Donald and Mimi in Italia, 2001

We left for Italy 1 Settembre, 2001

Castello Sant'Angelo from tram window

We started in Rome. We were fortunate enough to be able to stay with cousins who actually live in Rome, in a nice neighborhood.
Cousin Teresa showed us where to catch the tram, and within a day, my husband was doing a great job navigating in Roma using that wonderful bus/tram system. We had to buy tickets from a Tabaccaio, but the tickets only worked in certain buses, the buses had two different sizes of ticket stampers. Sometimes the bus had the right machines, but they were out of order; so the whole tram experience was kind of like the lottery....a gamble. will it be free or not? The people riding the bus were a real cross-section, from well to do businessmen to school girls.

on the tram, Mimi e Teresa
On most tram trips, gypsies got on and played Italian music!! with guitars, accordions, violins, etc; and one little boy played a little electronic keyboard. The music was wonderful. they'd ride for a few stops and then would walk up and down the tram car with a totally tattered paper cup (for tips) and then disappear. that was 90% of the gypsy experience that we had in Roma. WONDERFUL! (it also was the only time we heard music in Roma!)

We took a train to Firenze, the EuroStar. What a great way to travel!It took 1.5 hours to go from Roma to Firenze! We spent two days in Firenze, at a B&B that I found via the internet.(Pensione Ferretti) it cost approximately $65 for one night. it was in a 450 year old building. it was immaculately clean, and was right between the Duomo and the train station. they didnít have hot water, but it was so warm that night that the lack of hot water didn't concern us too much. It had communal bathrooms, but our room had a sink, just right for washing up! Firenze is where we spent the most time getting lost. After feeling like a native in Rome (because we were getting around so well) Firenze was a little frustrating... but so beautiful. My husband took millions of photos there and we managed to take some very nice ones of the Ponte Vecchio at sunset. We also purchased matching 18 carat gold wedding bands there, and had a little ceremony right in the jewelry store.

Then we returned to Roma, where we met friends who took us to Calabria in a camper!!
the camper
here you can see Elena and Mimi in front
of the camper with Davide carrying luggage

the ITALIAN ROAD Rino and Vanda are the parents of my private italian instructor, Elena, a 25 year old grad student at the University of Washington, had been giving me lessons for almost a year before our trip. I had gotten to know Vanda via email (Elena had suggested that she write to me, to improve her english and my italian) so thanks to Vanda, I got a daily workout in Italian, since she quickly tired of writing in English. Early on, Elena remarked that her father and my husband seemed to be very similar, so we looked forward to this trip with anticipation on how the two guys would hit it off. We were not disappointed. They are both animated comedians, and instantly hit it off, through broken italian and english, and "ELENA! help translate!" My husband sat in front with our friend Rino and his 20 odd year old son Davide, while they "trained" him on the vagaries of driving. they even let him drive the camper for a while which was scary.. but by the time we got to Calabria, my husband (who we called Donato in Italia) was ready to get his little rental car.

The drive down was gorgeous.After staring at the map of Italy my entire life, I was rewarded with the incredible panorama of southern Italy. Like most people, I am sure, I knew that the Alps were great and the southern part of Italy was dry and hot. I knew of the altitudes of the hills and mountains there (not very impressive really, compared to the American Rockies) but what I didn't realize is that the Rocky mountains are sitting on a Plateau which is already very high AND FLAT. The mountain ranges in Italia jut up from the ocean. They go straight up and down, and there are many of these "little folds" which make it difficult to build roads. Unfortunately it got dark before we got to Lamezia. What beautiful country! lots of very steep hills, with little paesi nestled in all sorts of odd places.
we drove by the town of my maternal grandfather...Atena Lucana finally, we got to Lamezia, and we ate a great dinner (did I mention we stopped in Pompeii for lunch???? COOL)

Donald, Rino, Restauranteur, Mimi
....and then... we were alone. No more english speaking italians. No more helpful friends to translate and handle transactions for us. For over a week we did not hear ANYONE who could speak english fluently except each other....

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