Last night someone was rocking down the house at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. True story. As Tim and I rounded the corner and headed down the block toward our hotel we heard loud thumping music. Thinking maybe that Jackie O’s was letting it out a bit more than usual we realized that the party was at the Embassy. In true Europe club fashion there was a long line outside the entrance to the embassy and the Polizi turned bouncers were holding the crowd at bay and screening those who by chance could jump the line.
Maybe i should have tried to talk our way in. Another one of those cases where I regret what I didn’t do — never what I do!
After a disappointing visit to the rental car office near our hotel, we were on the road to Tuscany in a new Fiat Punto. You see we had reserved a little Alpha Romeo turbo diesel hatchback. Small enough to not get wedged between the walls of the tiny stone lined streets of the medieval towns we’d be bopping around for the next several days, yet powerful enough to let it open up on the Autodstrade. But no. Here we are in a box shaped car that should make any passionate Italian designer a bit embarrassed. No turbo diesel. No style. But functional. Functional that is until you try to accelerate onto the Autostrade.
Not that this is new to me or any of you reading, but these Italian drivers — call it European drivers — have no interest in lines that divide lanes. Nor do they think twice about accelerating at extreme rates of speed until they nearly run into the back of you and latch onto your bumper. And when driving safely in the right lane the drivers that pass cut back quickly and sharply into your lane after their rear bumper is just pass your front bumper by a few inches. And of course they never seem to go all the way into the right lane. Instead they simply straddle the dividing line until they come up on the next unsuspecting driver.
All this is in fun and of no consequence to my experience here in Italy. I find the people to be friendly, helpful and unlike those I met on my last European excursion in France, willing to listen and try to understand my poor pronunciation and lack of Italian vocabulary.
On the way to Tuscany we stopped into Orvieto, a small medieval town in Umbria. The highlight of this stop beyond the classic white wine of Orvieto is the Cathedral that graces the central plaza. Built in the 1300’s features both Romanesque and Gothic influences. This is because it took so long to build and architects changed during the construction. But the real treat to the Duomo (cathedral) in Orvieto is its facade. Unfortunately more than half of this is covered in scaffolding as renovation is well under way. Oh well. Next time.
So I sit writing this post in my hotel room in Montepulciano home of some of the greatest (and perhaps underrated) wine in Italy – Vino Nobile di Montelpulciano.
Photos: 1) apartment windows overlooking Piazza della Rotonda and the Pantheon in Rome; 2) 14th Century relief depicting hell and damnation on the facade of the Duomo in Orvieto