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Berry Tramel

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Italy travelblog: Arrivederci, Roma

by Berry Tramel Published: July 9, 2014
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The view of Rome from the Hotel Nord's rooftop at sundown. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)
The view of Rome from the Hotel Nord's rooftop at sundown. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)

Buon giorno.

“Arrivederci Roma; goodbye, goodbye to Rome.

“City of a million moonlit places, city of a million warm embraces, where I found the one of all the faces far from home.

“Arrivederci Roma, it’s time for us to part. Save the wedding bells for my returning, keep my lover’s arms outstretched and yearning, please be sure the flame of love keeps burning in her heart…”

I’ve been singing Sam Cooke’s lyrics for years. The song is on my romance classics collection.

Been signing it. Now I live it.

Tuesday was our last day in Italy. We took a train from Arezzo to Rome for a Wednesday morning flight. This is how the day went.

 

PACKING PROS

We came with two small suitcases that fit in a jet’s overhead, plus my computer bag and another small travel bag. But the Dish bought quite a few gifts. So we bought a big piece of luggage in Arezzo on Monday, and it’s a good thing. We filled up everything. We’ll check a couple of pieces and carry on the rest.

We slept in Tuesday, and while the Dish got ready and packed up, I went down the street and got us a couple of pieces of pizza. Then we headed to the train station.

We’re old hands at the Treniitalia. This was our seventh train ride of the trip. The trains are an excellent way to travel.

Still not sure of everything train-related. For instance, our reserved seats were in car 7. But the train that arrived before the Roma train came in with car 7 first. Car 1 was last. So we weren’t clear where on the platform we should wait. We just guessed at the middle, and turns out we were close to car 7.

You have to sort of be ready, because the train waits on no man. Plenty of people got off at Arezzo and plenty of people got on, but the train wasn’t in the station more than four minutes.

But we got loaded on fine and settled in. We passed ancient cities on hills. We napped. We watched Italian peace officers come down the aisle and tell a guy to get his feet off the seat. Italians don’t like people to put their feet in chairs.

 

OLD STOMPING GROUNDS

We returned to the Hotel Nord, near the train station. We spent the first four nights of our trip at the Nord, and it was fun going back to somewhere we had been.

Checking into an Italian hotel is a little bit of an adventure. You never know what you’re going to get. Even at the same hotel.

Check into a Marriott or a Holiday Inn Express or a Hampton Inn, there are no surprises. Virtually all the rooms are the same.

But in Italy, all the rooms are different. Our room at the Nord this time is not all similar to our room at the Nord last time. For one thing, the bathroom is much bigger. We’ve even got a full shower and tub. We’d even have room to step in and out of the tub if they’d get rid of the danged bidet.

Our room is fine, but just like the other one, it’s a step back in time. In appearance, in functionality, in convenience. It’s all straight out of the 1950s. Tile floor. No plug-ins to speak of. Old-fashioned fixtures. An ashtray sitting on a table. Old-fashioned bellhops who take your luggage to the room. And no peephole in the door

About the only thing that announces you’re in the 21st century is the high-def television and the lighting system. In every Italian hotel room, you have to insert your key into the wall. That ignites the electrical system, which is designed to save energy. Some say electricity in Europe costs three times what it costs in America. It’s a hassle at first, then you get used to it. The bummer is that your room doesn’t cool off much during the day, which means it never really cools off much.

As for the TV, like I told you earlier, it’s about a 15-inch model that sits in the corner and is hard to see from anywhere, much less the bed. I haven’t turned on a television since my first day in Italy.

 

ONE FINAL HIKE

In almost two weeks, I figure we’ve walked 60-70 miles. You walk a lot in Europe. We took one final hike after we got to Rome.

We strolled back to the Spanish Steps for a little shopping. The Dish had one final gift to buy — sorry, too many family members are reading the blog to tell you for who — and she found it at a shop on the way. We also passed a guy wearing a Thunder cap; alas, we weren’t wearing ours.

Then it was on the Steps, where the oil painters peddle their wares.

We were impressed by the paintings when we were here a week ago and decided to buy a painting for our house. Something that would remind us of this trip every time we looked at the painting. The Dish found two colorful oil paintings of Venice she liked, by different artists. We were going to break someone’s heart, but she made her selection. Cost us 130 Euro, which seemed like a good price to me.

 

THE LAST SUPPER

The waiters at Terme di Diocleziano serve customers. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)
The waiters at Terme di Diocleziano serve customers. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)

Our final Italian dinner came just around the corner from our hotel, 75 steps door to door. The Terme di Diocleziano.

It is housed in an ancient imperial bathhouse and has a rooftop terrace that most diners choose.

Italians like their rooftops. The Nord and the Continentale had rooftop terraces for guests who want to relax with a good view.

We went to the Continentale’s terrace on our last night in Arezzo and to the Nord’s on Tuesday night.

There’s something soothing about looking out over an ancient city on a cool summer night. It was in the 60s in Rome on Tuesday night.

The Terme di Diocleziano was excellent food and even better service.

I might have issues with Italians’ reluctant to quench my thirst, but let me tell you, everywhere you go is great service. Tuesday night, there were five employees catering to the needs of about eight tables. In America, those eight tables would have been served by one or two waiters.

Most Italian servers are male; I don’t know why. I’m sure there’s a reason. Most are dressed the part and are quite charming. Many stand by the front door; some try to recruit customers, others just stand at the ready if you show any interest in coming in.

A funny thing about Italian dining, though, is the lack of salads. I would have guessed I would eat a salad every meal. But no. I’ve had one salad since I got here — that Greek salad the Dish and I ordered at the restaurant near the Vatican last week. A common garden salad isn’t pushed or promoted in Italy.

In America, of course, a salad comes with virtually every Italian meal. But not in Italy.

Tuesday night, we ordered a caprese salad (tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, doused in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then the Dish had lasagna and I ordered lobster fettuccine. The lobster fettuccine was only 15 Euro; how many chances do I get to eat lobster?

It was outstanding, but it took awhile to get there. They brought the lobster still in the shell. Which means I had to extract all the meat. I spent 15 minutes on it before I dug into the pasta.

Why do restaurants do that? I order seafood pasta a lot, and usually I have to peel the shrimp and scrape the mussels. Sure would be nice if the chefs could do that for me. I mean, I don’t know the first thing about digging the meat out of a lobster. I’ve eaten lobster maybe three times in my life.

Oh well. The dish was fantastic and it was a great final meal in Italy. A great final meal and a great trip. I have a good time with the Dish whether we’re going to New York or to the grocery store. But this was a trip we’ll never forget.

Soon enough, we’ll be back to the world of writing about the Thunder draft picks and Big 12 predictions, the world of sitting on my front porch instead of an Italian rooftop, the world of chasing Riley, Sadie and Tinley around Lion’s Park instead of strolling ancient streets.

To be honest with you, that Oklahoma world is the world I prefer. But 13 days in Italy was the trip of a lifetime.

Arrivederci, Italy.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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