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Report 1176: September Song: High Notes of a Few Precious Days in Italy

By Roz from Massachusetts, Fall 2006

Trip Description: The High City (Cittą Alta) of Bergamo. Heights of romance in a lofty Ligurian villa. And a high old time in Rome, despite high traffic and temperatures. (Sep - Oct 2006)

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Cinque Terre, Liguria, Lombardy, Rome, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Attended GTG; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 3-4 people; Adult Children w/ Parents

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Page 1 of 16: On the Way: Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Villa Ortensia in Liguria

I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning. We'd been dreaming and planning for months, and I couldn't sleep for two nights before the big day. We were finally leaving to claim our Slow Trav prize of a week at Villa Ortensia in Liguria, near the beautiful Italian Riviera. Meeting us at the two-bedroom villa, whose pictures looked more gorgeous than any place I'd ever experienced, would be our son Mike and his girlfriend Maureen, flying from California.

Before we met up at the villa, my dear husband (also Mike, but to avoid confusion, hereinafter known as DH) and I would spend a couple of nights in Bergamo, north of Milan. Meanwhile, son Mike would be showing Maureen his favorite city, Venice.

Our flight to Milan on Air France (through Paris) out of Boston was the first we'd taken since the stringent anti-liquid TSA regulations went into effect. We had to rethink our packing strategy, so ended up checking a lot of stuff we'd usually carry on, and just trusted to luck and lots of luggage tags that our bags would find us on the other end.

We figured Lady Luck was with us when our checked bags were first off the plane in Milan, and then (yeah!) DH finally got the Alfa Romeo rental car he'd been longing for on our last few trips to Italy (we always seemed to end up with Fords).

While waiting for the auto pickup, we checked out our new cell phone, attempting to call son Mike to make sure he'd gotten to Venice okay. So we could keep in touch, Mike and I had bought unlocked GSM phones and United Mobile SIM cards before we left home. This card (registered in Liechtenstein) is good in lots of different countries with no roaming charges, and doesn't expire as long as you use it every nine months. It does involve a callback though when placing calls, so it takes some getting used to. Also, I didn't realize that, because I had used the phone in the US to set up my voice mail, the phone had automatically set itself to a network that wouldn't work in Europe. (The US uses 850 / 1900 frequency; Europe uses 900 / 1800, and this had to be reset manually after making the first call on a different band.)

Eventually I got it all figured out and was able to reach Mike blissfully cruising down the Grand Canal. The United Mobile card worked well, and I would recommend it for anyone who is traveling to more than one country within the same year. If you're staying in one country, it would probably be cheaper to get a phone card only for that country. We also used the Callback World service (see Resources) for making inexpensive calls to the US from our cell phone.

So ... one piece of technology up and running, we hit the road for Bergamo, along with Emma our trusty GPS companion. (For more about Emma, see my trip report on the Languedoc -- # 1060, link under Web Resources.)

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