Saturday, October 22, 2011

Real. Comfortable. Italy.

How easy it is to return to Italy.  Like a comfortable pair of jeans, it seems slip on so effortlessly and fit like it was always part of you.  And as an added bonus, it doesn’t make your butt look to big.  Yet.

 We were meant to return.   Otherwise the travel gods wouldn’t have found us a cheap upgrade to business class.  They wouldn’t have made traffic to National Airport light and skies from Washington to Rome clear of (most) bumps.   They wouldn’t have had us arrive 45 minutes early so we would meet up with Mary Ellen and her son Dan, who we will host next week, at the baggage carousel at Fiumicino.  Those travel gods kindly unleashed a once in a generation deluge on Rome the day before we arrived, rather than upon our arrival.  A flash flood so great that a day later everyone was still marveling over images of vespa riders being swept away by walls of water.

Those travel gods were just toying with us as little play things when they refused to let our in-seat video systems to work, facing us with the prospect of 8 hours no Nemo, no Marli, of no Snape, MadEye Moody or Hermione.  And they seemed to laugh out loud when they rendered inoperable the tiny button to turn off our overhead lights, leaving a searing laser of light pointed right at our faces as we sought to get a little shuteye on our videoless flight.  But toying it was, as those muses of travel whispered into the flight attendant’s ear to take a blanket and tuck it into the ceiling air vents, crossing the lights and covering their daytime blast.  And toying they were when they reminded us that we had packed a DVD of Roman Holiday, inviting Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn to urge us eastward, saying “come in, the water’s fine” even as Rome’s floodwaters began to recede.

I would recommend a viewing of Roman Holiday (our first was yesterday on the fight over) to anyone planning to spend a few days in Rome.  Even with its dated 1950’s black and white take on Rome, it catches something eternal about the spirit of the Eternal City.  And watching Gregory and Audrey wobble on their Vespa down the Corso Vittorio Emanuelle will make anyone want to risk the insane traffic to relive that experience.  We’ll save that for another trip, as we have only one night here in Rome.  But it was clearly fortune shining on us as we dropped off Karen, one of our companions for the next week, at her hotel at Via Margutta, 56, just a few doors down from Joe Bradley’s (Peck’s) flat at Via Margutta, 51.

Many would suggest that a walking tour of the Vatican would not be the best way to challenge jet lag on one’s first day in Rome.  They wouldn’t know Professore Enrico Bruschini, doubtless Rome’s very best tourguide, its most knowledgeable art historian and most passionate booster of Rome.  We began our two week plus trip to Italy with not a two hour or three hour or four hour walking tour of Rome, but a full five hours on our feet, chasing the eternally young professore down the corridors of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and Saint Peter’s Basilica, as he pointed out a tapestry here, a piece of breccia marble or porphyry there, and shared personal accounts of his cleaning the centuries of accumulated grime from the walls of the Sistine Chapel.  Enrico is every bit a part of the beating heart of Rome as is Gregory Peck or a Vespa ride.

And just below that beating heart is a yawning stomach.  It was fed early and often on our first day back.  First at a simple lunch at the Osteria alla Rampa, a simple but authentic trattoria in the shadow of the Spanish Steps.  And then at an anonymous Trastevere trattoria for a fabulous dinner of mostly raw seafood with our Roman friends Kay and Massimo, Clark and Raffaella and Frances and our guests for the week, Karen, Willia and John.  How our souls had been yearning for the experience of sitting around a table with friends, old and new, enjoying a great meal and even better company.  How our feet had been yearning for nearly four hours seated, a chance to recover from five hours racing.

Yes, Italy is like a pair of comfortable jeans.  So easy to slip on, so flattering, just so right.  And today, as we head to Umbria to begin the first of our two week long Umbria Food and Wine tours, I suspect we might just have to unbutton her top button.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

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