Good Morning. It's nearly 3:30 a.m. I'm still too jet lagged to do the math to figure out what you're all doing across the time zones of the U.S.
My Italian adventure began at the Rome airport. Following a perfect flight...not counting the failures of signage at the Amsterdam airport. I had a very close connection, and the lines through passport ID and security looked like St. Peter's Square on Pope Night. Across the minions in the Economy Class Lane was a line for close connections...those listed on the screen. Except the screen was too small to read even with my $2000 20/20 lens implants. So I took a chance and made my way through the line. Nope, if I were going to three places I couldn't spell, okay. Rome, no. So now I was even farther back in the economy lane. By the time I got to the passport inspector...what is he called?...I was sure my meeting with Fabio would never happen. I must have been radiating frantic energy because the passport guy told me not to have a heart attack. Good advice, as I started filling plastic security trays with iPad, liquids, and everything I had that could not blow up a plane. I made it with a few minutes to spare so decided to text the family, only to experience the first sign of difficulties to come. My phone did not work. Here, I will pause in my narrative to warn you: Even if you call Verizon 4 times to be sure their instructions for using your iPhone overseas, call a 5th time...or better yet, demand to speak to a global operator. More later on the Verizon global operators Vanessa and Victoria.
So I get to Rome with my instructions to meet Fabio at the exit. Following those dreaded moments of It's taking Way Too Long for My Luggage to appear, I was rolling my suitcase to the exit...whoops, there were three. I cannot find Fabio through any of them. My phone didn't work. I go to Customer Service and explain my problem to the only available agent, who does not speak English. You know how singing sounds better in the shower. I alway sound so, well, Italian...a grammatical Italian, in fact...when I talk to myself strolling along Netarts Bay. Suddenly, I am sounding like a refuge from a world before fire and grammar were invented. But the intrepid agent must have followed because he asked me for Fabio's number so he could place the call. After the first call which appeared to end with someone on the other end who never heard of Fabio Testorio, the agent tried again and instructed, "Dritto, secondo porta."
Outside the second door, I rolled my suitcase back and forth in front of the line of drivers who looked like casting call-backs for The Sopranos. Cuttullio? Fabio? No, signora. Finally, a tall pencil-thin man appeared with the look of one who could use a good sleep and a salad and had stepped out for a smoke and held up his sign. Cutuly. Fabio? Si, Signora.
So off we went with Fabio, apparently none the worse for his lack of greens and sleep, speed-walking me to the car, my suitcase wheels clanking over the pavement. Now driving in Italy reminds me of those bumper cars at amusement parks, except here, you don't actually hit the cars and pedestrians but rather see how close you can come to hitting them. The guide book instructions say very clearly: Walk confidently. Never pause. As I was trailing the speed-walking Fabio like the dutiful wife, I was nearly flattened by a red Smart car.
The 30-minute ride to the apartment took 20 as we careened through traffic, tail-gating, weaving in around through, missing cars by inches, showing no mercy for pedestrians. I glanced at the speedometer at one point. 125. The Amsterdam agent's message rang in my ears. Don't have a heart attack. Oh, yeah, kilometers, not mph. Still....
My street was too narrow and allows no parking, so Fabio found a space and rolled my suitcase at a rapid and relentless pace over the cobblestones with me following like a beaten wife. Stopping at #36, he rang the bell. The window above opened. An elegant woman leaned out. "Joan Cutuly?"
"Si, Si. Benventua. Come come. I ring you in."
With what felt like my last ounces of strength, I lugged my suitcase up the steep stairs where Signora Stella opened an iron security gate. "Piano, piano," she said. "No hurry."
After my Florence apartment that made Motel 6 look sweet, I was afraid to look. But La Dolce Dimora, as the apartment is called, is indeed The Sweet House.
Except for the smell. And the wifi doesn't work. And my phone still doesn't work. And I walked up the block for groceries and it took me an hour to find my way back...why did I ever leave Netarts.
Next: Getting Connected
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