Bob and I returned from our last trip to Italy during our stay in Europe. We will be back to Italy but not for a couple of years. It's expensive and time consuming to travel to Europe from Hawaii. And the jetlag.....
We chose to tour Italy by car this time. We've flown to Rome several times, flew to Venice, flew to Florence, but this time we decided to climb into our trusty yellow Mini CooperS and travel the Italian highways.
I don't know who ever started that vicious rumor that Italians are terrible drivers. They really aren't. They don't take any more risks than the rest of the European drivers I've encountered, although I think their definition of "road lanes" might lose something in the translation. They tend to drive in two lanes at once, but once you get used to that, it's easy to deal with. And they will occupy one lane, at least temporarily, if you wish to pass.
We stopped for several days in Tuscany. That region lived up to its reputation in beauty and food. However, it was rather touristy. And everything was perfectly manicured and cleaned. Anyone who has been to Italy for any amount of time will know that Italy is usually controlled chaos. I think that is part of its charm. Although I do realize that living in ultra-ordered Germany for two years, could be coloring my opinion.
After Tuscany, we traveled on to Abruzzo. We traveled south of the recent earthquake shattered L'Aquila area. We climbed into the mountains of Abruzzo which are wild and un-touristed. Finally we hit a spot with our GPS navigation system just gave up and left us on our own. There was only one way to go....up.
After four hours of driving through wild natural scenery, we arrived at our destination of Rocca Pia. This small...REALLY small hamlet was the birthplace of Bob's grandmother. I think that this small town was the real Italy.
We started at the only open restaurant we could in the town, there was another restaurant which wasn't open at least not for lunch. Needless to say the town residents were rather curious about the yellow Mini Cooper S with German plates that was driving around their town....or should I say back and forth in their town. There was only on street suitable for driving.
Once Bob explained his connection to this little village, the place came alive. The lovely owner of the restaurant in which we had lunch found us a room in her brother's B&B which was closed for the season, but was opened for us. We were assisted in every possible way to find remnants of Bob's family's past. And at 9pm as we were slumbering in our very nice B&B room, we were moments away from meeting some of Bob's family's present.
At 9:45 pm, there was knocking on our room door. Upon opening, Bob found two of his second cousins and one of their children outside our room. Apparently word had gotten around this small burg and the relatives came to call. Bob had a wonderful time catching up with all the family history. Bob and I don't speak much Italian and they didn't speak any English, but I've found that in Italy knowing some Italian nouns and Spanish verbs will get you through. So we managed our way through an hour or so of conversation.
The next day we got up early, having decided to drive straight through back to Germany. We drove along the spectacular Adriatic Coast and vowed to return to that area and spend a couple of weeks. That, however, won't happen for a couple of years. But we will be back...