I am determined to finish this, though I’ve been home and gone twice since Italy. Perhaps a day-by-day summary will be best at this point.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007: Last night we ate our final meal in Venezia with Scott and Nina. The old Italian man who helped us find the laundromat yesterday also showed us a little restaurant, out of the way of the tourists, and encouraged us to try it. We met several other people who looked longingly at the menu at Trattoria ai Giardinetto da Severino on Ruga Giufa, so we decided to make it our last Venitian repast.
Our waiter was hilarious, constantly telling us that a particular dish came with “raspberries from Knotts Berry Farm”! I don’t know where he got that phrase, or whether he once visited the US and ONLY went to Knotts Berry Farm, but despite the fact that he had a huge group across the hall to wait on (and therefore was less than properly attentive to OUR table), he endeared himself to us with that repeated humor.
This morning we got up early to say goodbye to Scott and Nina in the breakfast room, and walked them to their vaporetto stop so they could meet their train at the Venice Station. Then we had a leisurely breakfast ourselves, at Hotel Bel Sito, and followed vaporetto suit an hour later. We disembarked at the rental car station, picked up our car from AutoEurope and began our drive to LeMarche.
When the rental car agent asked where we were going to go, I told him we would wander through LeMarche for a few days. He raised his eyebrows and smiled. “LeMarche . . . che bella . . . and wild . . .”
We followed the smaller roads, near the ocean’s edge, stopped for lunch at a ristorante whose wait staff (and clientele) spoke no English at all. A good sign for a good meal. No turistico specials. I knew I wanted to head for Urbino first, the largest town in the north of LeMarche, and we arrived there in the late afternoon. Parked the car outside the old city walls, as usual, and began our ascent on the street inside the closest archway. When we arrived at the “centro”, we indulged in a cappucino first, got our bearings, found a recommended and inexpensive hotel (a GREAT relief after the expense of Venezia) and reserved a room.
When we checked out the bathroom, Neil commented that there was no shower. I walked the three flights down the stairs to the reception area, where the elderly woman who registered us was dismayed, in Italian, and I couldn’t quite understand her answer to my question about the “doccia” (shower). Finally, Neil had an idea, we trudged back up the three flights of stairs, and there, between the bidet and the sink, on the wall, were two water handles and above them, a shower head. No enclosure, no special spot for the shower, just a drain in the floor.
We encountered a shower like this occasionally on our early trips to Italy, and it always took us one good soaking to realize that before we turned the water on, ALL the towels, toilet paper, and anything on the countertops had to be REMOVED from the room or they too would get a shower. That problem solved, we returned to our car, to drive it to an overnight lot at the other end of the city.
Now Urbino is a beautiful hilltown with 15,000 permanent residents and 22,000 college students. Can you imagine the energy in a place like this? Beautiful palaces, churches, piazzas built perhaps 600 years ago, and the energy of 22,000 young people, happily studying in this amazing environment! I wish I were 20 again, for specifically this reason. Otherwise . . . it was too hard to be that age and I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience!
We wandered through the streets, got to the hotel again and shed our bags, and went into the ristorante attached to the Hotel. Antipasti, pasta, lamb (agnello), panna cotta for dessert, and a delicious wine called Lacrima d’Morro d’Alba (The tears of Morro d’Alba). Deep purple, rich fruit flavor, with a unique austerity underneath that was so different from any other wine I have ever tasted.
We sat next to a student and her parents during dinner, and began a bit of a chat. She had a touch of English, I had my primitive Italian, Neil and the mother kept quiet, and the father asked me question after question, carefully, slowly (for an Italian, this is a lesson in EXTREME restraint!) and in fairly simple language, so I could understand most of it. Between my half-assed Itali-english responses and the daughter’s matched mixture, we had the kind of interaction I could NOT have had without that two weeks of language school in Firenze. If I never learn another word of Italian, I will be grateful for that experience and several like it in the following days.
Early to bed, after a long day of driving, and the prospect of three more days of automobile exploration throughout this “wild” region.