None of us got any sleep. I tried with my ear plugs and inflatable pillow but the best I had was what I call "hospital sleep". You know, the restless sleep you get when you are in a hospital with lights on and nurses coming in at all hours. Planes are God-awful noisy things, too. I tried getting Lucas comfy enough for sleep, but nothing worked. This poor kid is going to collapse somewhere tomorrow.
We then had to deal long lines and no air conditioning at Italian customs and retrieving our one checked bag (Lisa just had to have more space!) The place was modern yet tired looking at the same time. The workers looked bored and there were few smiles. I was amazed at how hot and stuffy it was. They either don't have proper air conditioning, have it turned off to save money, or have the thermostats set to around 80. Fiumicino Airport is a huge, confusing place.
Over an hour or more later, we walked out the customs doors and found our driver, Adele, holding up a card with our name. She spoke broken English... I spoke fractured Italian. We still managed a decent conversation on the way to the rail station. She played obnoxious Italian pop music on the radio--some with pretty inappropriate lyrics (I knew enough Italian curse words to catch this). Her driving was like any big city taxi driver--aggressive and confident.
We had a first class cabin on this second class train... it was older, but that's what gave it the charm. This was a regional train... no high speed here. Squeaky brakes, lights that didn't work, and a toilet that dumped right onto the rushing tracks below! Lots of tunnels on this route. Everything looked Italian! The further toward Tuscany we got, the more beautiful... hills, mountains, vineyards, hilltowns. We napped a bit. Took some bad blurry pictures out the window and enjoyed the fun of a new kind of train travel. I haven't been on European style trains like this since the Seventies when traveling in France.
Luckily, we had lunch in a little trattoria I had discovered while looking around this little town on Google Earth. We ordered some pasta carbonara and tortellini with proscuitto. Lucas awakened and his face lit up with the first bite. This was some of the best pasta we ever had... and for six bucks each! Our only complaint: The place didn't have air conditioning and it was hot.
They call the Fiat 500L the "Large" here--pronounced "Large". Perfect fit for us. Small car. Narrow for tight roads. Lots of storage in a covered trunk, and raised theater seating for the back seat so Lucas can have a good view. Another thing I liked--the glove box was a cooler. Cool drinks on the road! SO, we got to the car--charcoal grey--and were about to leave when I noticed a few bad gashes on the bumper that weren't called out on the rental sheet. We drive back to the office in a rush (believe it or not, they were about to close up for the day after only being open again for an hour) and have them note this damage in the rental paperwork. I've heard nightmarish stories of rental companies in Italy charging people thousands of dollars for such things. Even though the name is Hertz, all these rental shops are owned by locals, each one with their own way of doing things.
At last... On the Road! This one is a standard shift so Lisa panicked each time my shifting was a little rough or abrupt... hard not to do with Italian drivers cutting us off (stop signs and red lights mean nothing here), tons of curvy mountain roads, having to take off from dead stops on steep slopes, and the sudden torrential thunder storm we had to drive through.
Before getting to our first rental, we needed to pick up supplies. We made a stop in an Italian chain supermarket in Montepulciano--a Conad. Lucas will fill you in on that... oddly different. We bought cheese, milk, eggs, drinks, jam, bread, tomatoes and a few snacks.
About an hour and a half after leaving Chiusi,
we arrived at Cosona, our first agriturismo (a farm B&B). The stone buildings were half a millennium old with high beamed ceilings, tile floors and amazing views. A real dream come true... vistas of hilltowns and rolling hills and mountains for 20 miles.
Then... sleep. Lucas fell first, then Lisa... then me, but only after working for over 20 minutes on this blog post only to lose the post because of the slow satellite Internet connection disconnecting. Arrgh! Sleep came fast after over 20 hours of traveling...
As we woke up refreshed, we all explored Cosona--the apartment, the grounds, gardens, the views. Lucas got a kick out of watching the lizards climbing up the walls and scurrying around the rocks--way too fast to catch one. We found a ping-pong table in one stone building, so Lisa and Lucas had a sloppy game--neither a winner. As for myself and Lisa, we loved the beamed ceilings, the tile floors, the stone walls, the olive trees, the songbirds and bees buzzing, the smell of the spices and flowers in the garden, the lichen covered clay tile roof... perfetto. This is just wonderful.
And next, our very first colazione in Italy: some jam, juice, bread and fruit. I re-wrote did this post (hoping it wouldn't crash this time) and we are out on our first Tuscan exploration.
To our friends... We miss you already, tutti. Thanks for all the help back at home.