Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Round Two
Let's Get Ready to Rumble

Three and a half months ago, we finished up our idyllic Italy trip of a lifetime. Five weeks of exploration, discovery, and fun, an itinerary that took us from north central Trentino to the wine region of Friuli, to Carnevale in Venice and along the coastline of Le Marche. Along the way we made time to visit our friend Rita in l'Aquila, stay at our villa in Umbria and catch up with old friends there. Oh, yes. We also bought ourselves a Mercedes in Stuttgart.

So less than four months later we are back, starting our second trip of a lifetime. That's an awful lot of trips of a lifetime for one life, especially in so short a period. Maybe we are cats and have nine lives. If so, we have seven more trips of a lifetime in us. That's comforting.

After a long day of travel we arrived in Cagliari, Sardinia last night, the first of four nights on this exotic, sun splashed island. This mini vacation of sorts marks the opening act in a nearly forty day dash around the boot that will take us to some old haunts and some new playgrounds as we deepen our understanding of this land we love so much. From Sardinia it's back to our villa in Umbria (by way of a night in Orvieto) to host an ecclectic group of guests for a week of Umbria Jazz, the annual summer jazz festival in Perugia. Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Gilberto Gil and Sergio Mendez among others. Jazz and wine. An unbeatable combination! Then up north for a repeat visit to the Collio wine region of Friuli, an area we visited for the first time in February but whose vow to return again soon was so strong and so heartfelt that we couldn't not add it to this itinerary. Another few days in Venice as well, a place whose haunting mystery has increasingly won a place in our hearts and has repeatedly drawn us back over the past several years. Then four days with our twin sons on the incomparably perfect island of Ponza, our summer refuge for the past four summers, and a place that readers of our blog will recognize and know we consider to be paradise on earth. Finally, back to our villa in the little hamlet of Cannara, where summer's bounty will be bursting forth and where we will share a week with some of our oldest friends from Washington and their children. Delicious, nutritious, ambitious.

And it all starts today.

* * *

It all starts with Sardinia, one of the few regions in Italy that we haven't visited before. This stop was the last and last minute addition to our itinerary, having been decided upon only a couple of weeks ago. Much of the travel planning for this trip was made remotely, via email and phone as Suzy and I spent the last month and a half apart caring for and spending time with aging parents in our respective home towns (Florida and Iowa, I won't venture to opine who got the better of that deal) and the final piece of the puzzle was what to do on the first five days of the trip. Until recently we planned on an unstructured visit to Rome, living in an apartment and trying to become locals for a few days rather than tourists, grocery shopping, cooking and living in Rome, rather than just visiting it. But as the days wore on and fatigue and separation took their toll, a beach, some sun, fresh seafood and crisp wine started to sound more and more like what the doctor ordered. I gotta say, I like my doctor.

So we arrived in Cagliari mid-afternoon after an overnight flight from Washington to Rome, connecting to the low cost carrier Meridiana (for those unitiated in European low cost airlines, they can be a gem), picked up our rental car and were quickly on the road, a slow moving two lane state highway, along the coast away from Cagliari to the extreme southern point of Sardinia, the town of Pula. An hour later, we were checking into our "resort," the Costa dei Fiori and were shown to our simple room by the friendly manager. After a quick change it was off to the beachside pool, one of two pools on the resort property, this one with a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean, to relax and recover from jetlag while trying not to completely konk out and give in to our fatigue. We have become converts to the approach of powering through the arrival day, staying awake through dinner time, having a good meal and only then beginning the process of matching our internal clocks with the local ones. It has worked well for us in the past, but sometimes requires, as it did yesterday, herculean efforts not to fall asleep prematurely.

We managed to stay awake through dinner, a nice, but uninspired affair at the hotel, accomplishing our mini mission, a modest goal for our first day here. But after the past couple of months we have not set our sights too high. We are committed to learning a little about Sardinia and making our visit here productive and worthwhile, but slowly, slowly, as our Italian friends often tell us, one beach at a time.

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