Yes, so sorry all, it has taken me 2 years to finally put this together. Hard to believe that 2 years has passed… so much has happened to the 3 and 4 of us and to the world! Just a little tidbit fact, if you watched Jeopardy a few nights ago, one of the clues/answers was Ennio Morricone! 🙂 Apparently, he had to wait until he was 87 for his first Oscar!
Ok, on with the story…. sit back and relax for a few – this is part I.
It all began, a little over a year ago (ok almost 2.5 years ago now!) – Lorna and I decided to go to the Verona concert in September 2019! We, along with many others, were so bummed they were not coming to the US last year, so we decided to go to them! Just about mid-February, we bought our tickets! (with many thanks and help from my friend Veronica!)
Along the way, Rose Marie P. from Ohio, decided she’d like to join us and leave from Detroit, as there were no direct flights out of the Cleveland area.
So, I started making plans for the 3 of us and we were soon on our way. It seemed so far off this time, compared to my 6-week whirlwind planning in 2016!
Alas, along the way, I misplaced my passport. I looked and looked for a few months and gave up, thinking I better just get a new one. As luck would have it and everyone told me, as soon as I got the new one I’d find the old one. I was sure I’d never see it again. It was in the apartment somewhere, but was lost to my unfortunate housekeeping skills. But, like a bad penny, there was this ONE box I did not look in. It was literally, under another box that I had looked in, but tucked away under a table. As soon as I saw the box, I knew the passport was in there! Lo and behold, there it was! Now I had 2 passports! 😊 Ok, I put the new one in a safe place, until we left!
I decided this was going to be a more relaxing trip this time, not a different city every few days… Besides, we really only had 6 days in Italy this time. Our itinerary was somewhat packed, but we only went to Rome, Verona, Lake Garda, back to Verona, Rome, and home. I booked a few walking tours, and did the Vatican museums, as we kind of missed that last time. Lol!
As a few of you know, I had some somewhat serious health issues plague me last year, with major surgery just 6 weeks before our plane departed! The doc cleared me for takeoff, just 5 days before we left.
We managed to find and meet Rose Marie at Metro airport and we quickly found the Delta Sky Miles lounge to eat, drink, and chat before our flight left. We had about 3 hours to kill or so. We thought it would never get there. Finally, we were airborne and it was serving time. Prosecco, por favore! 😊 Yep, had 2 on the way over – got the last one the 2nd time around! Dozed here and there and watched a movie or 2. Rain was predicted in Rome, so that was a concern. But by the time we had landed, the rain had stopped; it was cool and a bit humid.
The Rome airport was a nightmare. They had changed it a lot since the last time we were there, although, we only flew out of Rome last time. We finally made it to the customs area, and were then herded like cattle through the maze of security passages. I swear it took us over an hour to get through after our plane landed. We found transportation and made it to our first hotel. I was pretty good on timing and had estimated pretty well. Our rooms weren’t quite ready yet, so we relaxed a bit in the lobby for not quite an hour – it was just a bit after noon, or so. We could hear the nearby church bells ringing.
Our room was quite small and had 3 beds. After thinking about it, the beds were almost like the 3 Bears! One was hard, one was harder, and one was almost just right – lol. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I ended up with the hardest mattress, Rose Marie had the 2nd hardest and Lorna had the softest one. Of course, hers was a couple of softer cushions, thrown onto almost a cot-like surface. We did not realize all the beds were different until the 2nd day we were there. First order of business was a slight nap. When we woke up, we were hungry. Lorna was still out, so Rose and I went in search of food and brought Lorna our leftovers. We found a nice little place just around the block from our hotel. We shared some pasta and a pizza. Food was really good. Many places weren’t open, maybe because it was Sunday and mid-afternoon. We seemed to have started a rush, as shortly after sitting down, the place became very crowded.
I had booked a walking wine tour for us that evening. We met at this bus terminal area and waited for our guide. We were led to this bohemian district of Rome. Lucky for us, it had just stopped raining. We were really lucky with the weather, as it was supposed to rain the first two days we were there and it had been pouring just about half an hour, before we had to leave. It was a great tour, just the 3 of us and the guide. We walked a short distance to this little wine bar. It was very quaint. We sampled 6 different wines and had some meats, cheeses, bread, oil, etc. It was after 9p when it was all done, so we asked our guide to find us a taxi to take us back to our hotel.
The next day, was our Vatican museum tour. Rose had been before, so it was just Lorna and I. I had picked the skip the line tour, however, so did 5,000 other people! Ok, I may have been exaggerating, but not by much! The skip the line part was that you got in at 8a, instead of 9a, with the rest of the public. We had to stand there for nearly an hour, before we were let in. We didn’t have time for breakfast before we went, so we were able to grab a snack from the vending machines. I guess we missed the guide’s speech about the stairs vs. the elevators. She asked us which we wanted to do. I looked over to the stairway and it didn’t look too bad, so we took the stairs. And we went up, and up, and up, and up…. Walked some, up some more stairs, …. OMG, I was already exhausted. We finally made it to one of the rooftop areas and outside where we could see the Vatican. I sat on the first stone bench I saw and did not move until it was time. Remember, I had just had surgery 6 weeks prior! I could walk ok, but the stairs were killing me. Then it was time to go up this steep 5-level ramp. I thought we were never going to reach the top. By the time we got to the museums, we just didn’t care anymore. It had been raining that morning, so it was not so much hot, as it was humid. There was a slight breeze, but not enough. As we trudged through the maps, mosaics, tapestries, statues, etc., all I could think of was “is it over yet?” Ok, on to the Sistine Chapel. Then we went DOWN more stairs…. At least those were easier, but I was still exhausted. When we finally got there, we had about 15 minutes or so to take a look around, and then we were to meet on the other side. We quickly looked up and made a beeline for our meeting spot, and was able to find a place to sit. We were planted there until it was time to leave. There were lots of people! Ok, we looked up and there were paintings on the ceiling. We didn’t care, we wanted out. I hate to say it, but I was a bit underwhelmed. There were so many people in there, we were herded like cattle up until that point. I wonder if the lines were less after 9a? After that, we made our way out into the somewhat fresh air again, to St. Peter’s Basilica. There was some special pilgrimage group ahead of us, so we had to go outside for a bit. I took a few pictures, and then we headed back inside. I have to say, I was impressed with St. Peter’s. It was absolutely gorgeous. We walked around there a bit and we had had enough. Of course, there is always the one person that asks the dumb question… “aren’t we supposed to see such and such?” I never did figure out what she was asking about, but Lorna and I took one look at each other and said “where’s the door?” I guess the rest of the group did that other thing and we were out of there. We were so tired. I swear, it was another mile walk across the piazza to get to the taxi stand. We practically fell into the taxi and back to our rooms. We collapsed on the bed and slept for several hours. I think we walked about 5000 steps!
After our nap, we decided we should walk around a bit and get a late lunch. I had another walking dinner tour booked for that night – not realizing how exhausting the Vatican would have been (ok, of all the various people I talked to, no one warned us of all of the stairs??)
This tour, all 10 of the group showed up, although the tour company initial guide, never showed? She did a count, we were all there, so we took off. Before the tour, in a different part of the city, we were able to do a little shopping before it started. Lorna bought a few pieces of jewelry. They had some nice shops with reasonable prices.
This tour was supposed to be a sampling of typical street food of Rome and ended with dinner at a restaurant. Ok, I’m a bit of a fussy eater…. The first stop was for some “white” pizza, which was basically a bologna and cheese sandwich on some flatbread, a glass of very strong red wine, and these little biscuit type cookies. Edible, not bad. Second stop was for some freshly fried cod (I don’t eat fish), so I passed on that, but Rose and Lorna said it was very good. I had some white wine instead and we were able to sit down for a short while. Next stop was the actual restaurant. Ok, we started walking again. It was starting to get dark. The tour didn’t start until 7p. And we walked, and walked, and walked some more. We passed over the bridge with a beautiful night view of the lit-up Vatican over the Tiber (I think one of my favorite pics, I had a nightlight made out of it from Shutterfly!), of which I got an awesome picture. Then we walked some more. It was nearly 8p by then and we were getting pretty tired. We finally showed up at the restaurant about 8:30p. We were all hot and tired, again, it was very humid out. We walk into this tiny place and then walked out again. Bad news, they never got our reservation! Uh oh, but good news, the guide was able to find another restaurant – further away! So again, we walked. Kinda scary, she was using Google maps to find the place. Down dark alley-ways, twists and turns we went. It was very dark by the time we finally arrived, 30 minutes later, about 9p at the other restaurant. Again, hot and thirsty, we made our way into the restaurant. Down the stairs and my first trip was to the bathroom. The water in there was blessedly cool, as I washed my hands.
I got to the table and there was already wine, bread, and cheese. They said the cheese was really strange, so I skipped the cheese and had some wine and bread. We were able to meet and chat with a few of the folks. There were some from England, Australia and Hawaii. The first course was red and white pasta. That was excellent. The red pasta being rigatoni with tomato sauce and guarchelli? Apparently, the inside cheeks of a sheep? The white pasta was linguini with a white cheesy sauce, on the dry side, but both were very good. Had we known what the main course was, we would have eaten all of it. The main course turned out to be veal ossobuco? Bummer, none of us would eat veal! Lorna and I passed on other suggestions. Oddly, they had no chicken? Rose had eggplant parm, which she said was very good. It was nearing 10p by then. Lorna and I had, had it, after walking the Vatican tour in the morning. I could not walk another step. After we left that restaurant, they were walking for gelato for dessert. Uh, taxi!? We asked our guide to call us a taxi. It took her like 3 tries to finally find one. Don’t know what it is about taxis and Italy, certainly not like New York! There is certainly no hailing of cabs, there!
We finally made it back to our hotel, once again, but we still wanted some gelato. We had passed an American-like restaurant with a huge menu that was still open and it included a nice gelato bar. It was nearly 10:30p, but we strode in and we each had some. It was pretty good. We also decided we’d come back there for breakfast the next morning, as we had to get to our train before our hotel would be serving breakfast. We spent our last night on our hard beds and got up early for breakfast. It was an “American” breakfast of sorts – lol. Orange scrambled eggs, a sausage, that looked like a hot dog, some toast, and I think some ham or bacon. Cappuccinos were good! 😊
We made it to Roma Termini. Last time we were there, was to get the rental car to take to Silvi! Luckily, we did not rent any vehicles this time! The Roma terminal was huge. We were almost scammed by this young girl that tried to get us to buy tickets, that we already had! Good thing for the nice policia! They must have had an eye on her, as next we knew, he was escorting her out! FYI… beware of very helpful people in Rome! We finally made our way to the schedule board. There was NO PLACE to sit down – no chairs, benches anything! It was awful. Of course, we were there in plenty of time, but were standing there, waiting for our train to get listed. We waited, and waited, and waited, until I could not wait any longer. I had to start walking. So, I told Rose and Lorna I was going to take a walk. I thought they would follow me, but they didn’t. I took off and walked the perimeter of the station area. Lots of shops, etc. I came around to where we had been standing, and no Lorna or Rose! Uh, where did they go? Our train was finally listed, but no track number. It was leaving shortly! Before we left, I had created this full, beautiful, color, itinerary for all of us, listing all of the details of everything, including all of our train vouchers, etc. I texted and called, but no one answered. Ok, it was getting late, so I went through the gate and was able to find someone to ask which track our train was on. I found the track and I waited. I texted and called some more, and still no response. The train arrived and I got on and found our seats. Panic mode was setting in. Where were they? I finally got a text from Rose – they went to McDonald’s for coffee! We tried to make calls, but they weren’t going through. I’m frantically trying to contact them, telling them I’m on the train. The train was literally supposed to leave in minutes. I’m hanging outside the train door, looking for them down the platform – no one running for the train. By this time, I’m in between really angry and total panic for them. Well, I thought, they have all of the info, it’s their own fault if they don’t make it. I sat down and the train started to take off. Finally, I see them coming down the aisle. I started yelling at them!! I was so upset! Ok, they finally made it. Prosecco, por favore?! Verona, here we come!
About 3 hours later, we arrived in Verona. When we got there, we had to find the bookstore to buy our copies of the Fan Book put together by Patrizia Ciava. We found that and the elevator was not working in the store and the books were on the 2nd floor! Ok, great – more stairs! I picked up the books and we were on our way. We got turned around several times, but finally made it to the outside. We found a taxi and made it to our hotel for the night. As many know, I was not feeling well. I think the panic of Lorna and Rose almost missing the train, etc., had put me on edge, and I was not feeling too good by the time we finally made it to our room.
It was actually the nicest, and biggest room, we stayed in for the trip. It was huge, with a king-sized bed and 2 twins. And lots of room to move with a huge bathroom and shower as well. Of course, as soon as we got there, about 3:30p or so, we had to get ready to buy our tickets for the US tour concerts! Whoever decided to put the tickets on sale, the same day as the Verona concert, when many US persons were going to be in Verona and the sound check at 4p, was not too smart! I was in a clear panic – we had our trusted designee, Emilia, with my credit card, trying to buy 8 front row seats for the Detroit concert. We were all waiting for the special code. I was texting with Donna, and Emilia, and Daniela. Finally, Daniela was able to get the code and I texted it back to Emilia. Emilia was still having trouble getting through. Ok, I tried to get on ticketmaster and I was having issues, also. I was totally stressing out, yelling at Rose and Lorna, barking orders at them, and telling them I did not feel good. It was awful. We also had to make a connection with Veronica, who had our tickets for the Verona concert. I barked orders to them, to go down to meet Veronica to pay her and get the tickets. I so wanted to see Veronica, after so long, but I was so stressed out, that I just laid on the bed and rested until they got back. In the meantime, by some miracle, Emilia was able to secure 8 tickets. Four front row and four second row. Ok, that will have to do! I was pretty much passed out on the king size bed when the girls came back. They said they decided I should have the big bed after what I had been going through. Grazie mille! Ok, it was time for Rose to get her exclusive VIP tickets and go to the sound check. Lorna and I had already decided we didn’t want to go to the sound check, as we would have been trapped there until the concert. I was very disappointed though, that I was not able to meet up with several persons I had promised to meet, but in my current condition, I was just praying I would be ok for the concert that night! I was able to rest and relax for a few hours before I had to get up and get ready.
It was time to go and we made our way down to get a bite to eat, and to the concert. Prior to this, Rose had gone down to get her tickets, but then SHE was trapped there for the sound check. She also had low battery on her phone, and our room key! So, Lorna and I had a quick dinner at one of the restaurants near the arena and then made our way to the concert. Our seats were in the 6th row on the left, behind the orch pit area. Not bad for viewing, but not good for pictures. We were, however, right in front of the big screen, which is where most of my pictures came from.
As many of you know, the guys had this lady playing the piano as a bit of a warm-up, I guess. She was ok, but most didn’t see the need. The guys came out and it was pure magic until the last note had been sung! Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my jacket with me, and Lorna and I were freezing for most of the concert! It was like in the 60s with a light breeze. Beautiful, but chilly! We huddled under her light wrap for most of the concert. Of course Alessandro Quarta was amazing. To see him in person is just incredible. The concert lasted just over 2 hours or so. I was so glad when Grande Amore was over – I had to go to the ladies room!! Ok, like salmon swimming upstream, we were able to fight our way to the bathrooms. The way back, was another story – try fighting a crowd of people going out of a concert and you trying to make it back to the front row! Well, I grabbed Lorna’s hand, and I “mi scusi’d” my way, all the way to the front. It was almost like the Red Sea parting at times. I have to say, most people were pretty nice and didn’t mind me shoving my way forward! In our haste, we even passed by Fabio Ingrassia! 😊
We finally made it back to our seats, after I realized I had dropped our tickets on the floor. However, I don’t recall them making it home again…. We were finally in line for the meet and greet crowd. In the midst of people, several people came up to me and asked how I was. Which was so nice, as Rose told them I wasn’t feeling well. I also ran into Jeannette and Deborah – also a nice surprise! There was also this other lady who was very nice with a short gray bob and glasses, that was talking to me like she knew me. I admit, I’m horrid with names and faces. I was of course, friendly, but I had no idea who she was….
We were still trying to find Rose, as she had our only room key, so we had to try to stick together. We didn’t find her until we were just about in the herding line for the meet and greet. We kind of pushed our way to near the front of the line, as we were looking for her. We went through the doorway, left of the stage area, and were ushered to stand in front of the roped-off area. Rose caught up with us, but then saw her friends from Greece and went to talk to them. We kept trying to get her to come back to us, but she ended up staying with them. Ok, just me and Lorna. We saw this entourage come through that seemed to be getting the VIP treatment and someone was making sure they were on some “list?” I didn’t realize it at the time, but among the group, was Francesca and some other friends and relatives, of the guys. Yeah, guess they were VIPs – lol. A short time later, we saw the guys come strolling through – just a few feet away from us, actually. All in all, the wait was not too bad. We were among the first twenty or so to go through the line. We saw Mr. Boschetto, and a few others walking by.
We finally made it in and of course, there were those that were just hanging on the guys and didn’t want to let go. It was the normal rush, but did not feel quite as harried as they usually are. I did notice the parents to the other side of the room. It was a pretty small area – just longish rectangle, maybe 10 feet by 20 feet? I gave all the guys a hug, with Gian being first. He was very gracious. I think, maybe, they are starting to recognize me? Lol, at least he sort of had the look of recognition on his face. Maybe he remembered seeing me at PBS just a few weeks before? I told him they should bring Alessandro to the US tour, but he didn’t seem to understand. Igna was next and I again told him he was my favorite, I also told him he was the best of the group. He immediately said, “no, no, no, all 3 of us…” I said yes, you are all great together, but you are still the best! I wasn’t thinking at the time, I’m sure Piero must have heard, as he was next. Gave him his hug and I thanked him for saying hi to all of the PBS volunteers, as he was the only one. He smiled at that. Then, of course it was time for the picture, snap, it was over. We had to wait outside for Rose to come through. They tried to make us leave, but we stood our ground and said we were waiting for someone. That lady was out there again, with a few others. We were chatting and she was giving me complements on how I always took a good picture. I was really flattered and then I finally had to ask. I said, I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you? Joanie! She said! Oh, of course, Joanie Greenspan! I hadn’t seen her since Vegas 2016 and her hair was dark then. Yes, she let it go gray. Ok, mystery solved! Rose finally came out and we made our way back to our hotel. It was really late, nearly 1am, but we were hungry. There were a few places still open, so we ducked into this one little café to get something sweet, along with some coffee. I had the last piece of this triple chocolate fudge torte thing. It was awesome! It had to be close to 2am by the time we finally fell asleep. The next morning was our little side trip to Lake Garda – Desenzano/Sirmione train station.