NOTE TO READERS: The Rome 2014 trip begins with post #30. Posts #10—29 were Rome 2013. Posts 1–9 were Florence 2011. If you'd like to be notified of new postings by email, let me know at

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#10-Fabio, Isabella, Signora Stella, the SIM Card and the Mosquito Net

On Saturday, March 16, shortly after high noon Rome time, I will (hopefully) retrieve my luggage from the baggage carousel at Leonardo da Vinci airport. Waiting for me beyond Baggage Claim will be my Italian connection and taxi driver—a man known to me at this moment only as Fabio.

If I am unable to find Fabio, Isabella, my rental agent, has emailed me a phone number which I am to call from my iPhone. Verizon has promised this phone will work without flaw through the use of a SIM card preactivated via phone by Julio. I simply press *228 and chose option 2 before leaving the U.S. Should this phone not work, I am not sure what I will do and am trying not to imagine myself, a very small gray-haired woman in the middle of this large and bustling airport screaming, “Fabio! Aiuto! Fabio! Mi sono perso!”—all the while thinking I should have reviewed the grammar lesson on the reflexive use of the verb lost. 

Assuming the best, I will meet up with Fabio without incidente, and he will whisk me from the airport to Via Teatro Pace 16, an apartment in the center of Rome that will be my home until April 8. 

At the apartment, referred to online as La Dolce Dimora (The Sweet House), I am to ring the #1 bell and will be greeted by Signora Stella to whom I will pay a rather large sum of euros for the privilege of setting up headquarters for my continuing quest to explore the ruins: historical and personal. 

I will also be spending the first two of my three weeks in Italia studying Italian at La Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. It was this school that recommended Signora Finestauri—Isabella.

The pictures of La Dolce Dimora show the place to be bright, clean, and full of light, with furniture that might have been purchased at IKEA. I have not quite put out of my mind the fact that my experience in Florence taught me that pictures of apartments can be deceiving. However, I also learned from that experience to pick a place that has at least one window. So I’m good there.

I first chose this apartment from the online offerings in the third week of September. However, Signora Stella does not accept reservations more than 6 months in advance. In our very proper and grammatical exchanges, Isabella explained that I would have to wait until October. So on September 30, given the nine-hour time change, I applied once again. Isabella acknowledged the request, but then I waited for nearly a week without response. On day 8, Isabella assured me she was “working for me.” On October 10, I began to worry that I was going to lose The Sweet House to an online renter. 

I felt myself falling into my Bitch from the Beach either-rent-it-to me-now-or-forget-it mode. But not wishing to sound like l’americana brutta, I spent over an hour writing an email explaining my concern. Isabella, who to this point had been the picture of old-world grace and grammatical precision, replied with ungrammatical outrage that Signora Stella is a  procrastinator who is always giving her (Isabella) a headache and that she (Isabella) would take care of it and that I should not worry. The next day, I sent my deposit through PayPal.

And so la mia avventura italiana continuaI would enjoy having you along on my trip, which will include a journey down to rural Calabria to the town from which my grandparents came. I have a train reservation and a reservation in a hotel about 20 miles from the town. La prenotazione (reservation) for the hotel is in Italian, so I am hoping my Italian is good enough to believe that this $50-a-night place is just 50 yards from the train station, simple but clean, and run by una famiglia dedicated to helping their guests. Among the amenities listed are a hair dryer, shower, and mosquito netting. 

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