Off to Italy!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I can’t believe our Italy trip is beginning, but here is the limo driver knocking at my door, and three women are waiting in the stretch white car, as well as the three that are chatting at my kitchen island, all ready to go.  Am I?  I think I have everything, and probably more than everything I need.  The weather generally is mild, and I’ve packed lightweight items for the relative heat of Rome in early September, as well as the long pants and long sleeves I will need after a few days.

Two and a half weeks of soaking up the Italian sunshine, some of the best art in the world, exquisite cuisine, and the company of one another.  Ten of us . . . in Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca, and Venice . . . and I hope to give you a taste of our adventures right here on this site, day by day, as often as I possibly can.

Ten years ago I took my first group of women to Italy, and I love the country more each time, especially when I can introduce others to some of what draws me to it.  Yes, I know, I’m part Italian, so perhaps that counts for something, but there is an exuberance in Italy that I don’t find anywhere else.  I plan to get my fill of it!

My info packet, the staple of each travel adventure, is full, each page of reservations, phone numbers, and maps tucked into its proper section of the binder:  Trains, Planes and Automobiles; Rome; Siena, Florence, Lucca; Venice; and Miscellaneous.  I announce to the women, “If I get hit by a train or fall over in a dead flop, just know that this clear binder has all the information you need for the trip.  You can step over me and move on to Roma!”

Then my cell phone began to ring with the US Air updates . . . updates telling us our flight from Denver to Charlotte would be an hour late . . . and then two hours late . . . and we only had a one-hour layover in Charlotte for our flight to Rome.  Clearly we wouldn’t make it, and I have two travelers arriving from other places, with no cell phones so no contact.

The very, very short story is that US Air had an earlier flight, for which we had ALMOST enough time to board.  We were booked on the flight, luggage quickly checked, and a U.S. Air ticket agent RAN us to the security line, past the hundreds of waiting passengers, to the front of the security check point, while dumbfounded passengers watched us buzz through ahead of them.  One man looked toward me and asked, “Who ARE all of you?”  It took everything I had to stuff my mouth so I wouldn’t respond flippantly, “The CIA!”

The gate agents were ready to close the doors, had already cleared a stand-by passenger instead of the last of us, and I was afraid Sarah wouldn’t be on the plane.  Certainly I wouldn’t have left without her.  But that US Air ticket agent communicated with the gate agents, and the stand-by person was booted off the plane, making room for Sarah and me.  We got to Charlotte with three hours to spare, and bushels of gratitude for the airline, for a change.  After meeting up with our Charlotte traveler, making introductions all around, trolling the concourse for croissants, coffee, sandwiches and bottled water, we headed for the sign that said:

We head for this door, like iron filings to a magnet . . . now eight travelers, and soon to be ten, as we meet with our Iowa and Vermont friends in the Roma airport.