Rome Arrival-First Impressions

OK. We go to baggage claim at Rome’s Leonardo di Vinci airport.  We stand with our fellow passengers and wait.  Three suitcases quickly arrive at our luggage gate and then nothing.    Zip.  Nada.  Are the baggage guys toying with us?  I don’t know how long we waited but I had enough time to learn a new tense in Italian.  Finally, everyone else’s luggage arrived and we were off to find our rental car.  Signage was great and then it ended abruptly.  I asked someone behind a counter and she motioned listlessly in what appeared to be a circle and then pointed to the heavens.  I guess that was where she was wishing she was at that moment.  Eventually we found the rental cars section, where we stood in line for over 30 minutes.  We booked with Auto Europe because they have more offices in Umbria in the event we encounter problems, but they were so slow at the airport that I would suggest Enterprise or Hertz whose lines were blasting along.  Recall I said “reserved” earlier thinking that was going to speed things up.  Not so.  (I read that the average wait time in the Italian post office has increased 39 percent in the last ten years.  Auto Europe may be trying to break that record.)

Since we just came from The Netherlands, I find myself making comparisons.  Italians use their hands a lot.  They seem to point to the heavens often.  Americans point in the general direction of the heavens, but we use just one finger.  Yesterday, I noticed a group of small kids on a school outing.  They too were using their hands as deftly as their parents.

Italians also aren’t as happy as the Dutch.  In fact, surveys in 2002 through 2011 had Italians scoring lower than other EU-15 countries when it comes to happiness  Yes, I know.  Everyone thinks Italians live life in the moment, only have sunny days and sit under cypress trees at long tables full of beautiful food with beautiful people.  Well, it’s like the expression James Carville coined during Bill Clinton’s run for election, “It’s the economy stupid”, and Italy’s is in the pits.  A few years ago, the only two countries with economies that were worse than Italy were Haiti (after their devastating earthquake) and war-torn Zimbabwe.  [I’m not making this stuff up.  I just finished a fascinating book called “The Italians” by John Hooper, a must read if you are going to Italy. ]  I will, however, add that Italy is a beautiful country that every tourist season is swarming with tourists who walk too slow on their narrow sidewalks, clog up their favorite restaurants, assume that everyone should speak English, eat their food too fast, and talk too loud.

We love Italian design.  We are on our second Alfa Romeo.  We scout out Italian kitchen gadgets as seriously as gelato.  The airport bathroom had the coolest sink area but the weirdest toilet seat:  It was spring loaded.  Every time I put it down, it shot back up.  I was wearing a hefty backpack and a jacket, and wanted to avoid putting anything down on the floor.  My mission was finally accomplished when I used the back of boots to hold the seat down long enough for me to collapse on the seat, which incidentally was only about 10″ off the ground.  I later came to the conclusion that the toilet seat had been defective.  I haven’t encountered that problem anymore.

Driving to Orvieto was a breeze.  We added European maps to our Garmin GPS and other than the butchered Italian voice instructions, we arrived on time to take possession of our apartment.p

One  suggestion, we plugged in the Latitude/Longitude GPS measurements for the car rental lot so we will have that to guide us back when we return the car.  Also, study traffic signs before you take off in your rental car and be sure to rent the smallest car possible.  We have a Fiat 500 which is fine for squeezing  through narrow village streets and parking in tight places.

We are both battling serious colds.  Dean’s throat it killing him but he doesn’t appear to have strep throat.  We don’t have a lot of energy and it is bumming us out.