Only in Italy!
After an evening of sharing beers and swapping stories with Udo and Trixie, the German motorcycle riders in Rome for the Harley convention, we called it a night.
The bed in our bungalow was thin but very comfortable, so we slept well. Nevertheless, jet lag left us– or, at least me– a little off-center in the morning. Besides messing up my sleep cycle, mal de Lufthansa plays havoc with my dietary routine. Basically, I want to eat six meals a day, three on Iowa time and three Roman. So it was with a little weariness and a lot of hunger that we made our way to the camp restaurant.
Two buffets were offered.
For five Euros we could pick from a basket of fresh crusty bread, a plate of thinly sliced sausages, one dispenser of cornflakes, a pitcher of room temperature milk, and a push-button dispenser of coffee that seemed more suitable for motor oil than morning pick-me-up. The other buffet offered all the items above plus hot dogs and beans for one Euro more?
Only in Italy!
We opted for the less expensive line, and during the next few days I ate enough bread and sausage sandwiches to become one.
Our first bike tour was later that morning.
Sabra and I have ridden our bikes by the seat of our saddles in many urban settings, including Washington D.C., Chicago and St. Louis but we opted to pay for guided tours because Rome offered some unique challenges. For one thing we don’t understand any Italian. For another, they drive like maniacs over there (more about this later).
Since it was our first day in Rome, I insisted we take a taxi to the beginning of the tour. Sabra wanted to take public transportation as we were told it was a simple bus ride to the train station, and then only two train transfers to get near our final destination. But as I’ve documented in this space many times, whenever we hear “it’s simple to get there” it proves to be anything but simple– even when we can speak the local language. And besides that, I saw a sign at the bus stop when we first arrived announcing that transportation workers were on strike Monday mornings, Friday afternoons and from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. daily.
Only in Italy!
Over the next five days we’d take a taxi for the same trip another four times. Each trip the driver took a drastically different route and the fares ranged greatly. The cabbies also make it a point of honor to not carry any change so you better not be carrying only 50s when the fare comes to 17 Euro or you’ll be tipping more than you owe.
The cab got us to the tour office early, but luckily there was a small bistro nearby offering a reasonable facsimile of American coffee, sweet rolls and outdoor seating. I’d already eaten back at the village but that was in Roman time, and now an hour later it was lunch hour in Iowa so I ordered an éclair that proved to be so delicious that I had another.
It’s always mealtime somewhere.
When the second delicacy was downed, I moved on to smoking a cigar and pantomimed to the young man behind the counter that I needed a lighter. After searching several drawers to no avail, he held up a finger and ran out the door leaving me in the shop alone with his tip jar, cash register and inventory. A few minutes later he showed up with a Bic®, and insisted I keep it, no charge.
And that’s where I want to leave off on this week’s installment of my travelogue because no matter how much I tease the Italians they are the sweetest people on earth. They’ll give you the shirt off there back or a free lighter for the asking but not change for a 50. Only in Italy!