Thursday, November 13, 2008

We arrive in Rome

My husband Bill and I have just returned from a three week journey to Italy. During that time, we traveled through Rome, the Amalfi Coast, the Italian Riviera, the Italian Alps, Tuscany and Umbria. We met with 24 of my deceased husband Vittorio’s family members and network of friends, got hopelessly lost, made innumerable mistakes, encountered several unexpected acts of kindness, ate incredible meals, and everywhere were surrounded with scenes of great historic and artistic resonance and of unutterable beauty.

Our first four days were spent in Rome in an adorable apartment (Casa di Stella on Via Mario Fiori) only a block away from the famed Spanish Steps. From there it was an easy jaunt to most of the important sites in the city, and the Metro and bus lines were nearby for longer trips within and without the city.

We encountered our first challenge at the luggage pick up. We could not rent a luggage dolly which cost 50 centavos because our lowest denomination euro was € 100 bill. Lesson number one: always bring smaller euro bills and coinage with you. Because we could not rent a dolly, Bill tried to piggyback our other bags onto his new oversized bag which handle promptly cracked off. Lesson number two: do not plan to piggy back more than one bag at a time.

I sought help at the information desk, which was, of course, empty. A passing janitor threw up his hands when I asked him if he had change. He went off muttering something about crazy Americans . . . and then surprised us with the first of the many kindnesses Bill and I would encounter on this trip. He paid for a dolly himself and brought it to us!

We took a shuttle to the apartment, a ride that should have taken 40-50 minutes but which actually took close to two hours because of other passengers requiring drop-off’s hither and yon. We were told the cost would be €45. With a tip, €50. Problem: the driver didn’t have €50 in change. Lesson number three: take a taxi. It costs around the same, you get there a lot faster, and the driver is more likely to have change. While we scrambled to find someone who could break our €100, the shuttle driver nervously pointed out that he was blocking other traffic from entering or exiting the narrow street below the apartment. The apartment owner, Carlo, helped us break the 100, then helped us haul our luggage up the three stories to the apartment. Hauling heavy luggage that far, even with the help of the owner, was not easy.

Finally settled, Bill and I walked to see the Spanish steps (down which Vittorio had ridden his bicycle as a kid) at night. Though October is not considered a busy season for tourists in Italy the steps were packed with people, some exceptionally boisterous youth singing loudly. One of the ubiquitous rose vendors found throughout Rome, handed me two roses for “amore,” expecting to be paid even though he insisted they were free.

We climbed the steps to the famed Trinita dei Monti, where 30 years earlier I’d stayed in an attached convent while Vittorio wrestled with the Vatican in trying to obtain a dispensation from the priesthood so we could marry. We passed the Hassler Hotel, and connected with Via Gregoriana, the street where Vittorio’s family had lived for over 100 years.

On a nearby side street we found a cute little restaurant Carole Case e’n Osteria where we sat at a small table outside on a platform above the sidewalk and ate bambollot all’amaticiana—a type of fat ridged pasta with a spicy roman sauce made with bacon, sipped a delicious glass of vino rosso della casa, and carried on a lively conversation with a woman from Norway who lives several months a year in Italy – all together a wonderful introduction to the days to follow.

11 comments: said...

I am so happy for you! You're getting to see the world. You are such an inspiration.
By the way, two weeks ago I finally got an agent for my novel. Still have a lot of work ahead on it--he asked for tweaks--but at least I'm on my way. Have a great time on your trip.
Tom Hunter

Julie said...

Sounds wonderful Beryl. Happy Birthday,

Iryna said...

I realy enjoy of reading your stories...they are very-very interesting!!!!

diana raabe said...

Your lovely writing leaves me just a bit melancholy. It is hard to believe that it has been over four years ago since I was in Rome myself - walking up those same steps. What a wonderful place to stay!

Small change and light suitcases - always! Do you speak any Italian, Beryl? Even a little bit helps you a lot - and may endear you to locals, although I doubt you and Bill need any help in that area.


Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

Actually, it was my limited but hopeful Italian that served us best in Italy. So few people speak English that I had plenty of opportunity to "endear" myself.:-)

Christin Lore Weber said...

I'm looking forward to ALL the stories, Beryl. And now I'm glad to know you are back on the shores of the great lake, finding words for your travels. You're so skilled at this blogging thing -- inserting photos, links, etc. Must learn better how to do this.


NorthCountryGal said...

Hi Beryl: I am enjoying your site very much. Thanks for linking to my website and leaving such a gracious comment. I look forward to keeping up with your adventures and will link your site on my home page. Good wishes to you, Judy

rosana rossi said...

Hi Beryl! It was great to hear from you again! I loved reading your comments about your trip; each line of yours sent me back to that wonderful land.... I´ll be looking forward to getting more and more stories!
Rosana (the Argentinian guest at La maison de Titty)

rosana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Clare Stella said...

Beryl, I am going to enjoy your blog notes about your trip to Italy. I was very pleased to read that you were staying at the Casa de Stella since Stella (Italian for star) is my last name. I will be interested in reading about the emotional impact of this visit. Thanks as always for your wonderful writing. Clare Stella

claire said...

hello, to those who will want to follow your steps to Rome i suggest to look into vacation rentals in rome where you can choose from a selection of hotel rooms and apartments for any budget...ciao