HE SAYS:

We almost were not able to send this to you.  Annemarie had worked out a plan to have Internet service in Italy from a major wireless company, who shall remain nameless, except, to say that we should have known trouble was just over the “Horizon”.   The plan proved to be worthless and after two days we discontinued it in the hopes that we could find Internet service from time to time in our hotels.  Fortunately, our beautiful hotel in the heart of Florence has, among its many amenities, free wireless service.  While in Florence we will still be connected to home and the office.   Our cell phone never stopped working.  Thank goodness for Blackberries!

            After the hustle and bustle of Rome, we had a very pleasant experience in the small town of Orvieto. Orvieto is located on the top of a volcanic plateau in the Umbrian Region and commands stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and farms.  We spent two days and one night in this quaint town and found it very charming and interesting.  One highlight was the tour of the Orvieto underground city that was started over 2,800 years ago by the Etruscans.  It is a labyrinth of caves and tunnels that were first dug in a desperate effort to find water.

            We arrived in style at our hotel in Florence after we decided to forego the hassle of traveling by train which we had experienced on our trip from Rome to Orvieto and hired a private car and driver who delivered us directly to our hotel.  Florence seems more crowed with tourists than Rome. We took a break from the crowds and went on a walking tour of Cinque Terre which is five small towns along the rugged coast line about two hours by train from Florence.

            This will be contentious to some but I do not like organized tours and very rarely have we traveled with a tour group.  I don’t like the set itinerary, the strict schedule and most of all I don’t like seeing marvelous cities from the window of a tour bus.  When we go to any city, we first take the time to walk the streets for hours just soaking up the atmosphere as I used to say to our children. 

With all of the resources available on line, you can find all the information you need about any destination and pre-book tickets for popular attractions to avoid a long wait in line.  We also have the advantage of having a friend who has traveled extensively throughout Europe.  She acts as our travel consultant and helps implement our plan.  I will go so far as tell her what room I want at a particular hotel and she will get it for us.  Our best advice is to do your own advance planning with or without help and then do your trip your way.  

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HE SAYS:

Siamo Qui.  We are here.  

After a long day of travel, we arrived in Rome, the Eternal City, at 11:30 AM on Thursday, September 9, 2010.  We settled into our hotel located next to the Pantheon in the Piazza Rotunda.  We have stayed here before and welcome the familiarity of the hotel and the surrounding area.

We spent a good part of the next day visiting the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as walking for hours through the narrow streets that always seem to, eventually, open onto one interesting piazza after another.  We stopped for lunch at a restaurant we like located in Compo de Fiori which is a large square with a bountiful open air market.  It makes for a fun place to browse and it brings back a lot of memories since we had rented an apartment in this area when we visited Rome with our children in 1999.

Annemarie had set my phone up so that it would work in Italy and we would be able to be in contact with home and with the office.  We had a little trouble getting our computer hooked up to the Internet but now that seems to be working.  We will need the computer to be able to e-mail our office.  Yes, even in Rome, we want to stay connected to our business. 

As we walked over to the Pantheon the first night, the area was teeming with tourists speaking languages from all over the world.  I could not help but comment to Annemarie that I felt as if they were all intruding on my quest to reconnect with my roots.  I felt as a child might if he came home only to find it full of strangers.  Well, I have to accept that we are just two more tourists who came to marvel at all that is Italy.  Ciao, for now.  

WHAT DO YOU SAY?