Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Bookchick's LONG report: Journey of Personal Healing

Bookchick's LONG report: Journey of Personal Healing

Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:42 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bookchick's LONG report: Journey of Personal Healing

Our adventure begins the day after Labor Day, on September 5th. I picked this day to depart, because at work life was hell and getting worse each day. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, especially since my former boss got canned in June, but busy didn't begin to describe it. The last day I worked prior to the holiday weekend, I was in my office til 1 am! So anyway, having the whole 3 day weekend gave me time to catch my breath, do laundry, and get a manicure, too. This was uncharacteristically fortuitious timing for which I would pay dearly a short time later.

My driver picked me up around noon or shortly thereafter for the short drive to the airport, which is usually (and also was on this day) a mere half-hour away. I had a small rolling suitcase, and a matching larger one which I had checked. Inside the larger suitcase were all manner of liquids and gels, since the ban was in effect during my trip, but also another bag was within the bag. It was a shoulder-duffle type of thing, and I wisely brought it to stow my valuable purchases I'd make in Italy. I packed all black and white (and prints of the same) clothing, and if my larger pack got lost, re-routed, dumped into the Atlantic, etc., I knew I could live out of the contents of the smaller rolling bag without too much trouble, but I'd definitely be doing laundry. When I arrived at my gate in DTW, it was already teeming with folks, stunning to me, since I make it a point to arrive obscenely early for flights. Okay then, what's this? These folks were flying US Airways to Philly also, but their flight hadn't taken off yet!?? Argh!! Needless to say, due to bad weather in Philly (it was merely overcast at DTW), my flight was terrifically late. I mean seriously late. Several of us while still in DTW asked the gate agent to re-book us, but we might as well have spoken to a wall; she even mis-read my ticket and said "Why are you worried, you're not leaving til 8:40?", to which I replied, "No, I'm supposed to LAND IN ROME at 8:40 AM!". The gate agents did re-book a couple headed to Barcelona, and routed them instead to Paris, where they presumably caught a plane to Barcelona. They also showed keen interest in paging a chap bound for Venice, but the rest of us, and there were several of us, were left to chance and our own devices. When the plane arrived in Philly, I was at an E gate deplaning and the first overhead announcement I heard was the final boarding call for Flight 2 to Rome at Gate A30. Needless to say, I did not make it.

Gate agents in Philly re-booked the lot of us via various gateway cities in Europe and I ended up on a flight to Munich with a 5-hour layover there prior to catching a Lufthansa flight to Rome. I phoned the hotel on Capri from the Philly airport to alert them of this, because they were sending a driver to the Rome airport to pick me up and drive me to Naples. I inquired to the Philly gate agent about my checked bag, and he assured me it would be re-routed, since it, too, did not have time to get onto Flight 2 to Rome. **Sigh!** A rather odd Italian fellow, about my age, attached himself to me, and we had dinner together in the Philly airport. He was headed up to Liguria where his siblings and mother lived, and claimed to stay in the Detroit area for extended periods of time because his ex-wife and kids live there. Once on the plane, we were not seated together, and I actually managed to sleep fairly solidly, much to my surprise, for much of the duration of the flight.

Upon landing in Munich, however, despite the bright sunshine, I was dragging. I trudged into a pharmacy and bought some toiletries in preparation for the parting of myself and my checked luggage, possibly permanently. If I had been heading to Rome on the first part of the trip, I knew where to obtain these things, but accidently stumbling across a decent pharmacy in Munich's airport was a bit of serendipity. The young lady behind the counter asked in English if I were headed to London. I told her I'd just been re-routed from America, bound for Rome. She looked at me sympathetically and rang my purchases through, and wished me well. Next stop, something to eat. There are several restaurants in the F & G concourses, and I found one, and in rather halting German ordered a chicken sandwich and a bottle of water. Since those needs had been satisfied, I read for a bit, and then walked about the concourse window-shopping. I did not have to go through Customs when I first landed, but I realized I'd have to do it most likely prior to traveling elsewhere within the EU, and I was right. I located a monitor that informed me of my departure gate, and headed to Customs, which was only staffed by two men, but at the time was really not busy at all. As luck would have it, my Customs agent was a major hottie, and when he saw my ticket said "Re-route" on it, he asked what my final destination was, and if I were on vacation. (It seemed inappropriate to tell him "Hell" and "no, it's more like my destiny", so I was polite, and said "Rome" and "yes".) I had to walk through a Human HabiTrail into another building, down an escalator, and through security. Once in the main concourse a lady in a pantsuit who looked as though she worked for the airport walked up to me and began to speak German. Now other than some social niceties, spoken slowly and carefully, German is not a language with which I am well-acquainted. So I smiled at her and said "I'm sorry?" in English and she, looking stunned, actually backed away from me and said "I'm sorry, I thought you were German." Not sure what it was all about, but I was a woman on a mission to find my gate, and find it I did! I plunked down into a seat and began to read again. Eventually a number of Italians came and sat in seats near me, and I remembered to take a small box out of my purse. A week or so before my vacation, I went to see my internist. She prescribed for me a small box of motion-sickness patches. I've never had motion-sickness before, but I reckoned that the hydrofoil to Capri was not where I hoped to find out if I'm susceptible to it. The patches are small, round, and are to be applied behind one ear near the hairline. They deliver some kind of anti-motion sickness drug transdermally, and I luckily remembered to put one on in time for it to take effect, because the drug must start being introduced into your system a while before whatever motion you're trying to counteract will begin.

Eventually we all were boarded onto our Lufthansa flight to Rome. If everything went according to schedule, we'd be landing around 5-5:15pm. Now the planes are actually named after German cities, which I had not known. I had a window seat, and when I looked at the plane "parked" next to ours, I saw it said Karlsruhe on it. My friend Tini is from Karlsruhe, and I knew she and her husband were on a brief holiday in Ireland at the time, but I felt like it was her way of saying "Hello, BC, have a good vacation, friend, all is well". And so it was. The flight was pleasantly uneventful, the plane inhabited mostly by Italians returning home, and the flight crew spoke English exclusively the whole time.

Upon landing in Rome, I glumly went to collect my baggage, because I knew the likelihood of it arriving when I did was relatively small, given the situation. I had, however, at JOdy's suggestion, purchased those marvelous Magellen luggage tags, into which you put your trip itinerary. My entire typed intinerary, including flight numbers, dates, hotel names and addresses and various phone numbers were in there, and I'd used some day-glo pink covers for the handles of the bag. Much to my joy and shock, my bag suddenly came out and deposited itself onto the luggage carousel. At that point I almost burst into tears of relief, and proclaimed loudly in English "There is a God, and She is good!" Italians began to mill around me, asking me what the hell I was saying, so I did explain, and everyone smiled and laughed and cheered. On to find my driver...

My driver turned out to be a young guy, compactly built, with a shaved head. He informed me that the hotel had not informed him of my re-routing until it was too late, so he'd arrived at Fiumincino early that morning to collect me from US Airways Flight 2, which of course, I'd not been on. Well, we'd better get underway to Naples, so off we went, much like a rocket. He was a very capable driver, but he drove, especially once on the highway due south, as though it were the Indy 500 time trials. He stayed in the left lane, and flashed his lights, and cars moved out of the way quickly so he could proceed. At one point, he looked at me in the rearview mirror and asked me if I drove. My first instinct was to ask "why, do you need me to?", but I said "yes, I drive every day to my office". He explained that in Italy it's rare that someone flashes their lights like that, and if one does, it's taken as a sign of an emergency, and traffic clears the way immediately. He further told me that unless we made it to the pier in Naples for the 7:40 hydrofoil, the next one would not be until 9:30. His sense of urgency made me a bit nervous, and when we arrived at the pier, he broke into a huge smile and said "we made it, the hydrofoil isn't in yet!", and he left to buy my tickets. (Plural, as my luggage apparently needed a ticket, too.)

Safely ensconced on the hydrofoil, the real voyage to Capri began. The hydrofoil was fairly heavily populated, and except for a slight degree of roughness in one small area, the crossing was pretty smooth. By now it was dark out and I looked up, and lo and behold, it was a lovely, bright, yellow-orange full moon greeting me over the Bay of Naples! When we arrived in Capri, as everyone was disembarking, I could hear a man saying "Quisisana? Quisisana?" This was the name of my hotel, so I walked up to him and said "Si". He introduced himself as Lucca from the hotel, and his uniform bore this information, also. He asked if I were Signora Kelly, and told me we'd be taking a cab up to the hotel. "Cab" was a rough translation--the vehicle that transported us up to the Piazetta was a fully restored cherry red Ford Fairlane convertible, so large a sheep could have given birth in the back seat and no one would have noticed. Once at the Piazetta, Lucca explained we'd have a small walk to the hotel. Exhausted, I stumbled behind him, taking note of toney shops along the way like Ferragamo and Gucci. At last we reached the hotel, which has a stunning pink facade, and with the terraced entrance filled with tables, and lit up the way it was, I felt like I'd arrived in error on a Hollywood set. Lucca left me with the concierge. The concierge, dear man, knew I was on the verge of collapse, and offered me a seat and a glass of water, both of which I declined. He told me he'd escort me to my room, and my luggage would be delivered shortly thereafter. We took the elevator up to the 3rd floor, and when we got out, we began to walk. And walk. I'm not exaggerating, I think my room was somewhere like a third of a mile down one of the halls. When we reached my room, the concierge showed me that no one would ever knock on my room door, as each room has its own doorbell. Once inside, he showed me some of the amenities, told me they have same-day laundry service, and showed me out onto my balcony. My balcony had a table, two chairs, and two lounge chairs. I thought I probably died and had mistakenly been sent to heaven, due to some paperwork screw-up on Satan's end of things. The concierge left, and I just stood staring at that crazy full moon winking a hello at me for untold minutes. My luggage was delivered, I unpacked a few items, turned on the telly, and started to fall asleep, when I was awakened by something. Poor woman! The maid had come in for turn-down service and hardly expected to see some slovenly fully-dressed American snoring in front of the television. She apologized, I apologized, I laughed, and she left. Thus endeth my first day.
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:43 PM
  #2  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
My second day began with breakfast on my balcony. Yes, 24 hour room service, that's the life. Before ordering my cappucino and cornetto, however, I took a long, hot shower. The bathroom had 2 cotton hotel robes, a shower stall, and a lovely, full-length, deep tub with a shower attachment. I'm not kidding, I must have been in there an hour. Bliss! All the bath products are from the spa on the premises, so I tried the shower gel...not bad!

Breakfast on the balcony that overlooks both the pool and the Med, can life get better than this? After eating, I left to explore the hotel's expansive grounds. It features an underground spa, in which there is also a fitness room with treadmills, and an indoor pool. Outdoors a tennis court, the outdoor pool, a poolside restaurant, and a hair salon complete the picture. Large public rooms, like living rooms, fill the hotel, and each has a balcony with equally wonderful views. The concierge will gladly give you a map of the island. The Piazetta is right where you catch the funicular to go up to Anacapri or down to the Marina, where you can catch the boat for the delightful 2 hour tour. There are also busses going to Anacapri, but one day if you hear 75-90 people were killed in a bus accident on Capri, I can tell you they were all crammed into the same bus! Every bus I saw was stuffed with people. Give me the funicular any day! The Gardens of Caesar Augustus...well, walking around Capri, you discover quickly there are really no "bad" views from anywhere on the island. Blossoms and petals are under your feet everywhere you go, it's almost too much for the senses, really...the smell of flowers, the blue of the sky and water, I've never experienced any place before in this way, and daresay I probably shan't again.

While there is pricey shopping on Capri, it doesn't mean a bargain or two can't be found here and there. I went into an "artisan" type of jewelry shop, and was able to purchase 3 pairs of nice silver earrings for 32 Euros. Literally following my nose to some delicious smells, I discovered a wonderful bakery close to my hotel, and had a larger-than-I-expected lemon tart for 2 Euros. Because life on Capri is not year-round to the tourist trade, shops are open quite late. I was amazed to discover that walking down via Camerelle on a Sunday night at 8 pm, almost all the shops were still open, and most remained so until 9 pm, some even 10 pm. To be perfectly honest, though, one afternoon while sauntering around town, I noticed a sign on a door of a shop that simply stated in English "Gone Tanning"---gotta give 'em points for being candid!
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:46 PM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So back to "The Pleasure Palace"---yes, it lived up to this moniker, and exceeded my expectations at every turn. Excellent same day laundry service. Going to the outdoor pool? A pool boy will appear with a towel for you, before you can even sit on your chaise lounge. There is pool etiquette, and you will be perceived as a boor if you don't observe it. No one walks about in a swimsuits,towels or robes. While in your hotel room, you don your suit, put street clothes on over it, and go to the pool. Once you've claimed a chaise lounge, you remove your street clothes and put them into the bag you've brought with you, or you simply leave them draping on the end of your chair. If you'd like a refreshment, the Columbaia restaurant is a matter of steps away, and you can eat inside or at an umbrella'd table outside, or simply slip into the bar to get a drink and bring it back to your chaise. Oh, and your chaise is your chaise for as long as any of your belongings are there, so no worries. Just don't try to bring a glass with you, because glass isn't permitted in the area right near the pool, nor are electronics. And between 2-5, children under 12 aren't permitted there, either! (Nor at the indoor pool.)

In terms of the spa, they have long hours, so getting an appointment is effortless. I phoned at 4 to request an appointment for a massage, and they asked me if 5 were a convenient time for me. When I said fine, they asked if I cared if my massage therapist was a man or a woman, and I told them I didn't care. So I arrived to find a man waiting for me. He showed me to the locker room, and told me to take off my clothes and put on a robe, and he'd wait outside for me. I also had a pair of slippers given to me, still in their packaging. I disrobed, re-robed, locked my locker, and headed out to meet my masseuse, who showed me into a room that was candlelit and had new age music playing at a soft volume. The room had a massage table and shower in it. Roberto introduced himself, and asked me if I could tie back my hair, reaching into a drawer and producing a little white nylon tie, so I did as he requested. He needed to ask me some general questions about my health, and I answered them. Then he took something out of another drawer, made of the same fabric, and asked me if I'd like to wear panties! I said "no", and had decided to bury any Puritanical, American, Catholic thoughts before leaving America, so the massage was au naturel, and felt wonderful. He massaged my back, leg, arms, neck, feet, head and face (not necessarily in that order!) and it went on for an hour. At one point, anticipating he'd need to move my arm, I moved, and he said "Just relax, I'll move everything for you, this is your vacation". Let me check the address of this place once more, is it on a specific cloud in heaven? My one other spa experience was a day or so later when I had a facial, performed by an esthetician named Mischa. I had assumed I'd be sitting in a chair, similar perhaps to the dental chairs that recline, but no, I was lying down, face up, happy as one person could ever hope to be. She exfoliated my face, explaining to me that all the products used are derived from natural elements, as I'd detected oranges in the product she was using. She steamed my face, cleaned my pores, and used a brackish-smelling substance in some kind of thick moisturizing mask on my face. I asked her what was in it and she said it was derived from oysters! I must say, my skin never felt nor looked better, IMO, than it had for some days after this treatment.

When you book into the Quisisana, breakfast is included in the price. You have the option of taking half-board, but I'm not certain about full-board. Anyway, there are technically 3 restaurants: The Quisi, which is a fine dining experience, and bans children under the age of 15, the Columbaia close to the pool, and the Intermezzo Bar Restaurant, which is both an indoor spot and runs out onto a terrace that adjoins the larger outdoor terrace at the front of the hotel, where one can take a drink in the evening.

One night I phoned the Quisi, and asked if I could reserve for 9 pm. I wore a dress and heels, and when I entered, I could not believe my eyes. The place is technically an outdoor restaurant on evenings when the weather is good, although it is canopied. It's gorgeous in its simplicity, but was sparsely populated by few diners the evening I dined there. A young couple, honeymooners, were there at one table, an older couple at another, and a family of mom, dad and son who looked like he barely met the age restriction came in. I was seated at a table for 4, and when I went to put my purse on an empty chair, a small upholstered stool was produced to hold my purse instead! I dined like royalty, and could simply not believe it. When offered some bread, for example, it was not merely bread and breadsticks, I must have been presente with a dozen choices. My waiter had told the restaurant manager I was fluent (!!) in Italian, and he came out to speak with me, make recommendations, etc. (Lucky for me that he was actually fluent in English.) It was amazing! I chose a fish for an entree that he came to speak to me about, because the cook had declined the delivery of it that morning, denouncing it to the fishmonger as inferior, but wished the manager to convey to me that he could cook a different fish for me, one that he thought I might enjoy. Okay, no problem. The manager told me it was amberjack, which being an American midwesterner, I'd never heard of before, so a long discussion ensued, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I've never had a restaurant experience with such highly personalized attention before in my life. (At some point, however, my pancreas and liver began to send my brain a message like "Will you STOP her? She's crazy and is trying to KILL US! Stop her now!") When I ordered dessert, a tiramisu mousse, not only did that come to me, with dessert wine, but small pastries and a few chocolates also. (Seriously, I couldn't and didn't eat it all.) Oddly, the weakest part of the meal was the pasta course. It was cappellini with clams, and I found the clams a bit chewy and even tasted a bit of grit--sand--in one bite. The rest of the meal was truly superb. The restaurant manager had recommended a delightful white wine to accompany the fish, and I asked him if he could write it down for me; he not only did that, but he also gave me a copy of the menu!

My meal at the Columbaia was fine, no complaints, good food and good service, right at a table near the pool at night, after the pool had "closed" and there were no swimmers there, and moonlight was still reflecting on the water.

Breakfast in the morning was either room service on my balcony, which was cappucino and cornetto or down in the breakfast room, which was in the same space occupied by the Quisi by night. It was an expansive breakfast buffet, featuring juices, yogurts, cornetto, rolls, cereal, fresh fruit, cheeses, meats and cakes of various kinds, not to mention Prosecco, and the waitstaff would gladly bring a cappucino or espresso or "American coffee" at your request.

Meals I ate outside of the hotel were relatively unremarkable. Certainly fine, nothing wrong, but nothing special in the least.
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:48 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well, a girl can only take so much, and one evening over a Bellini on the Quisisana front terrace, I began to contemplate Rome. The Pope had left the Eternal City as well as his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, to head to his native Germany. I knew I would need the assistance of the Quisisana Hotel concierge to get to Rome, and I knew the driver who brought me to Naples would not be taking me back to Rome! Since I was due to check out on a Monday, I approached the concierge early Saturday morning, before it began to get busy. He asked if I required a hotel in Rome, and I told him no, as I was staying at my home-away-from home, the Hotel San Carlo. He then extracted a book from behind the counter and opened it. Consulting the date, he informed me he could book me onto the Eurostar first class and gave me two options for departure times. He then filled out a slip of paper on which he only had to fill out times: Bags ready in Room,and he wrote in 9:45, etc. He gave me the slip, and informed me when I checked out, he'd have the train ticket for me. The slip informed me what time I needed to check out, what time I needed to get to the Piazetta to either get a cab or the funicular down to the Marina, and what time to get on the Hydrofoil. Everything was taken care of and added to my bill, I could not have possibly done less thinking if I had an even smaller brain than I do!

So it was that I found myself on a hydrofoil that was fairly full of passengers, going to Naples. Again, good weather, easy crossing. Upon arrival in Naples, however, it seems most of us on the hydrofoil had the same plan to get a cab to somewhere! The line moved quickly, and while I knew time-wise it wasn't super-tight, my vast stupidity about the geography of Naples left me a tad worried I might not make my train. No worries at all, and a guardian angel even looked over my shoulder in the Naples train station, as my train to Rome had been switched to a different track, and a stranger kindly walked by shouting this to all and sundry lest they miss the train. The ride went well, and through some nice countryside, too. At Termini I was able to get a cab quickly, and was deposited at the San Carlo.

When I arrived it was about 4 pm. Now I usually take a double superior room there, and Victoria at the front desk explained to me that since most folks arrived in the morning, some of the rooms they'd have liked to have put me in were now gone. But she added that they'd move me tomorrow, I'd be in a room with a big bed that night, but kind of a small room. It was room 71, and is up 5 flights of stairs in the main building. I was hot and tired, and arrived at my room nursing a little headache. I cranked on the A/C, which I must say, at the San Carlo would rival anything Frigidaire has ever produced, and took a quick shower and was lying down napping for about an hour when my cell phone rang. It was my friend Giancarlo. He told me the city was hot and humid (which I knew was true) and he was tired and had been working all day, and proposed we meet at 7 at Piazza della Republica, because he had his car, and wanted to drive up to Gandolfo for dinner. GC stated the Pope was still in Germany, so Gandolfo wouldn't be crowded, and he knew of a good restaurant overlooking Lake Gandolfo, and the heat of the city would be below us. It sounded like a good plan, so I met him at 7. He said it would take a while to get out of the city, because everyone was headed home from work. (Ora di punta, or rush hour as we say.) As we were heading out of town, the sun was setting. Giancarlo spoke about his day, and drove and at last we arrived in Gandolfo. There are some twisty little roads, and some one way streets and one cannot drive right across the town. Giancarlo found a cop and asked him where he could park, and he let me out in the piazza in the center of town, and parked around the corner. Other than a few folks dining in little places right on the Piazza itself, Gandolfo indeed did appear just about deserted. Giancarlo showed me the exterior wall of a building that had a number of gouges in it, and told me those were bullet holes from WWII. We found the restaurant and went in and were seated on a balcony overlooking the lake. The moon, although no longer truly full as it had been in Naples and Capri, was still large and orange, and shone down over the lake. Giancarlo gave me a gift of an antique book, from a time in which Italy, not unified, charged tarriffs to travellers who were going from one region to the next, and a listing of who needed to pay what, based on where they were going and how much luggage they had! We had a great dinner, and when we returned to the city, he drove us through a residential area to show me where he grew up and where he'd been born, explaining that where a lot of businesses and buildings were now were merely fields then. I liked this, knowing how modern Rome, and Giancarlo along with it, grew up, and I could tell he was experiencing some pleasant memories of his childhood and adolescence. Driving further into Centro Storico, Giancarlo delivered me to the San Carlo as a gentleman would. Exhausted, I barely changed into my nightclothes before falling into bed.
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:49 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
So my 2nd day in Rome, after a shower, a change of clothes and breakfast, I stopped at the San Carlo's front desk and asked Victoria if I'd be moved, as I was completely packed. She assured me I would, and asked what time I'd return. Looking at my watch, I gave her an estimate of 3 or 3:30. As luck would have it, the weather and sites commanded my attention fully until my return closer to 5:30. Rosanna, who was on duty at the front desk, informed me I'd been moved into another building on via Belsiana, right around the corner, and rang for a young man to take me over there. I'd been there before, just to look at a room, not to stay, and had liked what I'd seen. The young man brought me to the door, and told me to look up to my right, and I saw a camera that was projecting my image over to the front desk folks' computer monitor on via delle Carrozze. He instructed me to ring the bell to the right of the door, and when I did so, we were "buzzed in" to the building. There is a short corridor, and the key card must be inserted into a slot in the wall before the glass door in front of you is opened. Once the glass door opens, a few feet further there is an elevator. My room was on the 5th floor. It was a nice sized room, with a wood-beamed ceiling, a decent sized bathroom with full tub, (and partial plexiglass enclosure so showering did not mean washing the floor simultaneously), a small fridge and an enormous closet space.

On a round table in the room, I spied a lovely aqua and pink suede box with a red ribbon on it, and a postcard of the Spanish Steps. The Spanish Steps are a block or two away, and are the closest "tourist attraction" to the hotel. I turned the postcard over, and in large, neat, printed letters were simply "WELCOME TO ROME" on it. I removed the ribbon from the box, opened it, and discovered a double-layer box of Godiva chocolates inside. This was a gift from the hotel for "the inconvenience" of having to stay in a room the prior night that would not have been my first choice. **Sigh!** These folks know me, and know how to make me feel at home!

The remainder of my time in Rome I spent in a most leisurely way. I visited churches, and some of my favorite places, and if I felt like stopping at a cafe for a bottle of water or an espresso, I did it. I felt no pressure or ambition to be at a particular place at a particular time. Each day when I awoke, I'd think about where I wanted to go, and head off in that direction after breakfast. I attended a multi-media exhibition going on at the Vittorio Emanuelle monument one day. Another day found me heading toward Santa Croce and San Giovanni. Some days I didn't really feel like eating dinner, so I didn't. It was just that simple. I read a couple of books, and thought a great deal about my mother. The second half of August had been difficult for me, as my mother's birthday would have been at that time. I had found myself deep in grief, and wondering if it would ever end. Happily, one of the books I read assisted me in a totally unexpected manner, and it was The Secret Life of Bees. Now this book, for the uninitiated, has been dismissed by many as "chick lit". I did not see it this way, but I also did not see it as a narrative account of things that really could have happened--in some ways it's just more like a fable. The heroine/protagonist, however, is on a kind of quest to find out more about her deceased mother. And so I began to experience so many pleasant, loving, and very old memories of my mom, and come to terms, I think, in a more concrete way with her death. In San Carlo al Corso, I lit a candle in her memory, and could have sworn I actually heard her say "don't cry now, honey, because everything is all right".

I spent a couple of more evenings in the company of my friend, Giancarlo, who'd lost his own mother a dozen or so years ago. We talked extensively about the subject, and he assured me repeatedly that I was a good daughter and more to both of my parents. (When GC and I met, they were both alive.) Giancarlo took me to two marvelous restaurants for dinner, both not terribly far from via Veneto.

Via Veneto is undergoing construction now (I think they're actually adding a lane in each direction), and this is wrecking havoc with traffic, as if Rome actually needed any more of that! The restaurants were Caesarina on via Piemonte and Girarrosto Fiorentino on via Sicilia, I believe. At Caesarina the portions are much larger than those I experienced elsewhere in Italy. However, make no mistake that it is a real Italian dining experience. The tortelloni in brodo was absolutely the richest I've ever tasted. We had "bollito misto" that night, which is an assortment of meats that have been "boiled", a bit like New England dinners. I'm sure this is an Atkins-approved diet, and it covered everything--beef, pork, etc. The night we dined at Girarrosto Fiorentino, it rained copiously prior to our meeting in front of the Westin Excelsior, but we both had umbrellas, and as luck would have it, once we began to walk there, the rain had almost completely stopped. Our timing for that dinner was exquisite, because we arrived just before a major influx of diners, and as a reward received, I think, optimal seating. We shared a bistecca fiorentina which was grilled to absolute perfection.
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:50 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,597
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A segment of my trip was devoted to shopping. My priest, who has been a longtime family friend, was going to be feted shortly after my return to America, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his ordination, and I wanted to get something spectacular for him. Giancarlo pointed me in the direction of Domus Artis, right at the entrance to Vatican City. His sister works there now, but last year he'd arranged to take me there prior to the store even opening to the public. The owner is an extraordinarly beautiful South American woman, married to an Italian, and she was gracious at our meeting in 2005, as artworks she'd acquired were being uncrated around us. The store carries a fabulous selection of religious articles of all kinds, as well as mosaics, frescoes, jewelry, and much of it is crafted by artisans from the Vatican. A very helpful and patient young lady named Elena waited on me, as Giancarlo's sister was not working on the day I shopped. I selected a couple of chalices for Fr. Sullivan, as well as a St. John the Baptist (his patron saint) medal. Elena began to wrap my purchases up and explained to me that I had to take my "ticket" to the register, but a form would be automatically generated by the cash register for me to recoup my payment of VAT. (I took the paperwork for the VAT to the airport and on the day of my departure had it "stamped" and my VAT refunded to me in cash.) She then graciously offered to have the package sent over to my hotel. I was so impressed, I returned another day and selected presents for my sister and BIL, and some jewelry for myself. I regret to say that I did not meet GC's sister. I also purchased some jewelry and a little gift of cufflinks for Giancarlo at one of my favorite funky little jewelry shops close to the hotel, Alcozer & J. Bijoux at 48 via delle Carrozze. I always pop into this shop on each trip to Rome, and sometimes I find something that strikes my fancy, other times not. I did get a lovely brooch there on this trip and wore it to dinner my last night in Rome.

The staff at the San Carlo knows me. Despite the fact upon my return this time, I'd been absent for over a year, each worker greeted me with a smile and a "Buon Giorno, Signora Kelly". I'd purchased some nice paper at a little stationary shop set back from the street on via delle Croce, and wrote a couple of notes to a couple of members of the staff, enclosing some Euro notes in them prior to slipping them into addressed envelopes. To the concierge staff, Alberto, Victoria and Rosanna, I wrote a letter in Italian, telling them of my mother's death, of how I always felt peace and as though I were at home in Rome, and how now they were my family, because both of my beloved parents were now enjoying their final reward in heaven. The morning I checked out, Alberto thanked me once again for coming, took my hand and said "God Bless you". Amazing how sometimes you need to travel thousands of miles in order to find what you are looking for has always been just where you left it---inside of you.

The voyage back to America was, for the most part, not pretty, despite a good start. I arrived at Fiumincino quite early, and was relatively quickly routed over to the US Airways counter, where I checked both of my wheeled bags. I used the duffle with shoulder strap as my carry-on, and literally almost all that was inside were my new purchases. There's a quote from The Accidental Tourist about never taking what you can't afford to lose on a trip, and I figured anything in my wheeled baggage could be replaced, but I would have risked my very life for the contents of my carry-on. Fr. Sullivan's chalices had been wrapped carefully with bubble wrap and paper by Elena at Domus Artis, and then gift-wrapped. I felt surely I'd be required to remove all the wrapping from them to satisfy the various Customs and securities officials, but to my astonishment, I was not! (However, I believe everything had been x-rayed so extensively that if we ever have a power failure here in Plymouth, the chalices will probably glow in the dark to the extent that light will be furnished for most, if not all, of the township!) I had difficulty sleeping on the flight over, but those are the breaks--it happens. Once I arrived in Philly, I had to wait for my baggage, claim it and declare at Customs, pay duty and re-check the bags. Naturally since I'd arrived at Fiumincino so early, my bags were some of the first on, so they were the very last off. The Customs agent couldn't have been nicer, but he was experiencing some computer problem, and had to send me to another "station" in order to get my passport cleared out of the computer system. Then I had to re-check bags and get over to Terminal A to catch my flight to Detroit. I would probably still be in line in Philly, if it weren't for the eyes of a sharp TSA agent, who, coming down the line to check tickets, realized several folks were on flights about to board in other terminals. She waved us out of line, gave us directions on how to get outside and to the shuttle bus, and instructed us on where to catch our flights. Due to her kindness, I made it in time, only to discover the flight to DTW was nowhere near ready to take off, because first they had no available plane, then the crew hadn't shown up yet! Soooooo...I sat down again to read. My carry-on bag has two small zippered compartments on the side, just about big enough for a water bottle or a pair of sunglasses, which is all I ever put in there...well, except for this particular day, when my American cell phone was in there. When I sat down, I saw one of these compartments was unzipped, and I hadn't remembered unzipping it...that's because I hadn't! Some thief had helped him/herself to my cell phone! Two days later, after a long talk with my cell phone provider, service was shut off on the phone, and my provider furnished me with a new phone and new calling plan. I'm still loading phone numbers into the new phone, though!

At last we took off, headed home, going to sleep in my own bed for the first time in a couple of weeks, even if I am without my cell phone...upon arrival in DTW, about A THIRD of us on the plane did not have our checked luggage arrive when we did! Frankly, I didn't give a d***, and was happy to have the valuables in my carry-on. The next morning I was at the dining room table in my home, eating toast around 7 am, when the phone rang, and a representative from US Airways informed me they'd like to deliver my bags between 9 and 11.

Getting there and getting back was hell, but being there was absolutely delicious!
bookchick is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 04:52 PM
  #7  
lyb
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,142
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
always enjoy reading your posts...marking this one so I can continue reading at home...leaving work soon..Yeah!!!
lyb is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 05:17 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
bookchick -

This is a truly beautiful trip report and I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and your feelings.
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 05:21 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,330
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hey BC! And thanks for posting. It's always nice to read a trip report from you.
indytravel is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 05:35 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 3,605
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm glad that you had such a restorative trip and thank you for sharing it w/us. I was curious what you were reading along the way (given your moniker) and have to agree w/your assessment about The Secret Lives of Bees--a great read for anyone who appreciates good writing. I'm sure your mum and dad were looking down on you w/a smile!
mvor is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 05:39 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 42,310
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Wow, What a rocky start!!!!!
Wow, what a luxurious trip!!!
Wow, love this report.
You are a WOW
cigalechanta is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 06:02 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 287
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A wonderful trip report. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and feelings.
mv_rd is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 06:28 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 19,000
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
bookchick rules!

What a great report about a great time on a great trip to some great places!

(Um, would you like some editing?)
Robespierre is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 06:40 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 4,129
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Very touching trip report Bookchick. How wonderful you spent it spoiling yourself. As much as you missed them, I'm sure they were with you every step of the way.
mcnyc is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 07:25 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 49,062
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Great report from a great writer - love those literate trip reports!

And yes, The Secret Life of Bees was a winner!
StCirq is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 09:16 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,323
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I can't thank you enough for including us in your journey. I became so absorbed, that I actually felt as if I was there with you.

A lost parent or loved one never leaves your side - they are always there to experience your life and to let you know that it is all right to continue without them.

At the risk of sounding simplistic, you made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside - something that rarely happens.

Nina
Nina66 is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 09:24 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,848
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Dear Bookchick: I'm approaching a very sad anniversary and I found your report very comforting. Thank you.
Treesa is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2006, 09:27 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,962
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Can't thank you enough for sharing with us. Great read, great Fodor's friend.
klondike is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2006, 03:48 AM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,950
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Absolutely wonderful report. Thank you.
Carrybean is offline  
Old Oct 18th, 2006, 04:10 AM
  #20  
ira
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,700
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi BC,

Great report. It was better than being there.

ira is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:35 PM.