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Report 899: We Didn't Drink All The Vino: Maitai Tom and Tracy's

By maitaitom from California, Fall 2005

Trip Description: Four of us (two couples) traveled to Italy and spent three weeks (September 15 - October 7) exploring the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria, along with the beautiful cities of Florence, Venice and Rome. We also hooked up with another couple in Florence and Rome. This is my humorous (hopefully for you) report on how a positive attitude can enhance any vacation (especially when you kill a rental car), and why enjoying the journey is so important.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Umbria, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 3-4 people

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Page 1 of 22: Days One and Two - Are We There Yet, Which Way To First Class and Is This The Airport Sauna?

Although we managed to trash one rental car (a precautionary tale of stupidity from the first part of our trip) and seriously impair dozens of brain cells along the way during our 22-day journey, we successfully returned from another wonderful trip to Europe. No Italian animals, pedestrians, priests or nuns were injured during the making of this trip report (scared, yes; harmed, no), which will describe the hill towns of Umbria and Tuscany, the beautiful cities of Firenze, Venezia and Roma, and all the sundry details I can remember.

I devoured enough pasta and miscellaneous carbohydrates that poor, dead Dr. Atkins has already turned over in his scrambled eggs. My cholesterol count is undoubtedly so inflated from that over-indulgence that not even an intravenous drip of Lipitor could make a dent in it. Since I’ve been home, I wake up screaming in the middle of the night for ravioli stuffed with ricotta, Pecorino and spinach, drizzled with olive oil. Yes, I am now a full-fledged Pastaholic.

On another travel board, I had read trip reports by overwrought travelers who incongruously perceived that Italians were taking turns laughing and mocking them as they strolled the streets of Rome and other Italian environs. For those traveling to Italy in the future, let me first allay those misguided fears. Although given ample opportunity to do so, Italian citizens neither laughed at nor mocked us throughout our three-week stay (at least to our faces).

Tracy and I traveled with another couple (Kim and Mary) that we have known for years, and, I am happy to report, the four of us remain on speaking terms today. We hooked up with another couple (Dan and Linda) for a night in Florence and the last three days in Rome. Between the six of us, we took 1,500 pictures (more if you count Dan’s camera, now resting comfortably at the bottom of a Venice canal).

Following are the facts and nothing but the facts. The story you are about to read is true. No names have been changed, because no one is innocent. This is “Italy Uncensored.”

For those who hate airline stories, this is your chance to skip to Day Three, although if you have never flown first class or had to spend 12 hours in two airports, you might enjoy this part. Confusing? Yes. Much like our flight plan to get to Rome.

Tracy and I had converted most of our frequent flyer miles to go first class (once before I die, I thought). Because you are at the airlines’ mercy when it comes to FF awards, we were booked to go L.A. to N.Y, N.Y to London (six hour layover at Heathrow) and finally (mercifully) London to Rome. Basically, the only thing slower than our trip to Rome would be FEMA’s response to a disaster.

Upon checking in about two hours before our Thursday, 1:15 p.m. flight to New York, Tracy and I decided to take advantage of the American Airlines Admiral’s Club (I never met a free drink I didn’t like). Upon entering the lounge we were greeted with, “You must be Mr. and Mrs. Your Flight Is In Peril But You Don’t Know It Yet” (not our real last names).

At first we thought, “How nice. They know our names.” Then came word that bad weather in the east had caused a four-hour delay in our flight to New York, meaning we would miss our connection to London. Not to worry, they said, and they re-booked us on a 6 p.m. L.A. – London non-stop. We’d already dropped off the cats and taken the limo (OK, it was a Lincoln Town Car) to the airport, so we were not going to spend a fortune to go back home and come back again. This was one time we wished we had some unemployed friends who could come and pick us up at the airport and play for a few hours.

The American Airlines’ people were terrific from the start. They notified us that our luggage had been found and rerouted to our new flight and told us to relax in the lounge. Granted, six hours in a lounge is a lot of relaxing (even for me), but we made the best of the situation. A few drinks and a few hundred peanuts later, we boarded our flight to London.

First Class Baby! It is the only way to travel. When we boarded, I inadvertently turned to the right toward my usual seat in the bowels of coach Hell, but the flight attendant, realizing my error, quickly turned me to the left toward first class, and there before us lay a world I did not know existed.

Nobody reclines their seat into your knees while your legs lose all feeling twenty minutes into the flight. There is champagne when you board and free-flowing French wine served while awaiting dinner (hey, a few hundred peanuts can make a man thirsty).

Our movies were brought to us on a silver tray (if only the movies had warranted such an intro). The seats reclined all the way to form a sleeper bed. I stood, turned around and gazed toward the rear of the plane at the sad, pathetic faces of cramped, uncomfortable passengers and could only think, “Oh, the humanity!”

Dinner consisted of smoked salmon with crème fraiche, onions and capers and a salad laced with baby lobster tail. The meal was topped-off by a delicious steak (I could have opted for a sundae, but I was afraid the plane might be overweight if I indulged any more).

Tracy and I stretched out for about five hours only to be awakened by the smell of breakfast; a very rich tasting cream-cheese, chive omelet with a side of filet mignon, coffee and juice. “I wonder how the other half lives?” I asked Tracy.

At Heathrow, reality hit us again as we took grasp of the understanding that a five-hour wait laid ahead before our flight to Rome on British Airways. Heathrow is huge, and a bus driver (who must have just received his learner’s permit that morning) made the trip from Terminal Three to Terminal One quite exciting by applying the brake and gas at unusual intervals. Plus, the guy was driving on the wrong side of the road (yeah, I know)!

The BA lounge offered a nice variety of finger sandwiches, cocktails (my first Campari of the trip), coffee, tea and soft drinks. It also had a number of computers to wile away the hours and showers to rejuvenate the spirit (Campari did the trick for me).

We arrived in Rome at 9:30 p.m. Friday night after a 2 hour and 15 minute flight from London (nothing special) and walked to the Rome Airport Hilton, where we would spend the first night, awaiting our friends’ arrival from San Diego the following morning.

If you enjoy a good sauna, the walkway between the airport and the Hilton reminded me of one, except that nobody was naked. The weight we gained on the plane was quickly shed during the five to ten minute walk to the hotel.

It had been told to me that the Rome Airport Hilton was overpriced. Well, maybe it was (210 Euros a night), but the shower and late dinner of ricotta and basil ravioli with julienne zucchini hit the spot perfectly (the two martinis didn’t hurt either). For a couple of weary travelers, the room was just fine. We hit the pillow by midnight and were asleep in a matter of seconds.

That was a good thing, because I had a wake-up call for eight so I could pick up the soon-to-be infamous rental car, meet our friends and head off to Umbria. The adventure was now officially under way.

Next: Things Go Better With Spello, Reversal Of Misfortune and I Didn't Know You Could Speak Yiddish!

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Contest Winner 2006

Trip Report Pages

Days One and Two - Are We There Yet, Which Way To First Class and Is This The Airport Sauna?

Day Three – Things Go Better With Spello

Day Four – It’s All Uphill From Here and Does White Wine Go With Mass?

Day Five – Don’t Be Assisi, 47-Minute Perugian Tour and The Parking

Day Six – The Bucket Of Bolts, The Gubbio Lunatic and Death Of A Rental Car

Day Seven – Pecorino Is My Life

Day Eight – The Five Best Hill Towns That People Do Not Visit

Day Nine – It’s Brunello Time and Abbey Lane

Day Ten – That’s The Ticket and “Man, Am I Glad I’m Not That Driver!

Day Eleven – An Amazing Find In The Hills Of Chianti and Saint A Head

Day Twelve – Lunch For The Ages & The Great Danes Meet Tom’s Tuscan Tours

Lucky Day Thirteen – Why Do Men Have Nipples and Wearing Costumes In Chianti

Day Fourteen – An Early Wine Break In Greve and The Hostess From Hell

Day Fifteen - Lean To The Left, Lean To The Right and No Chicken Sandwiches

Day Sixteen – Galileo Gives Kim and Mary The Finger and Racing For The Sunset

Day Seventeen – Four Seasons Without Frankie Valli/I’m Not Wild About Harry’s

Day Eighteen - Singing Gondolier That Doesn’t Include A Gondola Or A Guy Singing

Day Nineteen - The Tiny Ship Was Tossed and Singing In The Rain

Day Twenty – Strangers On A Train and The Lovely Sherpa

Day Twenty One – Tom’s Tours Hits A Snag

Day Twenty Two - Under/Above St. Peter’s and Linda Buys A Ristorante

Day Twenty Three – Homeward Bound and Is The Pilot Baking Cookies?

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