Italy, Before the World Ends

In the middle of February, I was thinking about the approaching end of the world. I would never find eternal rest if I let the end pass with vacation time on the books. Surrounded by gloom, and in the depths of one of the wettest and coldest winters I can remember since my childhood in Iowa, I started daydreaming about a trip to Italy. That’s how it always starts. I think about it a little, and imagine the warm sunshine, my camera around my neck, walking through towns that were built when Western Civilization was still young, some of them when human civilization was young, towns built by people who laid the groundwork for what Western Civilization would become. Rome, Firenze (Florence), and the hills of Lazio and Tuscany were important centers for commerce, knowledge and religion. They are the foundations of civilization that have stood for centuries. Now, as I imagine the crumbling ruins of Rome, I can see the parity of my own civilization crumbling around me.
I have been to Rome, Florence, and many other hill towns in the region before. I know they can be a bit touristy, but people flock to them for good reason. There’s more to love about the cradle of Western Civilization than just the art and food. There is the architecture and scenery. Fantastic cathedrals, palaces, castles and forts are everywhere. The Italian agricultural landscape with its pencil cypress trees and Roman-pruned pine trees, and rolling hills of vineyards, grains, and vegetables is serenely beautiful. The hub of the fashion industry in Milan gives Italians a very keen, perhaps inherent sense of fashion. It makes Italy one of the best places to people-watch. Sitting in an ancient piazza at a café, sipping a cappuccino, and watching people is a fine way to spend a morning.
One of my objectives in planning this trip was to make it as carefree as possible, so I was reluctant to get a car. The Italians have a very good public transportation network, and you can get almost anywhere you want to go without one. The drawback for me is always time. If I am going to squeeze in all the little towns I want to visit, I am going to need a car. Many towns are quite interesting, but small, so you can see everything in a couple of hours. Having a car means you can do that two or three times a day, and change hotels less frequently.
My trip began at home in Sedro Woolley Sunday morning at 05:30, so I had to get up to my alarm, something I hate to do on a weekend. I drove my pickup truck 65 miles north to Vancouver. I got a good price on an Air Canada flight to Rome, and the timing of the flights was good. My flight left Vancouver at 10:30 am. The trip east will be two legs. As I write this, I am flying from Vancouver to Toronto.

A couple of hours after I arrive in Toronto, I fly the second leg to Rome.
Toronto’s airport is big and spread out, but not too busy today. I arrived on time, as expected. The weather here is gray. An unbroken nickel overcast is domed over for as far as I can see.
I stopped at a kiosk restaurant on the trek between my gates, and had a slice of terrible pizza bread that looked better than it was. Nevertheless, I ate it, and it took the edge off my hunger. I try not to eat too much when I fly, because it makes sitting in a chair for hours less comfortable than it already is. When you’re on a plane, you’re not burning many calories anyway, so rather than have a meal sitting in my gut like a rock, I find it more comfortable to stay close to hunger, without being in it.

I’ve checked the weather forecast, and it promises to be sunny and 61 degrees in Rome when I arrive Monday morning. It won’t matter, because I always sleep through the first day of a big timeshift anyway. I’ll make a short walk, or spend a little time out, but most of the day will be in bed. The forecast is showing it to be in the low 70’s by Wednesday.
The flight from Toronto to Rome was uneventful. The small portion of food was terrible, but I ate it all.

Upon arriving at Fumicino Airport, I breezed through passport control with my Italian passport, and went straight to the train platform. 10 seconds after getting my ticket, I was sitting on the train to Rome Termini. It was as smooth a trip as I have ever had.
I checked in at the Domus Australia, a hotel ran by the Archdiocese of Sydney, Austrailia. It’s a very good hotel for the money. This is the first time I’ve stayed in this neighborhood near the Ministero del Tesoro (Ministry of Finance.) It’s quiet, considering it’s in the center of a large city. I showered and went to bed. As I was drifting off to sleep, I heard my first Italian siren since arriving, off in the distance, like the sirens of ancient mythology calling to the sailors, it calls me back to my first visit in Rome in 1984. I fell in love with this city then, and love it even more now that I know it better.
I woke up around 7 pm after about five hours of sleep, and went to the hotel’s dining room, where I had a nice plate of spaghetti with black pepper and cheese. I walked back up to the termini and got a SIM card for my phone. My old card had expired, and rather than reactivate the old 2G card, I opted for a new 4G card.
When I arrived at my room and washed the clothes I had worn on the flight, I realized I had packed no t-shirts. My one t-shirt was dry after my nap, and I was able to wear it, but I will need to buy a couple while I am here. I know a department store here called Upim, which is a few blocks south from the Termini. I walked the few blocks past the termini, and around Santa Maria Maggiore. It’s beautiful under the flood lights at night.

The Upim store was closed, so I returned to my hotel room for the night.

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