First days

Posted by Wynette: I’ll be lazy and use my first email to family as first blog entry (but take out personal notes). My apologies to those who already got this email! I edited it just a tiny bit.

We haven’t been on the internet yet. I’m writing this email off-line and will cut and paste into email later. In our hotel getting onto the internet costs $4.50 for one hour or $7.50 for 5 hours so we’ve been saving up for a 5 hour sprint. That’s to connect with wireless from the little laptop that Charlie brought and from which I am now typing and trying to get used to this itty-bitty keyboard. Today has gone too fast because I slept all morning — felt like I was getting sick, but feel better this afternoon so maybe (I hope) it was just still a bit of jetlag. We are starting to get to know spoleto. This is our second full day here. Our trip over went fine. We weren’t able to sleep much on the plane. So, we were ready for bed Thursday night, our first night here in italy. I think we were asleep by 8:00 pm and slept well. Funny, both of us became wide awake around midnight but listened to books on tape on our (respective) ipods and were back to sleep in a couple of hours. Getting back to report of flight over … we had many strange mobbed up lines in Milan to get through to catch the final leg of trip from Milan to Rome. We had our first coffee (cappucino) in the Rome airport train station. It was as good as we remembered italian cappucinos to be — nothing in the states comes close — I wish I could describe them and I wish everyone reading this could have one to see what I mean. Then a 30 minute train ride from Rome airport to Rome itself — was crowded and we had to stand. Then got on a train in Rome to Spoleto. We weren’t clear about the schedule/route and ended up getting off too soon. At first, we were upset about that (we were SOOOOO tired) but found we could catch next train in 1.5 hours and were in this charming little town named Narni and so we walked around a little and had our second cappucino in a little bar (what we’d call a cafe in the states) near the train station and started to feel relaxed and happy to be in Italia. So now we are in Spoleto, state of Umbria. There’s a large wonderful very old church two buildings over from our hotel and it’s ringing its bells like crazy right now — don’t know what is happening. (Well, I guess that’s where the bells are coming from.) We walked inside it yesterday. No one else was there. All this art and frescos and beautiful open space. And this church is such a minor tourist attraction in this town it’s hardly mentioned in the guide books. Everywhere you look there’s something ancient and spectacular and often beautiful and you can just wander by or in and no one is making a big deal about it. This town was initially built by the Romans in 300 BC or something like that. It was razed by Barbarossa in 1100 so most of what you see dates back to 1200s or later. However, some Roman things remain such as a very large amphitheater, I think where thousands of Christians were slaughtered. Again, it’s just “there” — no one making a big deal about it. Spoleto has a population of about 40000 so it’s an interesting mix of a modern city and an ancient one. We are staying in the “old town” part, but it’s only about a 10 minute walk to the newer part. I walked down there yesterday and found a shop where clothes weren’t too expensive and bought a black knit top — all the women wear black here — I wanted to fit in better. Of course the women are all thin — at least the younger ones. It seems women here are either young and thin or middle aged or older and slightly plumper. I guess I fit in more with the middle-aged crowd. The Italians are as nice as I remember. I try to speak Italian as much as possible when shopping, ordering, etc. and I often get the words wrong. They always very kindly correct me, with a smile. It’s a lot of fun to try to speak Italian and they seem to be delighted that I’m trying. One example. Yesterday, Charlie and I decided we needed to buy a razor blade to cut out a section of our guide book so we didn’t have to lug around the whole book. We passed an art supply store and realized that would be a perfect place to buy a blade. I stepped into the store entrance and two men standing just inside the entrance yelled for me to stop — but it was too late — I’d stepped into some wet cement that they’d recently laid. They were good natured about it and pointed me to an alternate entrance. Inside, I tried to say “I’m sorry” in Italian: “mi dispiace”. I said something like “mi dipacia” and he corrected me in a very friendly way. (Remind me I’ll show you the cool razor-blade thingy we got.) For lunch today, we had some memorable polenta with truffles (corn meal “pudding” flavored with the rare and delicious truffle mushrooms that grow around here and goat cheese). It was very good. Tonight we are splurging on a big 3-course meal at a highly-recommended restaurant so might have other food stories to report next email. Charlie just said to me from his position propped up in bed reading a book on his Kindle, “having a good meal made me happy”. We are only now getting our legs — getting to know this town, getting over jetlag, relaxing into being here. It’s great. We decided for this trip we mostly just want to “be here”. Relax a lot, go where the spirit moves us. Italy is a good place to do this because the people here are relaxed and happy and hospitable — at least in the smaller towns. In the cities or in the more touristy towns like Florence they are a little more stressed and tired of us tourists and less helpful and friendly. We haven’t seen a whole lot of tourists on this trip, I think because it is early in the season. I’m glad we came now. The weather is perfect. Cool and sunny and everything is green and we are seeing spring blooms. I bet things will be in full bloom before we leave in 3 weeks. Things sure aren’t cheap. It wouldn’t be too bad but the dollar is so weak now. 1 euro costs over $1.50. So a meal that would have been about $20 in the states costs us $30. We are paying now for our first trip to Italy in 2000 when the dollar was strong against the euro and a euro was only 88 cents. Then everything seemed so inexpensive! But no regrets. It’s good to be here again.

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Itinerary

You can see a map of of Italy travels here

Here is our tentative itinerary:

Wed March 12: Fly to Rome, train to Spoleto
March 14-16, Spoleto, Hotel Charlston
Mon March 17: rent a car in Spoleto
Tue: March 18: leave Spoleto, drive through Le Marche
Fri: March 21: arrive Urbino
March 22-24, Urbino
Tue: March 25: drive from Urbino to Siena
Wed: March 26, drop off rental car in Siena
March 27-29: Siena
March 30: train to Rome
March 31-April 1: Rome, Hotel Tizi (phone: 0039 06 48 20 128)
April 2: Fly home from Rome