Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1936: Our Month in Italy - Spring 2011
By Boleskine from NJ, Spring 2011
Trip Description: Martin and I spend a month in Venice, preceded by a couple of nights in Rome. We have various visitors during our time, and enjoy some fantastic (and not so fantastic meals).
Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Rome, Venice
Categories: Vacation Rentals; Attended GTG; Foodie Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 30: Lunedi-Martedi 25-26 Aprile 2011 - Three Years and One Knee Later
The View I left Behind in Venice in June 2008
I don't have much time to be nervous about this trip because between one Monday and the next we celebrate Passover, with 15 guests, celebrate Eva Sophia's birthday, get our hair cut, learn how to use our iPad, and celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Before I know it, the time has come to throw some clothes into a suitcase and head for the airport. Never have we taken so few books - thanks to the Kindle downloads on the iPad, never have I taken so few gifts for other people, and never have I brought so few clothes. We still have two big suitcases and one carryon.
Sharon picks us up and makes the transit from home to airport an easy one for us. We always allow a ton of time, and this year because of my prosthetic knee, we allow even more than usual. We check in at the desk and head right for security. I have copies of my X-rays and a card from the surgeon, but we know they really are not absolute proof; cards can be faked and the X-rays could be anybody's.
The beepers start to shriek and scream before I even step into the portal. One of the security people takes me aside to pat me down. Despite stories to the contrary, I am treated with the utmost politeness and respect. I am given the option of a private room - thanks but no thanks - and each touch or step of the procedure is explained to me before it is taken. It doesn't take that much more time than it takes Martin to have our hand luggage with the various electronic devices, and our other "stuff" checked out by the screeners.
Once we get our shoes back on and our clothing rearranged we head off for the gate and wait. It is a weird feeling to be in an airport after three years of not having left home overnight except for my nights in the hospital, and I realize it is the same strange atmosphere as a hospital. In both cases, you are the midst of a bustling world you are not quite part of, cut off completely from any natural things like sky, grass, bird song and fresh air! We are totally insulated from reality.
We reserved two aisle seats so that I'd be sure to have an aisle seat that would allow me to stretch out my left leg from time to time. I am thrilled to find that there is only one other person in the four middle seats; I am on the left, and she is on the right, and we have space, glorious space between us.
We board, take off and land relatively close to the scheduled times, but it is still a long tiring trip. In the three years since we have last flown, many small amenities have been eliminated. The so called blankets do not seem remotely like blankets; they are more like sheets of plastic. There is nothing but soap in the loos - there used to be hand lotion too; now I guess we should be grateful there is still soap.
For a while now Economy Class passengers have not been given warm damp clothes to wipe your hands and faces; they would pass out those nasty little wipes, but now we get nothing. They have eliminated the nuts or pretzels, and before dinner drinks of any sort, but at least we are given a dinner. The ticket and in-flight manual indicated no meal would be served. I find the food as edible or inedible as it had always been, but a few items such as the cheese and crackers, which I never ate anyway have been eliminated.
I categorically refuse to buy headsets at $5.00 a pop. If they don't break during the trip, I can never find them to use on the next flight, and I am not much of movie buff. I've already seen most of the TV shows I have any interest in seeing so I read on my iPad via the Kindle app and sleep sporadically for short periods of time.
Breakfast is a plastic wrapped microwaved carb of some sort literally thrown at us by passing flight attendants. It is kind of a cross between a very bad croissant and a Twinkie. The OJ Martin requests at least bears a passing resemblance to the real deal; my tea is bitter hot water with no tea flavor - no sugar, lemon or milk is offered with either coffee or tea, but perhaps if one asked it was available. Nothing would have helped that tea.
I guess I should be satisfied and perhaps even grateful we had no unduly long tarmac sits, relatively little turbulence, and we arrived safely at the airport we had elected to arrive in; we have certainly had much worse flights.
We deplane in pouring rain. I ease my way down slippery steps. I can manage with my walking stick, but only just because the railings are so wet I don't feel as though I have a secure grasp on them. This is definitely not a handicapped friendly situation.
We reach the bottom and clamber onto those ghastly handicapped unfriendly buses where we are crammed in as tightly as possible and then driven to the terminal. I never understand why airports in big cosmopolitan cities like Rome don't have jet ways for arriving passengers.
The steps and pavement were tricky; the step up into the bus is a bit too much for my tired and stiff legs, but fortunately there are helping hands. Someone even offers me a seat of sorts; I am very grateful. I guess you can't cram in as many people if there are seats for all.
We queue up for Immigration and shuffle through the lines and then go hunt down our luggage. Once we figure out the change makers for the baggage trolleys would only take ten euro notes, everything else goes smoothly. Our luggage is not only not among the last pieces to arrive, the pieces come out of the chute close together.
Our first big disappointment is that there is no one holding up a sign with our name on it when we exit Customs. Anna had said she'd organize a car and driver, but there is no driver and hence no car. We circle the room several times, even inquiring when we see signs with names that might be misspellings of Edenbaum, but there is no one waiting for us. We try to call Anna, who was to have arranged for the driver, but neither of her phones is on. We finally reach her daughter, Mila, who says she will call her mother. Mila gets hold of her mother and informs us there was a mix up on time and somebody will be with us soon. There are several calls between Martin and the driver before he finally shows up. He is actually ringing Martin for the third or fourth time when we realize we are standing about six inches apart from one another. It would have been funnier two hours ago.
We pass some interesting ruins and a couple of spectacular churches, but the driver is too busy talking on his mobile to fill us in of them. He has trouble finding the right street because so many roads are closed off for construction or are one way streets. Our apartment seems to be in an "you-can't-get-there-from-here" zone, but eventually we do arrive.
Mila, Anna's daughter, welcomes us with Orso, her beautiful brown and black brindle pit bull. The apartment is lovely; we enter through a courtyard go down some steps lined with floors and cacti, and come into the kitchen. It is large with modern appliances but an old-fashioned warmth to it. There is a very modern bathroom decorated with sea creatures, a huge terra cotta tiled living room with three steps up to a garden which we've yet to see and a lovely bedroom. Mila is in the process of cleaning up from the last tenant.
A French family with two small children is also in residence, but I don't know if they are renters like us or live there long term. We don't see them, but we can hear what is obviously a mother talking to at least two small children.
After exploring the apartment and doing a little unpacking, we decide to walk down to the market area and get some food for lunch. Easier said than done. The market is supposedly three minutes away - well maybe if you are a Roman or an American with two good legs. After about fifteen minutes of walking in warm humid air, I am ready to quit. Martin walks a block or two further and comes back to tell me that the statue that we had been told to look for is just barely visible in the distance. The kicker is we are walking down hill; when we come home, should we reach the market, we will be walking up hill, carrying groceries. I think there is a basic difference between driving oriented New Jerseyeans and Italians, who walk almost everywhere.
We go back to the apartment; both of us are tired and stiff from the flight, and we decide food is less important than a few hours sleep. Mila very kindly offers to drive us and then come back and get us after we've eaten and shopped.
Bad luck - she cannot organize a car; her mother has one; her father took the other, and neither is available. The solution is that we will give her a list, and she will shop for us going there on foot. Then her boyfriend, with whom she will be traveling to India in a day or two, will pick her up and bring her and our groceries home. She is a lovely young woman and truly kind to be willing to help us. When we arrived she was in the midst of cleaning the entire apartment for us, but she stopped cleaning and made us two cups of espresso, which gave us a bit of energy and vigor.
I give her a rather vague and lame list, but she does a splendid job with it while we relax and start the return to feeling human by taking hot showers. Mila comes back with an assortment of bread (excellent), fruit (al monte), salad (fresh and crisp), cheese (goat and sheep as requested and delicious) and various other items including a package of beef slices for dinner. We eat a bit of bread and cheese and fruit for lunch and take naps.
When we awaken, I wander around taking photos of the apartment which is very roomy for two - there is an even bigger one available for larger groups - and is gorgeously furnished. The large bedroom is in the back with a window on the garden. The bed is large and there is plenty of closet space and room for suitcases; there are places to sit, and the bed is incredibly comfortable.
The bath is large and very modern; the shower is a walk in with the shower head behind glass doors, but no actual door to open or close; it is so big that once you are under the water, you are far enough away from the opening that the floor doesn't get soaked. The walls are decorated with all sorts of sea creatures - a scallop shell, lobster, crab, seahorses, etc. There is good lighting too, great water pressure, and plenty of lovely hot water.
The living room has a common wall with the bedroom. On both sides of the wall thin sheets of marble are back lit highlighting the natural striations. There are books and an amazing assortment of objets d'arte scattered about: a Roman urn, two large ceramic heads of a king and queen, figures - some realistic, some surrealistic, and some just plain comical. There are paintings on the wall and wonderful tiles on the floors. There is a fire place and steps that lead to the garden. The backs of each step are covered in wonderfully colorful tiles arranged without rhyme or reason into an eye-pleasing cacophony of colors and patterns.
The kitchen has all modern appliances and a huge wooden table good for doing kitchen work and for dining. The cabinets are filled with cooking utensils, bowls, pots, pans, glasses, dishes and silverware. There is an entry way with a door to another flat. From the doorway, you walk up past a cactus garden to what at one time must have been a courtyard of sorts for carriages. You have to open the gateway to reach the street. The house itself is on top of our apartment; I never do find out who lives there or whether it is flats or one big villa.
The garden is large; there is a picnic table and chairs right near our garden doors; the rest of it is a bit wild, and there is a house on the far side that I think may be where Anna lives.
We fool around with the iPad, watch a little TV and then I cook dinner. We have lovely thin slices of beef which I sauté in olive oil; then I crumble some of the herbed sheep cheese into the pan and let it melt into a sauce. A big salad of greens with apples and pears and pane integrale make a good dinner for people who have had naught but a mysterious plastic wrapped carbohydrate at about 6:00am, and the espresso that Mila thoughtfully made for us and a bit of bread, cheese and fruit.
Because we had slept so little on the plane, we are ready for bed at a normal bedtime despite having taken an afternoon nap. Normally I have a difficult time adjusting to a strange bathroom; I always wind up with everything in the wrong place, but the bathroom in the Villa Giulia is so spacious and so well appointed, that it is easy. We fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply.
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