Diary – Trip to Italy – September 4-25, 2007
Got up at 3:00am. Town car arrived promptly at 4:30. We zipped through check in and
the VIP security line at SeaTac. Got lattés at Starbucks, hung out in the Crown Room
and headed for New York. Departure was delayed by 30 minutes from scheduled 7:00am
due to mechanical problems. First class on the 757 was good, with personal
entertainment centers and choice of movies. Watched Ocean’s Thirteen and studied
Italian, Danaé read and listened to books.
Got to New York JFK 30 minutes late. Found gate and Business Elite lounge and then it
was time to board. We were on the plane for two hours before it took off, first sitting at
the gate, then after rollback from the gate sitting on the apron, then waiting in line for
take off, with takeoff around 6:00pm (scheduled 4:50pm). First class on the 767 had
roomy sleeper seats and older-tech personal entertainment centers. Good service, lots of
food, watched Shreck Three, studied Italian, and then tried to sleep. Danaé kept busy
with her books and also got some sleep but I got very little sleep.
Arrived Rome Fiumincino airport (FCO) at 7:50am, not too late from scheduled 7:30am
arrival. Had a short wait in passport control, then waited for bags. As we arrived at the
carousel we saw Danaé’s two bags on the belt. Mine would be right out, of course, since
they also had the Delta priority tag. But no, my bags were a no show along with several
other folks from business class. After about a half hour of waiting I got in line with the
baggage service, which took another half hour. They reported that my bags were still in
New York and I’d have them the next afternoon. At least they knew where my bags
were. I gave them Pisetta’s address and phone, not thinking clearly that Pisetta’s phone
is disconnected due to construction at Pisetta’s house (Pisetta is my friend from beach
club days back in NJ – she speaks fluent Italian). They gave me forms to use to contact
them. There were no customs to deal with, we just exited baggage claim into the
We wound our way through the maze of tunnels, following signs for rental cars, and
eventually found Hertz. It would have been a struggle with all four bags, but we would
have probably gotten a luggage cart. My name was posted on the Hertz gold board so we
went right to the car, loaded up, and we were off. All this took lots of time and it was
11:00am before we left the parking garage. Once out of the airport I powered up the GPS
and we headed for Viterbo. The weather was good, but windy and cool. Our car is Ford
Focus CDI (diesel) 5-speed. It is easy to drive and has good power.
After leaving via the airport freeway we got on the A12 heading northwest along the
coast. After about 15km and a €1.70 toll we left the A12, following the GPS route on
back roads. It was slow due to traffic but pretty simple. The route took us past
Bracciano, where Tom Cruise got married. We navigated to Pisetta’s house, arriving
Pisetta’s house dates from the 1500’s, and has been in her family for generations. The
Castagnola family has a title, making Pisetta, the last offspring, a Marchesa (if I have the
Italian spelling correct). Most of the estate is owned by her very elderly aunt, who also
owns two-thirds of the house. Pisetta is remodeling the third of the house that her father
left to her, which consists of a kitchen, dining room, living room, and entrance foyer
downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. Her aunt’s side of the house has a separate
The hope was that Pisetta’s remodeling project would be finished, but it has a ways to go.
We’ll see if Pisetta can move in before we leave Italy. Pisetta booked us a room at Al
Solo Pinario (The Solitary Pine), and hotel, bar (more like a Starbucks), and restaurant.
We got Danaé’s bags up to our room, which has a bed, armoire, desk, and chair, with a
private bath and shower. It is certainly more than adequate, and the innkeeper Roberto is
very gracious. He speaks very limited English to match our very limited Italian.
Then we went to Pisetta’s friend’s town house, where Pisetta is living during the
remodeling. Rita and Alfonso, who is a retired Carabinieri, are employed by Pisetta to be
her housekeeper and handyman, but they are also friends who look after Pisetta and
protect her. Alfonso’s family has worked for Pisetta’s family for several generations.
They have two adult sons, Felice and Daniele, who live at home. Felice works at a
furniture factory within walking distance of their home, while Daniele is in the military
and will soon began training to work in law enforcement. Rita fixed a huge lunch as she
does every day. I thought we were done after the pasta, but it was followed by meat,
vegetables, and salad. They don’t speak English, but Pisetta translates and Danaé and I
understand some of what it said without translation.
I started to nod off, so we headed back to the hotel and were both asleep by 4:00pm,
which was 29 hours after we got up yesterday morning. I woke up around 8:00pm and
was awake until almost midnight. Then we both slept until 4:30am.
We waited until around 7:00 to get up, not wanting to disturb other guests as the sound
carries and you hear everything going on. We went down to the bar and had our
breakfast, which is cappuccino, orange juice from a bottle, and fresh pastries. We had
Pisetta’s cell phone and called her, so she drove over to the hotel and joined us for
breakfast. The hotel is less than 2km from Rita and Alfonso’s house, and then it is only
another 3km to Pisetta’s house.
The hotel is actually in Cura di Vetralla, a separate entity from Vetralla itself, but they
run together. The main street is Via Cassia, which is the highway from Rome, and
continues north to Viterbo and beyond. There is lots of traffic, and Italians drive with
great gusto and impatience.
Eventually we went back to Rita and Alfonso’s house. It is a two story, three bedroom
town house, with a basement that would be a garage except that everyone uses the space
as a living area, and theirs is the second kitchen. Apparently they never use the upstairs
kitchen, although it is beautiful. The basement kitchen is cooler, so that is where they
stay. It has a big table, a couple of sofas, a big TV, and it is where they spend their time.
Their house is spotless and the rooms upstairs are beautifully furnished and decorated,
but apparently not used much. They also have two great dogs. Osche (Oscar) is
enormous, like a small horse, but Danaé quickly won him over since he likes to play and
wrestle. Lica is small and cute, and very affectionate and friendly.
We started what seemed like an endless string on phone calls trying to find my luggage.
The baggage service company provided two phone numbers, both of which rarely
answered, and when they did it just said to leave a message, which I did but they never
called back. One other number provided some encouragement, stating that my bags had
been found, but didn’t say where they were. One time we got through to a real person,
who gave us the name and number of the courier delivery company. We called them and
they didn’t have my bags. This went on all day and included a call to Delta in the US,
where I spoke to someone in India who provided no help at all. Today was the third day
in the same clothes, not a pretty sight.
Finally giving up on baggage hunting we drove into Vetralla and walked around in a
park. It felt good to get some air, although today was much cooler and it even rained
some. Rita fixed another huge lunch, which is eaten between 1:00pm and 2:00pm. The
evening meal is lunch leftovers plus more good things, and it happens around 8:30pm.
Alfonso gave me a cell phone he wasn’t using (he didn’t like it), so I went to a bar (these
things are multipurpose) and was able to add€20.00 credit to the phone (all air time is
prepaid). So, now I’m in Italy with my own cell phone.
Back at the hotel Danaé slept well and I went right to sleep also, but had a couple of
hours of being awake between 4:00am and 6:00am. However, I got back to sleep and
Danaé had to wake me up at 9:00am.
The day started by my putting on my only outfit, for the fourth day in a row. I either
have to get my bags or buy some more clothes. After another pleasant breakfast in the
bar, followed by more fruitless phone calls to the baggage service, we made the executive
decision to go back to the airport to hunt for my bags. The GPS guided us on a slightly
different route from Bracciano to A12, and it was great with no traffic. It was a country
road winding through farms and fields, very pleasant. It was a nice day too, bright and
After parking the car in the short term garage we headed for the terminal. The guy at the
Delta desk was most helpful in explaining how to get to the baggage lost and found,
which involves entering the baggage area by going through the customs exit.
Fortunately, the guard understood the problem which is apparently not all that unique. I
located the baggage service lost and found and they quickly produced my bags. Yea!
They had tried to call the number I gave them for Pisetta’s house, but of course there was
no answer. I mentioned I couldn’t reach them by calling the numbers on their form and I
got a “I know, whaddayagonnado” look and shrug.
After paying€4.50 for two hours of short term parking, we headed back toward Vetralla.
We stopped and bought lunch at a Super Mercato (bypassing the McDonalds next door)
and ate in the car, retracing our new route through the farm land. This time I missed a
turn and let the GPS guide us on a shortcut down narrow dirt roads through nut orchards,
and we finally got back onto the Cassia.
We had time before dinner to drive to Viterbo, about 20km, and walk through the
medieval walled town. It was really amazing, with narrow streets, cobble stones, big
arches, and many shops. It is really a different life from anything in the US. Alfonso
guided me back to Cura using back roads, which would have been great in daylight but in
the dark it was a little hairy. However, he later told Pisetta I was a good driver.
After another great meal and watching The Simpsons dubbed in Italian we headed back
to the hotel. I had another two hours of wake time during the night but still got some
It was another 9:00am start to the day, and after showers and breakfast it was almost
11:00. We could get used to this cappuccino/pastry routine. Apparently the breakfast is
included with the hotel room, as many drinks and pastries as we’d like. There are 30
rooms in the hotel, but only a handful of guests. I have no idea what this is going to cost
us, but I think it is around€70.00 per night. We’ll see. We never actually registered or
showed a credit card. It guess that it helps that the Castagnolas go way back in Vetralla –
Roberto must not be worried about getting paid for the room. Pisetta was really great in
lining this up for us.
Next we took a walk into Vetralla. This weekend is the big, annual, mushroom festival.
We walked through a street fair market and into the church, and then were back at Rita
and Alfonso’s in time for lunch – you better not be late for lunch. We were stuffed again.
We then watched on TV as Italy’s rugby team got trounced by the All Blacks from New
Zealand in the Rugby World Cup.
Pisetta’s cousin, Giovanni, is having a party tonight, so we drove back to the hotel and
got out our best clothes and Rita ironed them. We also stopped at Pisetta’s house to
check on the construction progress, which is moving along. I took some “before”
pictures and I will hopefully have some “after” pictures as well.
Back at Rita and Alphonso’s, Danaé started feeling bad. We talk a walk through the
woods hoping the air would help and then came back to the hotel to rest a little, but
Danaé was still feeling bad so we called Pisetta to cancel on Giovanni’s party. He is the
rich cousin and lives in a mansion – it would have been interesting. Danaé slept a little
and by 9:00pm was feeling better. It was too late for dinner by then but we weren’t that
hungry anyway and just ate some granola bars Danaé had packed from Seattle.
I slept in again, past 8:00, after another spell of being awake, this time from 3:00am to
5:00am. We awoke to another beautiful day, bright sunshine, no clouds. We’ve taken to
reading the newspapers at the bar during breakfast, and we can understand just a little of
what is going on. The sports section is very full of information, and since today is the
Formula One race in Monza there are many articles.
Pisetta wasn’t feeling well – we didn’t ask about last night’s party. Daniele is going into
the hospital today in preparation for back surgery tomorrow, so we didn’t go over to Rita
and Alfonso’s house. Instead we headed out looking for Etruscan ruins. After an
interesting, but wrong road, we finally found the ruins of Norchia, around 20km from
Vetralla. They date from 400 – 200 BC and are located in a canyon, which contains the
remains of many ornate tombs. It was a scramble down to the bottom of the canyon, and
we ducked into a couple of tombs on the descent. There is not much to see inside of
them, but it is remarkable they were carved out of a rock cliff. We walked along the
valley floor and ran into a Romanian shepherd and his flock of sheep. He told us he
didn’t speak Italian. It was warm in the canyon in the sun, but there was a cooling breeze
in the shade. Danaé had wisely suggested we pack in some water. We walked the length
of the canyon, and then climbed up the other side where there are ruins from 1200 AD of
a cathedral and monastery, which was impressive for the curved walls and arches still
intact. We headed back down into the canyon and up the other side, back to our car.
Since we never had lunch and it was past 2:00pm, we drove south toward Tarquinia. At
the town of Monte Romano there were several gelaterias open for business, so we had ice
cream for lunch. Yum. We headed back to a hotel and took a shortcut as per the GPS
which led us through a small village before we reached Cura and the hotel. Danaé had a
glass of wine from the bar and I had a Coke Zero – great for me to have something cold
to drink. We spent the time plotting a trip to Puglia, in southeast Italy, which will have
us gone from Vetralla for three nights. Maybe we’ll leave on Tuesday morning.
We killed some time by taking a nap, then went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant for
dinner, which is from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. We got there at 7:40 and were the only
customers all night. Although we weren’t quite sure what we ordered after the ravioli
first plate, it turned out that Danaé had veal hunks with gravy and potatoes and I had
steak with cheese sauce. Both were excellent. Gotta love the prices for wine – a quartino
(small carafe) held about one large glass of wine. It was only€2.00.
Tomorrow we hope to wash our clothes, either at Rita’s or at a Lavanderia.
Slept well, best night’s sleep yet. We got up earlier, with another nice day out the
window, closer to 8:00am, with hopes of having breakfast and doing our laundry. But,
although Roberto knew where there was Lavanderia, it was closed on Monday. So, plan
B. We called Pisetta and she and Roberto were on their way to the office where Pisetta
would get her residency papers, and Rita was at the hospital awaiting Daniele’s surgery.
We headed out on a road trip to Montepulciano, about a two hours’ drive north. Several
folks had recommended going there. Just to make things interesting we took the old
road, rather than driving up the Autostrada. It was slow going, through some small
towns, but the traffic was fairly light. Close to Montepulciano, a directional sign pointed
us to a shortcut that even the GPS didn’t suggest. It was a dirt, mountain road, but we
took it nonetheless and had some great scenery. We were starved by the time we got
close, and stopped for lunch at a winery/restaurant outside of town. It wasn’t cheap but it
Montepulciano is one of a zillion hill towns in Italy. It is literally built on top of a high
hill, and was a walled city. The duomo (cathedral) was built in the 1400-1500 AD time
frame, it wasn’t too ornate but very interesting. There are lots of tiny streets and alleys,
and to me it was amazing that cars can navigate at all inside the walled city, but they do.
It is really geared towards tourists, so we felt right at home. We could hear and see
thunder clouds, and for a while it rained and we took cover in an alley with another
couple who were speaking French. After about two hours we found our car, which we
left in a parking garage, and headed back down the hill.
Since we still had some daylight left for exploring we headed east and south towards the
autostrada, and towards Orvieto. It was an easy drive, and once off the highway we
drove up to the top of the hill where Orvieto is situated, arriving at 5:00pm. Problem –
how to pay for public parking if you don’t have change for the parking permit machine?
Danaé had the solution – go to the bar across the street and buy something cheap and pay
Orvieto is even older than Montepulciano, having been built in the 900-1200 AD time
frame, and it is built on top of Etruscan ruins which date back to 1000 BC. The duomo
was built in the 1200’s AD and is spectacular both inside and out. Outside the sides have
rows of dark and light stone, so it is striped. The front is very ornate and there are two
towers on the front. Inside there is a very high dome, lots of arches, lots of frescos
although some have deteriorated. We wandered around the city and thought it was so
great that we’ll come back for a full day of exploring, especially to see the Etruscan ruins.
The GPS plotted our drive back up over the hills towards Viterbo, rather than take the
autostrada. It worked fine, and once we climbed up out of the valley we could make a
decent pace of 80 kph. We were getting hungry so in Viterbo we lucked into finding E.
LeClerc, which is like a Super Target, department store and grocery. After getting help
1.00 coin but you get it back when you
liberating a grocery cart from the rack – it takes a€
return the cart – we bought groceries and enough food to make a dinner. It was 9:00pm
when we got back to the hotel in Vetralla, so it made for a long but fruitful and pleasant
Thinking about home this morning – Undici Nove or 11/9 as they call it in Italy – and
kind of glad to be so far away from worldly problems. We slept in again, had breakfast,
and since we knew Pisetta was busy with going to the hospital we set out to get our
Roberto was right about the lavanderia being open today, but it was actually a dry
cleaners. They said to go to Viterbo. Not be deterred, I mistakenly thought there might
something closer to the south, but there wasn’t. So, after stopping back at the hotel we
headed to Viterbo. Danaé noticed the sign for the tourist office, and they told her about a
lavanderia just around the corner. We found it, but our clothes wouldn’t be ready until
Monday. However, we asked the clerk where there was a lavanderia automaticca, and he
knew of one and showed us on the map. It was halfway around the city, and after giving
up on a hopeless traffic jam where we were, I turned around and we made our way in the
reverse direction. After several wrong turns and false starts, and nearly mowing down a
Vespa, we found it! Self-service laundry, even had English signage, and best of all there
was a pleasant Filipino priest in there doing his wash. His English was excellent, and he
helped us understand how to use the washers and dryers. Like most things new, the
second time will be easy. Now we had clean, dry clothes and we’re good for another
We stopped at a supermarket near the tourist office because we knew a) they had a
bathroom and b) they sold pizza. So, that was lunch, easy enough. Back at the hotel we
hung up a couple of items that weren’t quite dry after leaving the lavanderia automaticca.
Since it was another bright, sunny, pleasant day, they finished drying quickly. Although I
had added some more Euros to the cell phone I couldn’t tell how many minutes were left.
Our kind innkeeper Roberta listened and wrote down the total for me, turns out there is
lots of time left. Maybe we’ll call home at some point.
With some time to kill we headed for Blera, just 8km away, where there were more
Etruscan necropoli (tombs). The route took us past the new part of town with beautiful,
large, new homes and into the old town. Blera is also built on top of a hill, and the old
town clings to the top of a cliff. The necropoli are at the bottom of the cliff. We drove
through the narrow, tiny streets of the old town following tourist signs, which eventually
led us down a steep, narrow, twisting alley to the bottom of the cliff. From there we
could see many tombs in the cliff wall. A short walk away led us to an amazing chamber,
carved out of stone, maybe 30 feet deep into the rock, with hundreds of cubbyholes
where cremated Roman remains were placed. Dumb us, with no flashlight, had to rely on
the camera’s flash to actually see details inside. There is also an old Etruscan road,
excavated out of solid rock, and we wedged past the gate and the do not enter sign to
walk up the road partway. The rock sides had collapsed in places, but there were many
rooms carved from rock as tombs along with other carvings on the walls of the road.
From the bottom of the cliff we called Pisetta on the cell phone. Daniele’s surgery was
successful, and Pisetta, who was at Rita and Alfonso’s house, was making pasta to take to
the hospital. The latest word on her house is that it won’t be ready for another week and
a half, plus she has to go back to NJ in two weeks on a family matter. It looks like we
may not get to spend a night at her house on this trip.
Back in Cura we looked for a restaurant but could only find a couple of pizza places with
tables. However, there was a sign at the piazza pointing to a restaurant 3km out of town.
We drove out there and found the staff waiting for their first customer – we weren’t even
sure they were aperto (open) but they were. The dinner we ordered was very tasty, and
much less expensive than the hotel restaurant. The whole time we were there only one
other table was occupied, by three guys. The TV was going and one of the guys turned
on Walker, Texas Ranger. Guess what, Walker speaks Italian.
Back at the hotel we told Roberto we would be checking out in the morning. Only thing
left to do is pack all our nice, fresh, clean, clothes.
It dawned another nice day and we both had a good sleep. After finishing our packing we
had our last breakfast at Al Pino Solitario and enjoyed pretending to read the Italian
language newspapers. The people watching is fun too. We checked out with no surprises
– tax is included in the price for the room, dinner, etc. Our room was€60.00 per night.
We began our trip with a full tank of gasole (diesel). The trip computer says we have a
range of over 600 miles per tank – that is amazing. We are averaging well over 50mpg,
even with all our driving up and down hills.
Our route to Puglia took us toward Roma, and once on the outskirts we took our ticket
from the machine and entered the autostrada. One ticket works until you exit the
autostrada, and we wound up on four – A1 to A30 to A16 to A14. We stopped at a
service area – reminds me of the service areas on the NJ Turnpike, you don’t exit the
highway to get gas and food – and successfully purchased lunch. First you decide what
kind of sandwich you want, then you get your drinks and whatever from the racks and
coolers, then you pay. Next you give your receipt to the sandwich guy who warms up the
sandwich on the hot plate. Good system.
Our route took us over the mountains running through the center of Italy. Scenery was
good to great most of the way, many nice vista. It was windy in the mountains and we
saw several wind farms. The autostrada is in good condition, but there is no shoulder for
the left lane, just a guardrail. Takes some getting use to. Danaé found in the guide book
that the speed limit is 130 kph, around 80 mph. You’d better stay right, however, as the
fast cars come bombing through the left lane. Many at way over 100 mph. Yet, there are
some folks poking along in the slow lane going way, way under the speed limit, like 50
mph. It all works.
In the flat lands, it is obvious that the autostrada cut through existing farms. To allow
access to both sides of the roads, bridges are built every kilometer or so. It must have
been expensive to add all those extra bridges to the cost of building the highway.
We had no trouble reaching our exit for the beach town of Trani, and it was a short 6km
drive into town. We didn’t have a hotel reservation, and the guide books listed two of
them. We found one, but it was right in the middle of the busy town. While looking for
the tourist office we drove around the harbor, kind of like Harbor Town on Hilton Head
Island, only surrounded by buildings that are hundreds of years old. Eventually we got
back on track and the GPS told us of a hotel not in the guide book, but there were some
information signs pointing to it. After making enough turns we wound up just off beach
front at the Riviera. The innkeeper gave us the key to check out the room, it was okay, so
we checked in for two nights. We have a balcony with a view of the water. Most of the
buildings around us appear to be condos, many shut up for the season.
Trani looks like a happening beach town, but summer is over. The weather is nice,
around 70 degrees, but the wind is whipping down the coast. After being in the car all
day we went for a walk along the beach back into town. Most of the bars, restaurants,
and clubs are closed for the season, but a few are still open. Amazingly there is a super
market right on the beach road, so on the way back Danaé bought a bottle of
Montepulciano D’Abruzzo red wine, which costs a whopping €1.49 (around $2.10).
Later we drove back to one of the restaurants we saw open and had pizza for dinner. The
owner’s daughter was watching a video on her laptop so I asked the owner about an
internet café. He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, but eventually we
communicated enough that his daughter wrote down the address for me. The GPS says it
is within walking distance so I’ll try that in the morning. I called Lynne back in
Tennessee to say hi briefly – don’t want to chew up all my Euros of credit in the cell
We got up early enough to make breakfast at the Riviera. It was almost like a continental
breakfast at an American hotel, with yogurt, juice, pastries. Oh, and cappuccini from the
bar. Missing was the bin of rice krispies.
Next up, finding Via Bachelet and the internet café. It wasn’t too hard, the GPS got us
pretty close. Given the traffic we decided to hoof it about nine blocks, so we even got a
little exercise. Sure enough, there was the internet spot, not a café, just an office with
terminals. I was able to download e-mail to my laptop for the first time since we left
Seattle, and was able to respond to a couple of e-mails and listen to a Vonage voice mail.
Total cost was only€2.00.
Back at the hotel we prepared for another day of visiting old Italian towns and headed
out. First stop was Altamura, where Danaé’s father was born. The drive took as past lots
of olive orchards and vineyards and huge bunches of grapes hanging from the vines. As
we headed into town, we saw a building under construction with a banner for the Patella
construction company – obviously there are still some Patellas in Altamura. Then we
saw a poster for a religious ceremony to be conducted by Mons. Cornachia, the family
name of Danaé’s grandmother. Later we wandered into a public building and there was a
list of school class rosters, about a dozen classes, with several Patellas and Cornachias
listed. Altamura was noisy and crowed, except inside the old walled city where it was
interesting and quiet. We walked around, down alleys, around corners, just being
tourists. We saw a restaurant open and had lunch, not bad and not too expensive, and the
bottle of acqua minerale frizzante was actually cold.
From Altamura we pointed the rental car towards Matera, about 50km away. The city
was easy to find, but we were looking for the old “stone” city Sassi, and made several
wrong turns before finding it. What an amazing place, the old city is literally carved into
the rock hillside. There were thousands of homes at one time, but all living in the past.
After getting most residents to move out, reconstruction began and now some of the
homes are modern inside. Sassi includes hotels, B&Bs, shops, etc, all fitting inside of
structures carved out of the rock and/or clinging to the rock walls. We went inside a
church that was literally a cave. It was so fascinating that we lost the car for a while, but
eventually we regained our orientation and found it. It was a good work out hiking up
and down all the steps of the ancient city.
We had one more stop to make, at Alberobello, home of a type of home construction
called Trullis, that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. The homes are round stone
buildings with stone, domed roofs that look like stone teepees. Near town we started
seeing some Trullis, and in town there is an ancient city of Trullis, several hundred
packed in tightly connected by narrow walkways. Since it was getting late we had dinner
at a restaurant in a Trulli.
After dinner it was dark and getting back to the Autostrada for the fast way home meant
driving about 30km on dark, narrow, country roads. The Autostrada looked real good
when we finally got there. Amazingly, despite it being dark there were still many cars
going 100+ mph, flying by in the left lane. Their eyesight must be a lot better than mine.
After another good night’s sleep, another good breakfast at the Riviera, we packed up and
checked out. It was another nice day, filtered clouds, and hot warm. Since we really
hadn’t explored Trani, we did that on our way out of town. There is an old city with
narrow streets and, of course, a cathedral. We got a few pictures and hopped back in the
car, next stop Barletta.
We drove up the coast and arrived at a very modern city, with factories, hotels, and
shops. But, we eventually made it to the old city. There is an enormous castle that looks
like a fort. It is acres big, just huge. The old city has several cathedrals, the main one is
very plain on the outside but very ornate on the inside. Although we checked out many
side streets and piazzas, we never did find the old bronze Greek statue in the guidebook.
Our goal for the day was to go back across Italy to the west coast. The GPS had us take
the autostrada for about 60km, then we headed south through some very windy and curvy
mountain roads, up and over the mountains. Other than needing patience getting around
some slow trucks, it was an interesting drive. Eventually we hooked up with an
autostrada heading toward Napoli, and then we turned south again to our destination of
The guide book suggested a hotel, and although we didn’t have the exact address the
signage led the way and we arrived at Hotel Ariston. From the outside it looked like a
palace compared to where we have been staying, a new, modern facility, much like a
Sheraton or Hilton in the US. Our room is enormous, with two beds, a fridge, a safe, and
a bathroom that is almost as large as our previous hotel room. Of course, all this comes
with a price to match.
There is a screwy security system whereby when you enter your room you have to put
your electronic key into a slot to make the electricity in the room come on. This explains
why the fridge is warm, it only works when you are in the room. And there isn’t much
light and one of the lamps doesn’t work. I asked one of the desk clerks to get it fixed,
and although she speaks limited English, she didn’t understand until I explained it in
We called Pisetta and found out the Daniele is back home, beginning his recuperation.
We’re hoping that Pisetta can join us on a day trip into Rome next week, but she is busy
with goings on at her house. She is hoping to get the electricity and water turned on
We tried to make dinner complicated but after an unsuccessful drive looking for a
restaurant we wound up just walking across and down the street from the hotel, in the
opposite direction from where we drove. Dinner was good and not too expensive. We
ate outside on the patio to enjoy the pleasant evening, but outside is also the smoking
area. Nonetheless, dinner was easy and that counts for a lot.
I slept well but Danaé didn’t get as much sleep as I did. By the time we got ready for
breakfast is was after 9:00am, and although breakfast runs until 10:00am the buffet was
looking kind of bare. But, there was enough left to fill us up, including my first bowl of
American cereal since we left home.
Paestum was just a 5 minute drive from the hotel. We parked in a city pay lot next to the
gate, walked in, and started exploring. Danaé bought a guide book that explained
everything. There are three enormous stone temples, built 600-500 BC, and are still
standing, mostly intact, although without their roofs which were probably wood. The
construction is carved limestone, and it is amazing to see these huge columns, all the
same size but not exactly the same. Much of the detail work is gone or worn away by
Paestum was a huge city, much of which still hasn’t been excavated. Besides the huge
temples, there are remains of a swimming pool, exercise area, theater, meeting place, and
amphitheater, which is only 1/3 excavated as the modern road, hotels, and restaurants are
built over the rest of it. I felt important sitting on a stone seat, part of a small round bowl,
that was used as a meeting place, knowing that 2500+ years ago someone else was sitting
After lunch at the local paninoteca (sandwich) bar we spent the afternoon going through
the museum. They have collected and categorized statues, tombs, pottery, and pieces of
buildings, both from the Greek era when the temples where built to the later Roman era
of 100 BC. One display that was amazing was a cache of 647 silver coins that were
discovered hidden in a vase in the stone ruins of a house. It would have been a fortune in
its day – the latest coin was from 12 BC – when a few coins would be the annual salary
for a working man. It was an interesting day, with little drive, but much time on our feet.
Our short trip back to the hotel was delayed by a trail ride going through the road. About
40 horses were out for a ride, with many riders looking like American cowboys. It was
certainly a surprise to see.
For dinner we went back to the restaurant across the street – Taverna Degli Artisti, or
Artist’s Tavern. It is good and not expensive. Tonight we both had pizza, I had a salad
too, and with Danaé’s wine and my acqua minerale it was only€15.00.
We both slept well and got up a little earlier today so we could have breakfast and get a
start on our day. It was yet another beautiful day, no clouds, not too warm, but a little
We were heading north on a day trip to Herculaneum, site of the present day city
Ercolano. Since the fuel gauge was showing less than half we decided to get some fuel,
but it was Sunday morning and no fuel stations were open. However, we saw a 24-hour
Agip station. The pay machine wouldn’t take our credit card, but we watched a customer
feed it some cash. I pulled up and did exactly what she did, including grabbing the green
nozzle for diesel – of course, that is the way it is in the US. It took my€10.00 bill and I
got roughly 2 gallons of – ahem – unleaded. But I didn’t realize it yet, so I fed it another
€10.00 bill and did the same t hing. Only then did I realize it, I had put unleaded gasoline
into our diesel fuel tank. Having no idea how bad this would be all I could think of was
to put in as much diesel as it would hold, which turned out to be another €10.00 worth.
Now the tank was full, with about 30-30% gasoline. Would the car run? Well it ran, and
pretty normally. I drove slow and easy just in case, but the car started and ran. Did we
just luck out? Not sure, yet…
In Ercolana we were easily directed to the ancient city of Herculaneum. The streets were
jammed with cars and the sidewalks were jammed with people, apparently Sunday
morning everyone is out. The pay lot was full so we drove around and lucked into a spot
on the street about six blocks from the gate to the ruins.
When Vesuvius erupted and wiped out Pompei, the mudflow covered Herculaneum with
about 40 feet of mud and dirt. It remained undiscovered until the 1700s and now less
than 25% of the ancient city has been excavated. This is a hard job since the current city
is built on top of the ancient city. The mudflow preserved the ancient city while killing
everyone in its path, but the result is walls, foundations, ceilings, artwork, frescos, etc, all
are preserved in some form. In some cases even old wooden beams remain. The mosaic
floors, marble work, and paintings are amazing. Some of the homes were very large and
ornate. The bathing facility even had cubbyholes that acted as a locker room. It is hard
to imagine the work that went into excavating the site. At the current edges of the
excavation you can see tunnels dug out where the ancient city continues, waiting to be
unearthed some day. It was truly remarkable to see these ruins.
The car started up and ran okay for the trip back to Paestum and our resort hotel. Since
we didn’t get to Pompei today – we were way too tired after 4+ hours walking around
Herculaneum – we’re planning to see Pompei tomorrow. That will mean another night’s
stay here in Paestum. The hotel said we could have the room another night. We had
dinner again at Taverna Degli Artisti, pizza and a salad for Danaé, ravioli, grilled
sausage, and salad for me.
Today was a day of mostly good, but ended on a sour note. We both slept okay and had
another breakfast in the hotel. Danaé is happy because they will fix her café con latté,
which means a large pitcher of coffee and a large pitcher of steamed milk. I am sticking
with my cappuccino.
We loaded up the car for our trip to Pompei and held our breath, would the car start? It
did and ran fine. On the way to Pompei I filled it up with diesel and seems to be none the
worse for the mixture of unleaded still in the tank. I guess we dodged the bullet with the
car. Danaé also had the good idea to get sandwiches for lunch, so that was taken care of
Pompei is right off of the autostrada and there were several pay lots. Rather than search
for a spot we entered a private lot, knowing it would be expensive -€10.00 – but it was
convenient and we figured the car would be safe there.
At the entrance to Pompei we rented audio sets so we would have a narrative of the
various ruins we would be seeing. That worked out real well although in some cases they
actually provided more information, too slowly, for my taste. We wandered around
Pompei for almost 5 hours. It is like Herculaneum, but more and grander, although some
things are not in as good condition. There are some very impressive structures in
Pompei, including two theaters and an large amphitheater that must have held 20,000
people, complete with tunnels under the seating area. It wasn’t much different from a
modern football stadium. We were glad we went to Herculaneum first, because there is
so much to see in Pompei and we could spend less time on things we had already seen the
At the end of the day we headed back to the car with tired legs and feet. The trip back to
Paestum was uneventful and that night we had dinner again at the same restaurant across
the street from the hotel. It was good, as were the other dinners, but at the end I was
visited by Caesar’s Revenge (Montezuma doesn’t do Italy). It probably wasn’t the
restaurant but either the sandwich or water earlier in the day. But, I wound up with fever,
night chills, and had a hard time getting any sleep.
Before we went to bed I got online and made hotel reservations at the Best Western in
Viterbo. We’re hoping to use Viterbo as a location to see some more hill towns, Etruscan
ruins, and make day trips into Rome.
Danaé was able to sleep but I didn’t get much rest and couldn’t face eating anything for
breakfast. We loaded up the car and checked out of the hotel, heading back to Viterbo.
Fortunately the drive was easy, on the autostrada almost the whole way. The car is
running fine, and I put in half a tank of diesel along the way. It was warm and sunny in
Paestum, but got cooler and cloudy as we approached Roma. For a while it rained very
hard, but after we drove through the clouds it was again a nice day but not as warm.
We found our hotel, Best Western Viterbo, with only a little bit of trouble. It is very nice
and modern, in a neighborhood near the university and surrounded by new apartments.
There was even a terry robe and slippers on each bed.
We both took naps as I was still feeling poorly. But, later we went out for dinner, driving
into the old walled city. There was a large, public pay parking lot, and from there we
walked to a street we thought had a restaurant from the guidebook. Turns out we ate at a
different restaurant, Tre Re (Three Kings) that supposedly has been there for 400 years. I
couldn’t eat much, but did manage a small plate of ravioli.
Back at the hotel I got to sleep early and actually slept well.
We both slept in this morning and I awoke feeling a little better, less aches and pains than
yesterday. After showers we headed downstairs for breakfast. There were many
different options, too bad I wasn’t hungry – maybe tomorrow. Their breakfast would
rival any I’ve seen at a US hotel with cereal, fruit, pastries, yogurt, juice, even
“American” coffee which Danaé said was awful. I had a little cappuccino, juice, and
pastry, but at least I could eat something.
Today had been planned as a day off. We needed to do laundry, and were are actually
within walking distance of the lavanderia automaticca. But, since we each had a week’s
worth of dirty laundry we drove. Fortune smiled on us and we lucked into a parking spot
close by, and the laundry was empty.
While Danaé stayed with the machines I walked to the train stations and tried to figure
out our options. Best as I could tell, the two stations, which are one block away, serve
completely different routes. One is an electric metro, which takes a circuitous and
lengthy route to Rome, almost three hours of time. The other has trains that go to various
places, including Rome, and after studying the schedules we figured out that there are
hourly trains in the morning that include stops at the St. Peters station in Rome.
Although the ticket guy didn’t speak English we bought tickets that are also good on the
busses and subways of Rome. At least I think that is what we bought. I guess we’ll find
Back at the hotel I called Pisetta and she said she would be at her house at 2:30, so we
planned to meet her there. The hotel brought up an iron and ironing board so Danaé was
able to press her now clean clothes.
Lunch was in the restaurant below the hotel. The way the hotel is laid out you don’t
realize there are shops below, as you park and enter the hotel on the ground floor.
Although it wasn’t a bargin, at least we both ate some pasta.
After lunch we headed for Vetralla to see the progress on Pisetta’s house. A lot has been
accomplished, including installing the plumbing fixtures and turning on the water.
However there is still no electricity due to a screw up by the painters that has resulted in
problems with the tile floors. So, now the painters are trying to fix that and the
electricians will come next week.
On the short drive back to Viterbo we ran into a rain shower but it didn’t last, although
the weather is cooler. Getting more familiar with the roads we navigated directly to the
hotel without a single wrong turn. Even the GPS gets confused with the route, which
includes a roundabout a block from the hotel that splits into three lanes – if you don’t get
into the middle lane you can’t get to the hotel.
Neither one of us felt too good so we both took a nap. Lunch was still sitting heavy so
we just stayed in our room and decided to forego dinner tonight. I got to watch a whole
soccer game of the Premier English League, Manchester United vs Everton – ManU won.
Then it was CNN international to catch up on OJs latest exploits. At least we have WiFi
in the hotel so I’ve got a decent internet connection.
I had trouble sleeping last night and awoke feeling tired. Caesar is still with me, so no
change now into the third day, this is getting old. After showers and breakfast at the
hotel we were ready for our trip to Rome.
Since it is so close we decided to walk to the station. Today is clear but very windy and
cooler. The trains run back and forth between Rome and Viterbo, and when they arrive
they head back the other way within 10 minutes. Our train was right on time arriving and
it left on time. The cars are two-level, so we sat upstairs and had our little 4-seat area to
ourselves the whole trip, although the 5-car train almost filled up by the time we got to
Rome. The route was through rolling countryside, through backyards, into tunnels, over
bridges. We could have seen much more if the windows hadn’t be very dirty both inside
and out. The local culture isn’t big on maintenance.
Some two hours after we leave Viterbo we pulled into St Peters station and hopped off. It
was a short walk down the hill to the Vatican City. We all have the media image of St
Peters square filled with worshipers, but you never get the feel for what is around it.
Well, it is just nondescript bustling Italian city. Hotels, shops, restaurants, etc, and lots of
cars and lots and lots of scooters.
Our goal was the Vatican Museum so once we got oriented we followed the signs and got
in line, which wound around outside the Vatican City wall. It took about 20 minutes to
get up to the front, at which point the guard stuck his hand in my chest and said “Alt” and
there we stood for five minutes waiting for something to happen. Don’t know what it
was, but after our five minutes of probation we were let in. We bought our tickets,€13.00
each, and headed up the long escalator.
The Vatican must be 8 or 10 stories high, some of it old, some of it newer. It was
crowded and made even more so my tour groups that would stop to listen to their guide
and completely fill up a narrow corridor. There was no sense of giving room or making
way for others. The technique, then, it to just barge right through them. Exhibits
included paintings, statuary, frescos, tapestries, artifacts, etc. It all runs together after a
while, but some stand outs included painted ceilings and frescos.
The goal at the end of the museum tour is the Sisteine Chapel. The signs kept pointing
the way, and what seems like 30 minutes later we were still following this maze through
yet another room of paintings, statues, or whatever. Finally we arrived at the goal and it
is pretty amazing. Michaelangelo painted the chapel, taking over four years just on the
ceiling. The detail is amazing and the colors are very bright. At the end of the chapel is a
huge painted wall, done 22 years later, that was also amazing. The rule is be quiet and no
pictures, something ignored by every next tour group that entered. There are seats along
the wall and eventually a couple came open so we just sat there and looked around.
Danaé knew a trick for exiting the Chapel. The normal exit takes you all the way back to
the museum entrance, outside the city wall. But, we just followed a tour group out a
reserved exit to avoid having to walk all the way back around the city.
Next stop was St Peter’s Basilica, again something we’ve all seen on TV with the Pope
holding a service. The Basilica is really amazing, very big and tall, lots of detail
everywhere you look. It was noisy and everyone was taking pictures, no effort at crowd
control in the Basilica.
On the way back to the train station we found a restaurant open – it was 4:30pm and
many restaurants are closed between 3:00pm and 7:30pm – and ordered lunch/dinner. It
was a great pasta dish, the best of the trip, and the acqua minerale was very cold.
Unfortunately, after a relatively easy day, Caesar sensed the food and made his return.
All we had left was a two-hours train ride in a jam packed car with no bathrooms and my
insides doing flip flops. The 5:26pm train didn’t arrive until 6:03pm, but it was the
express to Viterbo and only took 90 minutes. I was in agony most of the way, and our
car was full to capacity by the time we left Rome. Finally back in Viterbo we walked
back to the hotel, and it was past 8:00pm. We were both tired and not hungry so tonight
was a no dinner night.
The morning started with me being tired again after another night of poor sleep. My
buddy Caesar is still here, now day four, and I’m dehydrated and tired. So, no trip to
Rome today. Danaé has a five-day antibiotic therapy that her doctor gave her, just in
case, so I decided to start taking them in case I have a viral infection. After breakfast and
shower we plotted a day trip to nearby Tarquinia. We stopped in Monte Romano on the
way to check out their weekly market, which was more like a mobile K-Mart with many
small vans selling a wide variety of products – home products, food, clothes, hardware,
The area around Viterbo is thick with Etruscan ruins, and Tarquinia has many tombs that
have been unearthed and excavated. All the antiquities were either looted before
excavation or carted off to a museum, but the tombs themselves are interesting. Carved
out of solid rock and 10 feet or more underground, they are accessed by stairs built by the
historical society and securely covered with stone buildings and lockable steel doors.
Some 20 tombs are open now, with glass doors and lights, so although you can’t go into
the tombs you can see into them. Some of the decorative paintings are very elaborate and
well preserved, depicting various scenes from the family’s life. There was also a display
of urns or jars holding cremated remains of the peoples that preceded the Etruscans,
dating back 3000 years or more.
We drove into Tarquinia proper, found a place for lunch – I had fried potatoes that were
pretty good – and then walked to the museum. It is housed in a 500-year-old palazzo,
which itself is pretty impressive. The first floor was full of sarcophagi, stone tombs with
carved stone lids. Many are either painted to decoratively carved, and all over 2000 years
old. The second floor contained glass cases with artifacts, pottery, jewelry, and other
items taking from the tombs. My favorite display was gold coins, about the size of
nickels, minted from 400 BC to 100 BC. There were about 100 of them, many identical,
indicating a currency and a society that had a long life span.
On the way back we stopped to take a picture of this interesting stone Roman aqueduct
that went on in sections where needed, for several miles. The engineering behind such a
structure is really amazing. It was supported by beautiful stone arches, one after the
Back at the hotel we were both too tired to go out for dinner, so like yesterday we just
skipped it altogether. At least our room has a fridge and my mineral water and Danaé’s
white wine are cold.
Finally I got some sleep last night and felt much better this morning. Not sure if Caesar
has left the building, but I continued the antibiotics. I even ate a little more hotel
We wanted to get back to Orvieto after our brief visit many days ago, so we headed there
on a back road out of Viterbo. First we stopped at an ancient Roman amphitheater only a
few km outside of town. It is in pretty good shape considering it is 2000 years old,
however, it is fenced and locked so we couldn’t get inside. Next stop was Civita, a tiny
hill town connected by a foot bridge to Bagnoregio. At one time there was an actual road
along a ridge top, but the ridge collapsed and a foot bridge was built. Cars can’t use it,
but scooters, motorcycles, and small 4-wheelers pulling carts are used to get things up to
the town. Inside the walls the streets are tiny and narrow, cars wouldn’t fit anyway.
According to the source, either only 6, or 8, or 14 people live in Civita full time.
However, there are several very nice homes with gardens and fresh flowers around, plus a
B&B, so in the summer it looks like more than 14 people. There are several restaurants,
so after looking at the buildings we ate lunch. Not bad, nor expensive, especially
considering where it is.
Orvieto was only a few km further, but I made our entrance exciting by not knowing
where I was going. I kept heading up hill, turning down narrow one-way streets, and all
of a sudden we were at the piazza in front of the cathedral. We put the car in a nearby
pay lot, so it turned out well. Orvieto was first an Etruscan town some 3000 years ago,
then destroyed by the Romans 2000 years ago, then rebuilt again 1000 years ago.
At one time over 25000 people lived there and they literally ran out of space. The
solution was to build shops and work areas in caves under the city, so we took the cave
tour. It was very fascinating to see rooms carved out of the dirt, 50 or more feet below
the surface. We also saw wells dug by the Etruscans that are perfectly rectangular shafts
that go straight down 300 feet. My favorite was rooms near the cliff walls that had,
literally, pigeon holes. Hundreds of cubby holes were carved in which pigeons would
roost, and then their eggs were harvested. Our tour guide explained that, unlike chickens,
pigeons go out and find there own food, then come back to roost. It also provided the
city with a food source if they even came under siege.
We had an easy drive back to Viterbo and went through yet another hill town, Bomarzo.
For dinner we drove into the old city of Viterbo and found the place was mobbed.
Everyone was out enjoying the night – it was fun to just see all the people hanging out.
Fortunately the Italians eat late, so even though it was after 8:00pm we had no trouble
finding a restaurant and getting a table. Yet another two pizza’s bit the dust.
The good news is that I’m feeling better, much less discomfort, and my appetite has
return. I hope Caesar is gone – we’ll see tomorrow.
I slept well and woke up feeling better than I had for days. It appears that all my internal
plumbing is back to normal. Guess the antibiotics did the trick. Breakfast tasted good for
the first time in several days, and I was actually hungry.
We had a simple day planned so we took our time getting ready to leave the hotel. Danaé
was still seeking some real American coffee so we drove over to McDonalds, which
shares a building with an Agip fuel station. For a brief time we were back in American,
with a playland and ads for Shrek III promotional items. Unfortunately, they didn’t have
coffee “originale” but at least Danaé could get an Americano, which just like at Starbucks
is espresso with hot water. And I had a diet coke fountain drink, which really tasted
good. Interesting how the prices are reversed from the US – the espresso drink was only
€ while the diet coke was €2.15.
After a pit stop back at the hotel we headed for Tuscania, about 20km away, home to yet
another walled city. It was an easy drive through the country to get there, and we parked
just outside one of the gates to the walled city.
Since it was after noon on Sunday there weren’t many people out, and it was easy to get
around with dodging hordes of small cars. We walked most of the walled city, and
wound up doubling back and having lunch at a restaurant near a fountain. The weather
was pleasant, filtered sun and not hot, so we ate outside. Then we hoofed it back to the
car and drove back to Viterbo.
Although I “wasn’t tired” I still managed to take a nap. By dinner time Danaé wasn’t
hungry after eating a big plate of gnocchi for lunch, so rather than going through another
adventure in eating we headed back to McDonalds for the second trip of the day. It was a
little crowded and we had to park a block away, but I ordered a McMenu #5 grande with
Coke light, which was a supersized bacon cheeseburger with a diet coke. It was very,
very tasty – I think we’ve been out of the states for too long.
The TV in our hotel room is now showing the Fox broadcast of the Steelers vs 49ers on
SkySport3, a satellite station. Just like home except the announcers are speaking Italian.
One more full day left in Italy – I’m ready to go home.
I slept okay but Danaé was kept awake by people in the next room, including the
incredible talking lady who just never shut up. They were up past midnight and up again
around 6:00. Hope they check out today. Our hotel is nice but there is no insulation
between the walls, in fact, none of the hotels we’ve stayed in this trip offer any kind of
sound proofing. Must be an Italian thing.
We planned for today to be an easy day, so after breakfast at the hotel, and another coffee
at McDonalds, we drove into the Viterbo walled city, parked the car, and walked around.
I took a few more pictures, including the inside of the St Rosa cathedral which has a very
brightly painted ceiling of the very high dome. Also, St Rosa is on display as an 800-
We were unsuccessful at locating a new restaurant for lunch so we went back to the pizza
place we at which we ate a couple of nights ago. It was okay, one more Italian meal over
After lunch we drove to Vetralla to see Pisetta’s house. More progress has been made,
but the floors upstairs have to be redone in some fashion. They are old brick and the
painter tried to stain them, instead he created a mess and whatever he put on the flooring
wipes right off. Electricity is on but many fixtures still need to be installed. We sat in
the living room with Pisetta for a few minutes, so at least we got to spend some time in
her house before we left. We also gave back the cell phone that Alfonso had loaned us.
It was great to have it, for security and to make a few calls back home.
Back at the hotel we packed up our stuff. Packing to go home doesn’t take long, and it
doesn’t even matter it if makes it to Seattle the same time we do. I did put an extra shirt
and undies in my carryon bag, just in case we get stranded in New York.
With one more meal to eat in Viterbo we thought we try parking at a different entrance to
look for a different restaurant. It worked, sort of, and we wound up eating at a pizzeria.
The food was okay but it was noisy as they had TVs blaring and a couple of large tables
all talking at once.
Now, all we have to do is get some sleep and hope we hear our alarm clocks, and/or that
the front desk makes our requested wake up call at 6:00am.
We woke up without needing the alarm clocks, so I guess we were ready to go home.
The drive back to the airport was easy without too much traffic. The car was filled up at
the last service area near the airport and we turned the car back in to Hertz.
After locating a luggage cart we made the trek to the Delta counter and fortunately there
was a separate check in line for Business Elite. That went smoothly, but there wasn’t a
separate security line, which was so huge it extended all the way out of the Delta corral
area. There were several hundred people waiting to go through security, so there we
were standing at the end of the line when a Delta guy comes up and takes everyone
outside of the corral with him, to another security line with no waiting. There was only
one line versus eight lines at the Delta area, but we made it through relatively quickly and
were just thankful for being in the right place at the right time. Security went slowly
though as passengers just weren’t ready with shoes off, electronics out, etc. Almost
everyone in front of us set off the scanner and had to be searched. At US airports
passengers are more aware of what to do to speed things up.
Now through security we caught the shuttle to the gate. Rome is set up a lot like
Orlando, with a short train ride connecting the gates to the main terminal. Out at our gate
we found the Elite lounge and settled in to wait for our flight. When the time arrived we
boarded early and settled in. Given our short connecting time of just 70 minutes in JFK
we hoped our flight would leave Rome on time and it did. It was a long but uneventful
flight and we touched down at JFK a few minutes early. I watched three movies, which
helped pass the time.
Passport control and customs was amazingly easy, our bags came out quickly, and we got
them re-checked to Seattle quickly. So far the “other shoe” hadn’t dropped. With our
scheduled departure of 4:30pm we had a few minutes to go to the Elite lounge where
Danaé could have a glass of wine, then we boarded at 4:00pm.
Then the rest of the plane boarded and the door was closed. Then the door was opened to
accept one last passenger. Then the door was closed again and we pushed back from the
gate around 20 minutes late. Then we sat without moving for a while, then we moved 50
yards and sat without moving a while. Delta’s response was “JFK is always like this” as
we finally took off a little after 6:00pm, more than two hours after we had boarded. The
pilot said the flying time was 5:18, but the scheduled time is 6:26, so Delta has almost an
hour of gate/runway delay built into the schedule. (This was a topic on the news the next
night. JFK is the worst airport in the country for delayed flights.) The flight back took a
little longer than the pilot said it would, and we were about 45 minutes late getting to
Then, of course, it took over 30 minutes for our bags to show up on the carousel. Out in
the garage was another line. No limo drivers were around and there were at least 50
people in the taxi line with taxis showing up sporadically. That took another half hour, so
it was almost 10:30pm when we got home. The cats were hungry so we were welcomed
with the traditional “feed me” meows. It was really good to be back home.