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We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored

We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored

Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:21 AM
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We Didn't Drink ALL the Vino! Maitaitom's Italy Uncensored

Although we managed to trash one rental car (a precautionary tale of stupidity from the first part of our trip) and seriously impair dozens of brain cells along the way during our 22-day journey, we have successfully returned from another wonderful trip to Europe. No Italian animals, pedestrians, priests or nuns were injured during the making of this trip report (scared, yes; harmed, no), which will describe the hill towns of Umbria and Tuscany, the beautiful cities of Firenze, Venezia and Roma, and all the sundry details I can remember.

I devoured enough pasta and miscellaneous carbohydrates that poor, dead Dr. Atkins has already turned over in his scrambled eggs. My cholesterol count is undoubtedly so inflated from that over-indulgence that not even an intravenous drip of Lipitor could make a dent in it. Since I've been home, I wake up screaming in the middle of the night for ravioli stuffed with ricotta, Pecorino and spinach, drizzled with olive oil. Yes, I am now a full-fledged Pastaholic.

For those who might have been concerned by an overwrought poster a few months ago who incongruously perceived that Italians were taking turns laughing at her on the streets of Rome, let me first allay those misguided fears she felt. Although given ample opportunity to do so, Italian citizens neither laughed at nor mocked us throughout our three-week stay (at least to our faces).

Tracy and I traveled with another couple (Kim and Mary) that we have known for years, and, I am happy to report, the four of us remain on speaking terms today. We hooked up with another couple (Dan and Linda) for a night in Florence and the last three days in Rome. Between the six of us, we took 1,500 pictures (more if you count Dan's camera, now resting comfortably at the bottom of a Venice canal).

Following are the facts and nothing but the facts. The story you are about to read is true. No names have been changed, because no one is innocent. This is "Italy Uncensored."


For those who hate airline stories, this is your chance to skip to Day Three, although if you are reading this on October 13, it hasn't been written yet, so that could be difficult. Confusing? Yes. Much like our flight plan to get to Rome.

Tracy and I had converted most of our frequent flyer miles to go first class (once before I die, I thought). Because you are at the airlines mercy when it comes to FF awards, we were booked to go L.A. to N.Y, N.Y to London (six hour layover at Heathrow) and finally (mercifully) London to Rome. Basically, the only thing slower than our trip to Rome would be FEMA's response to a disaster.

Upon checking in about two hours before our Thursday, 1:15 pm flight to New York, Tracy and I decided to take advantage of the American Airlines Admiral's Club (I never met a free drink I didn't like). Upon entering the lounge we were greeted with, "You must be Mr. and Mrs. Your Flight Is In Peril But You Don't Know It Yet" (not our real last names).

At first we thought, "How nice. They know our names." Then came word that bad weather in the east had caused a four-hour delay in our flight to New York, meaning we would miss our connection to London. Not to worry, they said, and they re-booked us on a 6 pm L.A. - London non-stop. We'd already dropped off the cats and taken the limo (OK, it was a Lincoln Town Car) to the airport, so we were not going to spend a fortune to go back home and come back again. This was one time we wish we had some unemployed friends to come pick us up at the airport.

Let me say that the American Airlines' people were terrific. They notified us that our luggage had been rerouted to our new flight and to relax for the next six hours in the lounge. A few drinks and a few hundred peanuts later, we boarded our flight to London.

First Class Baby! It is the only way to travel. I inadvertently turned to the right when I got on board, but the flight attendant, realizing my error, quickly turned me to the left toward first class and there before us lay a world I did not know existed. Nobody reclines their seat into your knees and makes your legs lose all feeling twenty minutes into the flight. There is champagne when you board and free-flowing French wine while awaiting dinner. Our movies were brought to us on a silver tray. The seats recline all the way to form a sleeper bed. I looked to the rear of the plane at the sad faces of cramped, uncomfortable passengers and could only think, "Oh, the humanity!"

Dinner consisted of smoked salmon with crème fraiche, onions and capers, a salad with baby lobster tail followed by a delicious steak. Tracy and I stretched out for about five hours only to be awakened by the smell of breakfast. "I wonder how the other half lives?" I thought.

At Heathrow, reality was again with us as we waited five long hours for our final flight to Rome on British Airways. Heathrow is huge, and the trip from Terminal Three to Terminal One was made even more exciting by a herky-jerky bus driver who must have just received his learner's permit that morning. Plus, the guy was driving on the wrong side of the road (yeah, I know)! The BA lounge had finger sandwiches, cocktails (my first Campari of the trip), a lot of Internet points and showers.

We arrived in Rome at 9:30 p.m. Friday night after a 2 hour and 15 minute flight from London (nothing special) and walked to the Rome Airport Hilton, where we would spend the first night. If you like a good sauna, the walkway between the airport and the Hilton reminded me of one. All the weight I gained on the plane was shed during the five to ten minute walk to the hotel.

I remember reading a post by a guy who said that the Rome Airport Hilton was overpriced. Well, maybe it is, but the shower and late dinner of a ricotta and basil ravioli with julienne zucchini hit the spot just fine (the two martinis didn't hurt either). For a couple of weary travelers, the hotel epitomized the phrase "location, location, location", so we were just fine with it and we got to sleep in no time.

The next morning, I would pick up the soon-to-be infamous rental car before our friends arrived, and then it was off to Umbria.

maitaitom is offline  
Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:35 AM
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You're back! Another fantastic trip report. The entire Fodor family will be rolling on the floor all day today. Can't wait for the next part.
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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I laughed out loud. Already. And you haven't even left the airport. Waiting for more . . .
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:40 AM
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Hi tom,

Welcome back.

Looking forward to more.

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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:44 AM
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You had me at "trash one rental car."

Welcome back, Tom!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:50 AM
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I too am hooked---more please!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 08:54 AM
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So far, so funny. I'll try to match your ongoing trip report with one of our own - possibly hitting some of the same high points (and low points?) as yours. In our case, using FF miles to go first class by Air France to Paris for 3 days before flying on to Rome and then by rental car up to our shared villa in Umbria [Fortunately, when Delta and Air France said there were no FF first class seats available that matched our exact needs, my dear wife said she was willing to tolerate 3 nights in Paris before our Italian adventure began].

The wonders of first class and the first class lounges are incredible - it was only on our return to the US 18 days later that I discovered that one could start imbibing free booze (I'm partial to single-malt scotches, to be followed by good wine) at what amounted to 5:00 a.m. in our destination city and drink steadily (but certainly not greedily) for 18 hours straight.

That's enough for now - and perhaps I should start our own thread when the real tales start, so that I don't hijack Maitai Tom's uncensored tales of Italy.

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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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Oh HOW I have been waiting, and wouldn't you know it, over my morning Earl Grey it has appeared, what I have been longing for, Italy Uncensored.

I haven't stopped laughing and I am only on Day 1. I had to stop, drop and scroll to show appreciation.

Now I am going to 'go back up' and continue.

Oh how I do love a good read.
Bless you MaiTai, bless you.

\/ Tiff
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:10 AM
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What a great treat on a gloomy day! Thank you!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:20 AM
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Hello maitaitom, well you obviously have everyone hooked on this trip report of yours, including me!! More please..I can hardly wait to hear about your adventures in Italy. BTW, I hope the dear Italians have recovered from your visit, LOL!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:35 AM
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Oh, goodie!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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Count me as another "hooked" fan! Waiting for that next uncensored installment....
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 09:42 AM
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More please!!! And I do hope there will be a reference to Monty Python in there somewhere!
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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Your trip reports are always the best! Can't wait for the next installment. Don't make us wait too long.

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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:24 AM
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I should be studying for an exam, but this is so much more darn interesting.
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:27 AM
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Oh, I can't wait to hear how you managed to impair all those brain cells.
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:37 AM
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Please, sir, may I have some more?

Your brain cells seem to have recovered. I look forward to reading more.
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 10:42 AM
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Yep, the first time you enter a first class lounge can be rather awe inspiring.

I am positive that everyone was smirking at me as I circled the open bar in wonder, the bottles of booze highlighted very prettily with a spotlight from above. The massive refrigerators on each end, stocked completely full with various beers, waters, juices, sodas, drink mixers, etc. I won't even go into the array of foodstuffs available.

This was a serve yourself setup, and I kept glancing around as I poured myself a bourbon for the expected "STOP! What do you think you're doing?!"

It was a completely different universe from my usual haunt at airports - right at the gate with the rest of the coach passengers.
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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 11:07 AM
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Thanks for all the nice comments.

Between work and jet lag, it has been a struggle to get started. I'll get these off as fast as possible, but that darn work thing has to come first (especially since I might be a part owner of EuropeCar soon...more on that in Day 6).

Just a few teasers for you.

We loved all our hotels...except one (which did have some positive virtues also, but was still a disappointment). One of our hotels we stayed at was the best hotel experience I have ever had in Europe in my 13 trips.

We also found an incredible hotel deal in Chianti.

We traveled to more than 20 hill towns, so this report will not be short (but you knew that anyway). Our feet are still recovering.

Scavi more than lived up to its billing and the Borghese sculptures were incredible.

We ran into one Fodorite at Cane y Gatto in Siena.

We had one lunch that proved to be our most memorable experience of the trip.

And so much more.

I'll get Day 3 to you later in the day.

Yes, first class lounges are the way to go. I would not buy any American Airlines stock anytime soon, as they are probably still counting up my bar bill.

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Old Oct 13th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Bravissimo! I will take advantage of some surprise sunshine to go out and pull some weeds, and hope that there will be another installment of your adventure soon!

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