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Report 1008: 'I Vincitori' Learn to Get Lost in the Hills and Valleys of Italy

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2006

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Page 8 of 15: From the Villa to the Palazzo (Saturday,13 May)

photo by MarcS

Colleferro Train Station

We are ready to leave when Gioconda and Franco Trotta arrive, and we say farewell like old friends. Even with the tire in the trunk(!) Ellen and I manage to fit all our luggage in the car, and we are off. We had thought about stopping on the way in Capaccio, for more mozzarella, but it is a long trip and we want to get going. Not too much traffic. Ellen LOVES the autostrada; she is going 150 km per hour without even trying, and people are passing us as if we are taking a leisurely drive.

I learn how to use the Touring Club Italiano atlas, and we arrive at Colleferro (LAZ) to drop Ellen at the train station. As Jim Zurer has told us, it's a very quick exit off the autostrada to the station. A train is pulling in, Ellen buys her ticket and hops on it...

Bye, Ellen!

So now I drive on to San Quirico d'Orcia, which should be another couple of hours. I've decided before the trip that I should keep the car for the time in Tuscany, so that I will be able to take off on my own if I wish. And so that Marc and Cheryl (or one of them) can take off for a bit without leaving me feeling stranded.

I manage to find San Quirico, and even to get inside the walls and find the Palazzo Costanti. On the way, a possible problem has arisen and been disposed of: When I call the owner's agent Michele, he has no idea that the apartment is rented for the week. But it is ready, and Michele calls Enza, who lives in the palazzo. She graciously lets us in, shows us the apartment, and gives us the key. (We never did see the owner or his agent, but all worked out fine anyway.)

The apartment is truly beautiful, wonderful beyond my expectations. I know that "palazzo" is more or less just the Italian word for apartment house, but this apartment is, well, palatial. The building is, as promised, well located on the main street (also the only street) of San Quirico, right across from the beautiful Collegiata church. The rooms are enormous, high-ceilinged and elegantly furnished. Nice beds, lots of couches, arm chairs, lamps. Even a piano. I canít believe my luck in getting this apartment. We unpack, shower, and are at home for a week.

Jim Zurer calls; he has made a dinner reservation at the restaurant adjoining our palazzo. Maureen Fant and her husband Franco are visiting with Jim and Diana and will be joining us; she is a food writer whose name I recognize. Shall we have a drink first? Jim asks. Sure, I say; come up to our apartment. If ever a place was made for entertaining, this place is. We open some wine, get some glasses, put out the cheese we have brought from down south: A party!

It's so great to meet Jim, after several years of discovering on ST that we are on the same wavelength about so many books, movies, and so on. (Except that his wavelength also includes travel expertise!) It turns out that Jim, Diana and Marc have a lot in common too. They all went to the same college, Marc having been in Diana's younger sister's class. And, it turns out, he also went to high-school with Diana's sister. Diana and I, in turn, share a Bronx childhood.

We head for the restaurant, Il Tinaio, and have a wonderful meal. The Zurers have been there before, and the waiter is gracious and expert. Franco chooses the wine, and we all enjoy it. And enjoy it...We chat for hours like old friends (well, we are ST friends) then go off our separate ways. Tomorrow morning, we will go over to Jim and Diana's hotel to chat a bit more. But for now we are tired.

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