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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The return home

It was the morning of our return flight, and we had an afternoon departure; we could still have our leisurely bar breakfast.  I had arranged an airport transfer through Rome Shuttle Limousine.  I made the request based on the apartment's published checkout time of 10.30, but they told me there that we could have stayed until 11.   Anyway, I wanted to get down before the appointed time, because we were on small streets where vehicles couldn't easily hover.  I found the driver there; he had parked on the Lungotevere, which we could access by steps.

The fare had been set at €50 if a Mercedes E-class sedan was sufficient, €60 if a minivan was required.  Even with an extra bag, I was confident that the sedan would work; still, this driver came with a minivan, and we had a nice ride with a €50 charge, which I could put on a credit card because I requested it with the booking. 

At Fiumicino, we took advantage of the service to wrap our bags in plastic, and got to the Vueling checkin counter for passengers needing special assistance, trying to stay together while some people tried to charge between us. It may have been a little early for our flight to check in, and it raised alerts that we each were allowed two free checked bags because of being in Premium Class on the longer segment; they called to verify and we were o.k.  We had another waiting area for a wheelchair, which eventually showed up and got us to our posted gate.

A previous flight boarded, and the next flight on the board was something after ours.  Word got around (no announcement) that our gate had changed; we got to our new gate and didn't have seats together.  The we first boards got down the first ramp and needed to wait for disembarking passengers.  Then as we went up the ramp to the aircraft door, we were blocked because of another "situation," and it was confusing what was happening, but we finally boarded.  The flight went smoothly enough to Barcelona.

On arrival there, we had assistance and boarded a motorized cart.  We didn't have our boarding passes for the LEVEL flight home; the driver stopped at a counter with our passports and got our passes.  There was an elevator to the floor where we cleared exit passport control and got to our gate, once again one without seats together.  In our original plan, we were going to go into Barcelona during our long connecting time; now we didn't even have time to pick up a snack before boarding as we'd hoped.

The signs posted that boarding would start an hour and 15 ahead, and there was again a confused boarding process.  There were lanes for boarding, including for the small number of Premium passengers, but no call for those needing assistance.  In fact, we were just in the first group to board the bus, which filled up to take us to the plane parked at a remote stand.  We then walked to stairs put at the front and rear, glad we were capable of that, and got to our Premium seats.

While the LEVEL boarding processes were disorganized (sometimes handled by local contractors), the inflight experience was nice.  The dinner was a beef stew dish, which Margaret liked enough to want to replicate at home.  On the way to the lavatory at the front, we saw the crew putting together what looked like nice jamón serrano, which we were hoping would be the late snack, but it didn't turn up for us.  The seat-back entertainment worked well enough for us.  We landed, cleared border controls easily enough with Global Entry, and had a hotel for the night in the Boston airport area.

Once we were home, I was ready to book the next trip, which I've done: next spring, an award on Iberia with Premium Economy to Madrid to connect to Rome. After time in Umbertide, ferry from Ancona to Split (with some hesitation after I read things about the ferry and boarding process); on arrival in Croatia, ferry to Hvar for our prize week.  Then ferry to Dubrovnik for three nights; I've booked a return flight by converting credit card points to United, and getting an award with a first segment on Croatia Airlines to Frankfurt, connecting on Lufthansa to Boston.  After one good trip, looking forward to adventures in the future.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Extra days in Rome

Once it was known that we'd have these two extra days in Rome, the Navona Nice Rooms weren't available to us.  In starting to look up where we could stay, it came to mind that we could hope that trip delay insurance could cover us for these days, and we thought of nicer places to book, starting  with the Hotel Mozart where we'd booked last year but didn't go when the trip was postponed.  I reserved on their site, it appeared to be confirmed, but there wasn't an email confirmation.  I called on Sunday about it, and they said to check later; I'd get confirmation once the card was charged.  There was still nothing on Monday morning, when we would be getting ready to move there.  I called and they said they didn't have room for us, they'd emailed that but I never got it.

We were left scrambling for where to stay; I was finding good deals on Hotwire and Priceline, where we wouldn't be given the property name until we committed to it, but Margaret wanted to search for known places, and it was useful to search for B&Bs and apartments in our familiar neighborhood.  As we focused on one, availability for a regular room went away, and they just had a 2-bedroom apartment.  We went ahead and took that.

It was too close to our old place to get a taxi, and one walk with all our luggage was going to be difficult, so we made two trips to our new location, Gonfalone 6.  We had a friendly greeting and marveled at the size of the apartment, although it wasn't quite ready.

It was nice to keep staying in our familiar neighborhood and mix recognizing familiar places and having new discoveries.  We had lunch at Osteria della Moretta, which I'd walked by during my years of school but never tried or heard of others going there; it had likely changed its style since then, but it was nice.

In the evening we crossed the river to return to Da Giovanni, getting a nice view during the crossing.

In the morning, Margaret chose to stay home; I wondered about using the time and chose to go someplace where I doubted Margaret would want to go, the MAXXI or Museum of 21st Century Art, something newish that I thought I should see although it was of more interest for the architecture than the collection.

Many of the galleries inside were closed for setting up new exhibits; there was some mildly interesting photography.

I had used Google Maps to find the right bus routes there; for the return they suggested walking one direction to start, and I was distracted first by the church of Santa Croce in Via Flaminia (1913), then by the Palazzetto dello Sport, built for the 1960 Olympics and which I knew since childhood as of interest for incorporating geometric shapes, now looking grimy.

While stopping to look, I'd missed the bus that Google Maps had first advised, and started on their advice to go the other way for another bus.  I was on the way to missing that, went back in the original direction, and caught that bus.  I'd bought tickets at a newsstand to validate on the bus (confusing to put them in the right way) and there are other ways of getting bus tickets now.

We had lunch from groceries we bought yesterday, did a little more neighborhood walking, to get us to dinner where I'd chosen Giulietta Vino e Cucina.  It wasn't such a traditional restaurant, something of a salon setup with cushioned chairs, but it was a nice final meal in Rome.  We have our return flight tomorrow.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Soriano to Rome, and extra time

On Friday morning there was the Soriano market.  Pictures include pre-dawn pictures as I added a ticket to the paid part of the lot.

In the afternoon we went to Viterbo: another fairly large and active city, interesting to wander the old streets without too much in mind.  I'd located the Parcheggio del Sacrario to park:  Waze routed us through a narrow street.  On exiting, I missed a turn at the start, and what should have been an easy drive to the main route became a harrowing journey through the city: a narrow arch and difficult turns, and entering Soriano through the unfamiliar side.

On Saturday, it was time to check out.  We got the car loaded and took off for Rome Fiumicino airport.  We took our chances with the fuel warning light coming on, and filled it at the full service pumps at the usual spot where we do that on the G.R.A.  On this gasoline car, the price was a little over €100; it would have been a little less if we were sure the fuel would last to the airport on their refueling option.  Hertz was on Level 1 of their garage, as I recall less travel up the ramps than before.

It was time for Emily to go to her flight, and we got the taxi into Rome, to our small B&B Navona Nice Rooms.  It's a complex of three rooms on an upper floor, and the small elevator only worked with the staff's key.  There was a young earnest staff, and air conditioning and breakfast served in the room, but our coffee preferences were sometimes botched.

I need to mention something else that came up: that word came out of another strike at Barcelona airport affecting Vueling flights.  We saw the list of Saturday cancellations on Thursday evening, on Friday there were emails in Spanish that weren't really right, referring to our inbound travel date, but then the Vueling app showed the Monday flight being changed to a Tuesday night flight (useless for connecting to our Monday evening LEVEL flight) and during Friday/Saturday overnight hours the full list including our Monday flight showed with our flight cancelled.  I had tried to be proactive earlier with all involved airlines.  Iberia, through whom the booking was made, said nothing to do in spite of the Vueling change I was showing.  I'd contacted Vueling through Twitter and they indicated they could provide a hotel and arrange the change of LEVEL flight, but it was somewhat unclear how that would happen, with their site indicating Iberia controlled the reservation.

On Saturday morning, with the flight on the cancelled list, I called Iberia for a change and they said they didn't have official notification of the cancellation, to try again after noon.  I did that once we were in Rome, and they still didn't have it posted.  We asked about a supervisor: one would be available after 6 (noon Miami time).  We were starting to wonder if we'd need to take an early morning trip to the airport to show up for a flight we knew to be cancelled, so we wouldn't be counted as no-shows.

Finally in the evening I called and they acknowledged the cancellation.  This agent said the best he could do was put us on the same airlines two days later.  It was difficult to communicate with him, as I was interested in other Iberia-LEVEL routings that could have still gotten us home Monday, and about European Union rules requiring care during a delay, but all he said was that if we found another way home on our own, we could get a refund, and I wasn't ready to deal with that.  We had to remind him that we were on a Premium award, so we could get seats in the Premium cabin, row 3 rather than 1.

So we'll be in Rome for an extra two days and we needed to find other lodging.  These days we've eaten at restaurants under our B&B, where we have memories from our high school days, and done more wandering in the area.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Villa Lante pictures

Composing on the iPad gets confusing: here are  Villa Lante pictures.  Then we got caught in a downpour returning, including the walk up from our Soriano parking spot.

And on to Soriano

We closed up the house, and as we started the car in Umbertide, I noticed a ticket on our windshield.  We were ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot, although we had a handicapped placard, from the U.S. hanging from the mirror, rather than on the dashboard as done in Italy.  I took a picture of this, and jumping  ahead in that matter, this was Monday; when we got to Soriano, I got the Umbertide police’s email address and emailed the picture with an explanation.  Without an email reply, I called on Wednesday morning; when I got through, the lady said she’d gotten the email and the ticket was cancelled.

Anyway, we took off to meet Emily at Orte station, were a little late, and proceeded, guided by Waze on Apple CarPlay, to the familiar lot in Soriano nel Cimino.  We were welcomed at Palazzo Catalani, where Emily has a timeshare, including the handyman taking our bags from the lot to our apartment in his small utility vehicle.  We have a nice 2-bedroom apartment.  We had some food we brought over to eat on arrival, and had dinner at the property restaurant.

Tuesday we went to Tarquinia with the Etruscan Necropolis outside of town, and museum in town, and had a lunch in town.  A little episode before parking at the Necropolis: we started to park at a spot marked reserved for apartment residents, then decided not to, and lights went on the dashboard with warnings of imminent engine failure.  We went cautiously to a more appropriate parking spot, visited the Necropolis, and no longer had the warnings.

On Wednesday we stayed to explore Soriano, and had a disappointing restaurant lunch.

On Thursday we went to Villa Lante nearby at Bagnaia di Viterbo, an interesting estate built into a hill.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Time goes on, on to Rome

Margaret’s sister Emily arrived, and we spent a week entirely in the Umbertide area, giving attention to the house and, if we ate out, staying nearby.  One day we took off for Assisi and, before getting on the superstrada to go that direction, decided that instead we would go nearby to Montone; we had a nice visit and lunch in that hill town. During the week we also had nice times with friends.

And then it was time for our planned trip to Rome.  Since Margaret and I would be returning, we decided the best way of doing it would be to take the train from Ponte S. Giovanni.  We went there, with multilevel parking, and into the station.  Now we’re pretty well forced to buy tickets from a machine. Emily was buying, and I pretty well knew the procedure, but a car service driver was guiding us through it.  We decided to get first class tickets.

The station had been remodeled since I was last there to have an underpass, but only to the more distant platform; for ours we still needed to cross the tracks.  We saw a car go by towards the front with a 1 on it, and went in that direction, boarding another car first during the short stop. As we went forward, there was a sticker on the car saying  2nd class, and there was no first class car at that end, only in back, so we settled in that car.

The train trip went well enough with a nearly empty car--one thing I noted, different from my experience on Regionali, was how announcements were made of the stations and connecting trains and buses-- and I needed to awaken Margaret as we arrived at Roma Termini.  We were at track 1 Est, to the back of most of the tracks.  Wanting a taxi, we exited to he right, and still needed to get to the front of the station to find a taxi stand; we got a woman driver.

She took us to the apartment we’d rented, close to where I’d lived my first year in Rome, near Regina Coeli prison.  Our ride was slowed by vehicles entering the prison.  When we arrived, a man on a motorcycle across the street spotted us, escorted us u[ a few flights to the apartment, and checked us in.  This included reducing our stay tax, since two of us wouldn’t be staying the whole time.

Once we were checked in, we settled in and appreciated the air conditioning.  While Margaret stayed home, Emily and I started looking at the shopping area I remembered from 45 years ago.  The area was mostly  deserted with things closed for siesta; we found one bar to get small water bottles, and then crossed the river.  We found a small Coop market for provisions.

After going home, we went with Margaret to an expensive caffè as one enters the busier parts of Trastevere.  Then back to our area, we had dinner Da Giovanni, a place that our friends of that era wanted to be kept secret, because it was such a good deal.  Even though they now have credit card and website stickers on the door, they were still a good deal.

The next morning, most of us didn’t feel like doing that much. I went on one outing on my own, including the Villa Farnesina which I hadn't seen in spite of living so close, and late in the day we went up the Gianicolo hill.  We had dinner at the other restaurant I’d spotted near us , the Miraggio, costing a little more but nice.

In the morning we had a little more of a walk in our old school area, continuing to Campo de’ Fiori, today pretty much all a tourist-oriented market, avoiding hawkers from restaurants.  We had a quick look at Piazza Navona before going through the back streets to our apartment, and Margaret and I were to leave for Termini station. 

We used the IT TAXI app to get a cab, which was there within a few minutes.  We were left off on the Via Marsala side, where our track was.  I bought first class tickets again from the machine; although we were plenty early, the train was there, with the first class car towards the front (as it would be leaving, away from the front of the station) contrary to what one would hope.  The first class car was pretty much the same as second, just with more room between facing seats and a tray with a power outlet.

This trip went well enough, we had our car at Ponte S. Giovanni station, and were back to Umbertide and our easy-going activities.  Just a couple of days to close up the house and later rejoin Emily for the next stage of things.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Wednesday market, Umbertide

Now just some pictures from the Wednesday market.