Airport security is a joke. They X-rayed, but the people they have working at protecting our flights look like they couldn't handle a real emergency. For the most part they are all slow-moving and paying attention more to their looks than the passengers. And after all the hassle of measuring our carry on bags and finding models that fit, I saw a lot of older large bags going on board. I didn't see a single bag being checked for size. The overhead was large enough to hold the older style carry-on sizes.
The flight was 8 hours long, uncomfortable and tiring. The seats were tight, but with three of us sitting together we could raise the seat arms for a bit more breathing room. ) When Lucas gets bigger, it'll be much tighter.) Leg room was OK, though it's hard to stretch out. A very tall person must hate these new seat spaces.
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 kid's going to collapse somewhere tomorrow.
We then had to deal long lines and no air conditioning getting through Italian customs and getting 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.
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--agressive and confident.
She drove us around the Colosseum before dropping us at Tiburtina station, which turned out to be a lot cleaner and safer than expected. We had to camp out for three hours in a modern cafe waiting for our train to come. We had some decent pastries, drinks, coffee for Lisa and my first Italian soda--Fanta (Which tastes like fresh oranges mixed with seltzer... very different from the chemical tasting Fanta we have in the States.) Lucas finally had a deep 20 minute power nap leaning on the table and on his cushy fleece jacket. Poor sweet boy.
Because Lisa kept insisting the train coming in was not out train, this confusion almost made us miss it. The conductor helped and assured me it was ours... but we had to race to the first car to get on. Tickets have seat and car numbers on them and you never know if your car number is going to be at the beginning, middle or end of the train. A thumbs up from me once we got aboard and the conductor gave the go-ahead for the train to move. Whew! Close call!
We had a first class cabin on this second class train... it was older, but that's what gave it the charm. Squeaky brakes, lights that didn't work, and a toilet that flushed 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 we got to Chiusi, we had another couple hours to kill before the Hertz office came back from their 2-1/2 hour lunch! (All Italy does this and they wonder why they can't get ahead.) We had lunch in a little trattoria I had discovered on Google Earth. We ordered some pasta carbonara and tortellini with proscuitto. Lucas face woke up and lit up with his 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.
We picked up our little Fiat 500L... they call it "the large" here. Perfect fit for us. This one is a standard shift so Lisa paniced each time my shifting was a little rough or abrupt... hard not to do with Italian drivers cutting us off, tons of curvy mountain roads, havint to take off from dead stops on steep slopes, and the sudden thunder storm we had to drive through. In fact, to get the car, we had to walk several blocks in the pouring rain. More on that Hertz experience in other posts.
We made a stop in an Italian chain supermarket--Conad. Lucas will fill you in on that... oddly different.
Another half hour or so and 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 only to lose the post because of the slow satellite Internet connection. Arrgh! Then sleep came fast after about 18 hours of traveling...
Now it's morning, we had our first little jam, bread and fruit breakfast, I did this post (hope it doesn't crash this time) and we are out on our first Tuscan exploration. Miss you already, everyone.