and Art and I could just wander the streets forever. I’m not sure if Terri and Sandy were able to get a real feel for the city, or to appreciate its charm and history from such a short visit, but I hope they enjoyed their visit.

We caught the train back to Ponte San Giovanni, of course in the dark! The trip TO Florence had been shrouded in fog, so our track record for showing off the beautiful scenery was intact!

After the long and exhausting day in Florence, we all needed to sleep in on Thursday. We planned to take Terri and Sandy into Marsciano for some shopping, and Sandy really wanted to go back to Ternana’s for some more of Marco’s pizza. She was also looking for a bracelet for herself, as well as some things for friends. Terri wanted to shop for some jewelry too, and I knew of at least three jewelry stores in Marsciano, and thought there might even be a fourth.

We left San Venanzo around ten, and since all the shops close for lunch between one and four, that really didn’t give us a lot of time. We looked in the jewelry store in the shopping center with the Coop, but neither Terri nor Sandy saw anything they liked.

Our next stop was a shop just a short walk away and Sandy did find one bracelet she thought she might like. Terri says that Sandy agonizes over her purchases and always has a hard time making up her mind. For Terri, the item either “talks” to her or not, and the decision is easy.

Sandy found several things that she liked in the third shop we visited, and one bracelet in particular really “spoke” to her. She still wasn’t quite sure and decided to wait before making a final decision.

Once Terri started looking, she found a gorgeous pendant that she fell in love with, and then found a bracelet too, but it was too long. The woman in the shop told us that it could be shortened in about an hour, and Terri decided to buy it. Since it was getting close to lunchtime, we left for Ternana’s, and planned to return to the jewelry store later in the afternoon.

Lunch at Ternana’s was wonderful, as usual, but I was starting to get a scratchy throat. We stopped in Stephania’s for a gelato after lunch, then drove back to San Venanzo. I immediately laid down to take a nap, and when Art came up to tell me that they were ready to go back to Marsciano, I told him to go without me…I just wasn’t ready to wake up.

Art took Terri and Sandy back to the jewelry store, and Sandy decided to go ahead and get the bracelet she had admired earlier. It really was gorgeous…one of those pieces that’s simple enough to wear every day, but elegant enough to wear for a special occasion.

After the jewelry store, Art took them to a gift shop just a few doors down. We had been in this shop for the first time about a week earlier, and he knew they would both enjoy it. Terri bought a few knickknacks, and was very pleased with all her purchases. There are so many unique ceramic pieces in our area, and it’s really hard to make a choice sometimes.

While they were shopping, I eventually got up, and started making dinner. This would be our last dinner at home together, since they would head back to Rome after we visited Orvieto the next day.

Friday morning was foggy and dreary…much like the rest of the week had been. We hoped that we would leave the fog behind as we drove to Orvieto, but of course that didn’t happen. At least it wasn’t raining.

We stopped at the train station to find out about train times to Rome. There was a mini strike scheduled for that day, but we knew that basic services would still be provided. Our plan was for Terri and Sandy to take the train from Orvieto to Rome Tibertina, then transfer to the train to FCO. This was a lot cheaper than taking the train to Rome Termini and then taking the Leonardo da Vinci Express to the airport. The airport shuttle alone costs €10, and for just a few euro more they bought tickets from Orvieto all the way to FCO. We also thought that transferring in Tibertina would be less confusing that transferring in Rome Termini….it’s a huge station, and it can be very overwhelming, especially with lots of luggage.

After we bought the tickets, we drove up into Orvieto and found a free parking space. Going in the off season does have its advantages. We walked up towards the Duomo, taking our time and looking in lots of the cute shops along the way. We made a few purchases, and enjoyed the walk.

Once we got to the main piazza, we walked into the Duomo…it’s incredible from the outside, even though there is still some scaffolding on one side. The inside isn’t quite as elaborate, but is still impressive. We were surprised when a guard came to the side chapel we were in and indicated that he wanted to close the gate. Once we had left the side altar, we realized that he was closing the entire church, not just the side altar. This really surprised me…in my opinion, a church should never be closed, but apparently this is treated more as a sight to see rather than a church.

We walked over to the small park at the edge of town, but the fog was too thick to see much of anything. Once we had walked back to the piazza, we could see the fog rolling in, and were glad we had seen as much as we had.

We went in search of a restaurant for lunch, and ended up at the same place we’ve eaten before. We seem to eat at the same two places every time we’re in Orvieto, even though I keep trying to find someplace new. After a few minutes four other Americans came in…they looked like parents with their two college age daughters. I took the opportunity to ask them to take a picture of the four of us together, and they were happy to oblige.

Later, as we were all leaving the restaurant, the couple said that they had overheard us mention Louisville, and said that they had met while in college at the University of Louisville! I’m not sure if the two girls were sisters or just friends, but they had been attending school in Italy, and had spent quite a bit of time traveling throughout Umbria…they even knew where San Venanzo was!
These “small world” situations seem to occur more and more, and we love the fact that we’re all so interconnected.

We had time after lunch to check out the view from the park again, and luckily the fog had lifted. It was still a dreary, drizzly day, but at least Terri and Sandy could see just how high up and impregnable Orvieto was.

We began our walk back to the car park, and arrived at the station in plenty of time. We had about a fifteen or twenty minute wait for the train to Rome, and I hoped that Terri and Sandy would be able to handle their luggage, not only on the train to Rome, but especially when they had to transfer at Tibertina. The one advantage was that the stop, although short, would be long enough for them to unload. We had given them the expected time of arrival in Tibertina so that they could be ready with their luggage and waiting by the door.

We had also told them that we expected the train to FCO to be on a specific track, but told them how to find out which track the train was on. We had also shown them where to go once they arrived at FCO, but that had been a week ago, when they first arrived in Rome! Additionally, the way to the Hilton is not very well marked, and we told them just to keep looking for signs and asking for help if they needed it. I know how intimidating it can be to be in a strange new place, especially in a country where the native language is NOT English! At least at FCO, finding an English speaker would be much easier than it would be in Umbria.

Once the train arrived, Terri and Sandy were lucky enough to get seats right by the doorway…convenient for when they got off, but also convenient since it meant they didn’t have to drag their luggage through the car. We’ve been on many a train where we’ve gone from car to car to car looking for empty seats. Sometimes the extra cost of reserved seats is worth it.

As we said goodbye to them, it was hard to believe that the week was over. I really felt as if they’d just gotten there, and there was so much more that we wanted to show them…and so much we wished they could have seen if the weather had been clear! Another strange part about saying goodbye was knowing that we would see them again in just ten days!!!

As we drove back to San Venanzo, the fog got thicker and thicker. It would end up lasting until Tuesday morning, when the sun suddenly reappeared.

Once we got back home, the laundry wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared…I had the linens and our clothes…four loads in all, finished, dried and put away by Sunday! Thank God for radiators!

All in all, our second round of guests was a lot of fun. We did a lot more with AND for them, partly because this was their first time abroad, and partly because it was my sister. We’d do the same thing for Art’s daughter Kelly if she ever comes to visit, but that’s probably the only other person we’d do so much for. Traveling to Rome isn’t cheap, nor is a hotel room, the various admission charges, and of course the restaurant meals. Although we enjoyed seeing the Vatican museum and the other sights, at some point we’ll let our guests do the normal “touristy” stuff by themselves, then have them come to Umbria maybe to see what Umbria has to offer, or maybe just to relax and recover from Stendhal’s syndrome.

We’re so glad that my sister came to visit…it meant a lot to both of us. We were happy that she took a well deserved vacation, and also happy that we got to share our life in Italy with her. We were happy that we got to reciprocate, if only for a few days, the generosity that she’s shown us when we’ve gone back to Louisville. The fact that she got to share her experience with her best friend made it even better, and we hope they both come back again. They learned after only a few days in Italy that #1, once you have your passport, you have ten years worth of traveling to do, and #2, you learn SO MUCH on your first trip abroad that it’s a shame not to take advantage of all that knowledge for a second and third and fourth trip!


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