English spoken here

 

   We were part of a tourist horde heading for Trevi Fountain, and Carol could sense I was not in a Sammy Cahn frame of mind. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we hadn't had lunch. That put me in the somewhat unromantic mood to just get to the damn fountain, throw the keys from our love lock in the stupid water and be done with it. Not exactly the kind of atmospheric hook Cahn might have been searching for banging out the notes to his famous tune on his piano.

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The seated traveler

  Maybe the reason I gained weight on this Italy trip has to do with what I did in between walking and eating. What I did in that in between time was sit. I did a lot of it, too, as I recall. There was no walking we did (unless it was to a restaurant) where I didn't keep a sharp eye out for a bench, a bench with a good back too.

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A waist is a terrible thing to mind, especially in Italy

 During our month in Italy, we walked 135 miles, according to Carol's misfit. The entire Italian peninsula is 600 miles long. That means in the course of walking to and from train stations and hotels, or to see stuff, or to figure out how we got lost and then on to pizza restaurants, we covered the equivalent of 22.5% of the entire peninsula. Looking at the east-west axis, we darn near walked the the entire 150 mile width of Italy.

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Hat trick

  There was that day in my living room, when I was clipping my toenails, and one of them catapulted into the air and hit me right dead center of the bald spot on top of my head. Prior to that, I had had no idea that the curvature of a toenail (my big toe toenail does resemble the aerodynamics of  a boomerang) could produce such a perfect bend-it-like Beckham trajectory when clipped. (Okay, too much exposition?)

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Mourning becomes memory, part one

If the sixth and final stage of grief is acceptance, then being able to remember a departed loved one in their happiest moments might be a sign you've arrived at that final plateau of sorrow. At the very least, you are remembering that loved one when he or she was happiest, and good memories like these bring their own comfort.

   Carol has gotten used to me asking about Mike, so she might be a bit further along in the process of memory's healing grace.

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Lost and found

  The task this day was Salerno’s botanical garden known as the Garden of Minerva. I say “task,” because that’s what traditional sightseeing is to me. But this wasn’t as stultifying a sightseeing task as, say, a museum, cathedral, castle or Roman ruin. On the other hand, watching flowers grow is only one step removed from watching grass grow, paint dry or sitting through the start of the 2019 Cubs season. Also, taking a bit of the shine off the endeavor, Carol had armed us with a map and a bus route that would deliver us to the foot of the elevator that would then transport us atop the hill where the flowers and bushes were all blooming. (Now I do like the idea of an elevator.)  

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There might be a there there

   At some point deep in our trip, Carol suggested we start doing some research on the places we're heading to. Maybe it was blindly stumbling upon that wonderful marina with all those grand yachts in La Spezia. Or the wonderful view of a far more attractive Naples from atop the Sant'Elmo Castle that Carol had read about in Tripadvisor that we'd have missed entirely based on my itinerary (which had consisted of walking around aimlessly amidst the Neapolitan garbage and graffiti.)

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Italy's Deep South

   We were getting out of Naples, but not on time. Our first look at the board when we arrived at the train station was that our Frecciabianca was running 45 minutes late. Two days earlier, our train into Naples was reported 10 minutes, then 15 and finally 20 minutes late, before chugging in at 30 minutes retardi. Therefore, I dubbed the 45 minutes I saw on the board in Naples as Italian Train Time (ITT), and I told Carol, “We'll be lucky if it's an only an hour late.”

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Malocchio

  My record for selecting hotels conveniently located to train stations and appearing to be safe, in addition to being great values, held firm through the first four major stops on our Italian itinerary. Our hotel in Munich was a short walk to the train as well as the great shopping and pedestrian mall of Karlsplatz. Ditto for Verona and Cinque Terre. In Florence we were so close to the terminal, the hotel was named after it. The famous Duomo there was less than a ten minute walk away (thirty if you had followed along with my instinct for directions after dinner that one night.) Then came Naples.

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Lingua franca

  Back in the early 70s, I was traveling by car with a companion who got the jeep stuck in a ditch in northern Italy. I dispatched myself to go for help. Knowing the rural isolation of the area had probably not sprouted an English speaker, I realized I'd probably have to make myself understood in Italian. We'd been driving in Italy for a couple of hours, so I believed I'd sufficiently gotten the handle on the essence of the language, which to my mind simply meant adding a vowel such as “a” or “o” to the end of the English word. For instance the word for “arrive” in Italian is “arrivo.”

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Taken to the cleaners

   I'm not sure the precise moment when I knew I was being hustled by “Giovanni” (if that was even his real name), but by the time he'd steered Carol and I away from Naples’s Castle Sant’Elmo that we were looking for and he had promised to direct us to, I knew we were being hustled.

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Foodies part two 

   Our Tuscania hosts, Mark and Ginger, were leading Carol and I on a walk through their lovely, ancient and quiet town toward a restaurant for a “light lunch.” As we walked, Ginger told us about the restaurant we'd be going to that night. “There'll be eight courses including desserts (dessertS!), and all the wine you can drink.” This is what I was loving about Italy so far: We were going to lunch talking about dinner.

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A journey of 10,000 miles has to begin somewhere

Someone asked Carol and I recently whether we met any interesting people on our travels. Carol found the question amusing, as it had been addressed to me as well as her. Carol has observed that about the only other entities I go more out of my way to avoid besides museums, ruins of any kind and churches are people. It begs the question then, as to how I get any enjoyment out of travel, but I do. It's a mystery.

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Foodies

  Carol was determined to maintain a dietary regimen in a country whose entire life rhythm revolves around mealtime. Whenever I'd mention aspects of the glorious Italian culture and history, such as “bread,” “lasagna” and “gelato”, Carol would wag a matronly finger and under a determined, arched eyebrow, admonish: “We're gonna be good, Reid.”

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Wherefore the hell art thou going, Romeo?

   Every seven years there is a special dance performed during Germany's version of Mardi Gras day. It's called, in English, the Coopers Dance. It commemorates a celebration staged by Munich’s barrel makers following the city's deadly bout with the Black Plague back in 1517. The dance was designed to give the plague's survivors something to smile about again. I guess, for the average  Munchener in 1517, if the barrel makers were dancing happily in the streets, it meant they were making barrels again, and that meant the brewers were making beer again.

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