Tag Archives: Lorna

Part II: Verona, Italy September 24, 2019 (2 yrs in the making!) – The Story of Jana, Lorna, & Rose Marie…

Ok folks, here’s Part II:

And the adventure continues….we got up early and walked a few blocks to the nearest McDonald’s.  Was interesting for me, as we had to order through a kiosk and then pick up our order and drinks on the other side there.  Just after we got there, I guess the student tour entered and it was filled with “kids!”  Older teenagers I guess, maybe college-aged… we had a nice breakfast and had some time to stop for some souvenirs of Verona after, at a little store.  Bought a few postcards, magnets, and a mug for my neighbor who was taking care of my cat.  We managed to find our way back and decided we needed to pack up and get to the train station.  It was a sunny/cloudy day, so far.  We had wanted the owner to call us a cab, but for some reason, I still do not understand, he said he couldn’t.  I was afraid my limited Italian would be fruitless, so they said to just wait down by the taxi stand.  Ok, I was ready first, so I went down to make sure I could get a taxi and wait for the girls.

(I realized through this whole ordeal, I did not take any pictures!!)

Remember this was a Wednesday morning, about 9a or so.  Lots of traffic around and lots of taxis.  The taxi stand was just the other side of the Arena di Verona.  There were several people standing there waiting for a taxi.  The girls finally made it, the others were starting to give up, as no taxis were in sight!  Everyone left except for us and it was getting late.  There was this one poor guy from the middle east who had lost his passport and he needed to get to an embassy or something, we felt bad for him.  We waited a bit longer and then we finally gave up.  It was getting late and we were going to miss our train, if we stayed much longer.  I got out my trusty Google Maps again.  It seemed the train station was not too far away, so we decided to walk.  We did not have much choice.  Unfortunately, we did get turned around a few times and everyone we passed, we asked about a taxi and the few people I saw, kept saying the closest taxi was the train station, which is where we were headed!  As we walked, and walked, we realized we were definitely going to miss our train.  I contacted Daniela in a crisis mode, but she said she could not come and get us.  So, we kept trudging along.  I felt bad for Lorna, as she was hanging behind both Rose and I.  Every so often, we had to stop and wait for her to catch up.  After some more twists and turns, we finally made it to the train station – I swear we were walking for over an hour or more.  We were so exhausted by the time we got there!  We had definitely missed the train.  The only positive thing was that the train to Desenzano was like a commuter train and it left every half hour or so.  I had contacted Daniela and was concerned our pick-up time had changed, thinking we were going to be on a later train now.  Ok, THIS is bizarre…. As much as I had most everything planned down to the last detail, I somehow had sent Daniela the “wrong” time to pick us up from the train – or so I thought!!  Ironically, I had sent her the “right” information, so she had already planned to come and pick us up at the “later” time of our arrival!  So, all in all, it worked out well. Was it fate we missed the first train??

 

I was still not feeling all that well and was still taking it quite easy.  I was walking slow and Lorna, even slower.  It was a pleasure to finally meet Daniela and she helped us with the bags, etc. and she took us to our hotel.  Desenzano is a beautiful city.   The sun had come out and it was a gorgeous day.  I’ve already decided, if I ever go back to Italy again, I’d love to spend a few days around Lake Garda and maybe go around the perimeter of the lake in a few hotels.

Our hotel was very nice, although the room was not all that big.  The bathroom was almost as big as our room!  Daniela took Rose and I up to the roof view – very spectacular, although there was a slight haze over the lake.  Lorna was completely exhausted by the time we got to the room and just plopped in the bed and did not move.  I think Daniela had some bigger plans for us when we got there, but I was not feeling well and Lorna was stuck in the room, so instead, we had lunch at a restaurant next door to the hotel, and then walked up and down the boardwalk of the lake for a few hours.  Lunch was very nice, had pasta, salad, and wine.

Much to our surprise, Daniela’s English was very good!  She kept telling us she really did not speak English very well.  Let me tell you, her English was WAY better than our Italian!!  We got by pretty well and I threw in a bit of Spanish, which she also understood.  Every so often there would be a word she did not know, so Google Translate to the rescue!  We were out there for several hours and then stopped off at the little store where they sold gelato and bought a few snacks, to go along with our gelato.  We ate that, and went back upstairs to join Lorna.  We had also brought her back our leftovers.  She ate a little and her gelato and cappuccino we had brought back for her.  We were pretty tired after that, so we said our goodbyes to Daniela and she left, as she had to get back to Brescia, which was about an hour from there.  We wished we could have seen more of the city and surrounding areas, but things don’t always go according to plan – even as good as mine were!  Haha!

 

Our nap lasted til quite late and we really never ate any dinner and just snacked on the chips, etc. we had brought back to the room.  Later that night, I was feeling really, really, bad.  So bad so, that I was looking to see how I could leave early and go back home.  Unfortunately, there was no logistical way I could get back to any city to catch a plane and head back home early, so I just took it easy.  I almost went to an urgent care there!  I managed to have breakfast.  Rose had called Daniela and Daniela called the hotel and told them I was not feeling well and they might need to call a taxi to a hospital.  Luckily, there was one not too far away.  One funny little thing, the concierge person came over to me, not realizing I was the one that was sick and asked me about me – lol!  I told him I was the one not feeling well.  They were very nice.  I managed to have breakfast and a bit later Rose and Lorna came down to join me.  We sat there for a while, until I felt confident enough that I felt ok and did not want to go to the hospital.  Again, it was a beautiful day and a bit of the haze had lifted and I was able to get in a few more good shots of the lake. I was sorely disappointed in the weather though.  Although gorgeous, it was still hazy and you could not see the beautiful mountains, I knew were there!  (Luckily, Daniela had checked out the Hotel Aurora for us earlier and took some beautiful pictures – so I have included them as well!)

We had called the taxi and it was there to take us to the train station.  Very small little train station area.  We got a snack for later and then waited for the train.  Of course, the train was late…. But was glad when it finally got there and we were on our way back to Verona.  We had a few delays along the way there, also, but had nowhere to get to, so no big deal.

It was after 1p or so by the time we got back to Verona and we had a few hours to kill.  The Verona station is nice, so we ate at the little café and I bought some chocolate bars and had a glass of wine.  It was finally time for our train to arrive. It was nice to finally get on the train and relax a little, on the way back to Rome.  The last few days had been exhausting for both Lorna and I.  Rose, many years older than the two of us, was in much better shape!

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to Rome and our last hotel.  We had been so exhausted after the last walking tour, we had cancelled the last tour I had planned for Friday.  This last hotel was a bit strange, as it was encased in this grotto of sorts.  You had to go through this big gate with this security code and they hadn’t given it to us.  Luckily, someone was coming out and we got in.  They were a bit wary of us as we didn’t know the code, but I guess we looked harmless. Lol!  After a bit of confusion, this lady finally came down and took us up to the hotel, which we later found out, really only had like 4 or 5 rooms.  They had expanded and taken over this other area, also another hotel.  When we finally reached our room, it was really small.  It had a queen size bed and a twin size rollaway.  So nice Rose didn’t mind the twin bed!  We did kind of have a balcony, but it was dark inside the covered grotto area.  Not the best design.  We left the heavy drapes closed for most of the time we were there.  Again, a really nice bathroom.  Tiny fridge and coffee maker.

The room was kind decorated in an art deco style with mirrors and gold, and a diamond-like mirrored light fixture.

After a short rest, we went down for dinner at the little restaurant recommended and down the street from the hotel.  We ate outside. Had a nice dinner, then walked across the street to a gelato place.  Believe it or not, I was too stuffed to even have any gelato!  ☹

I think we turned out the lights shortly after that!

Next morning, breakfast was at 7a and we were up shortly after that to get ready, as it was only served until 9a, which I thought was not very long… for once, we got to enjoy breakfast and not have to run for a train!  Lol!  Breakfast consisted of a grouping of sunny side up eggs, lots of breads/sweets, rolls, of course cappuccino, various juices, some fresh fruit, etc.  It was pretty tasty.  We got there on the late side, but others were coming in after us!

It was a beautiful day, so we decided to explore the city!  I was so glad I had cancelled that other tour.  You always want to pack in as much as you can, so you can see everything… but this was really the only day we had of “had to ourselves” to explore what we wanted, without any other obligations – trains or tours!

So, we asked for some directions and they said we could go either right or left out from the hotel.  We chose left and started our walk up the street.  There were lots of people out, it was a lovely, sunny, Friday morning!  Shortly after our journey started, it seemed to slow down and this HUGE crowd of protesters gathered and were blocking the streets!  I guess you could say it was peaceful.  It mostly consisted of young people, college-aged, likely, holding signs about pollution and being a part of the solution, not the problem, etc.  We had planned on walking to St. Peter’s square, but apparently, that was where the crowd was going.  There were also polizia cars, trying to move the crowd along.  You could barely cross the street!  We finally gave up and did cross the street, as there were shops over there.  OK, we hit a few souvenir shops on our way back and I did a lot of “damage” at this one Murano glass store.  Nice older lady – found out (later when we went back) she was actually Jewish!  Bought 3  little Murano glass clocks, some necklaces, and little pendants.  Then as we made our way back to the hotel, I picked up a scarf, a few t-shirts, a purse, and I think that was it!  Did buy a few Murano glass pendants at the first shop.  😊

We got back, exhausted, but happy.  Rose was in such better shape than Lorna and I.  We had to keep yelling for her to wait for us!  😉  I’m sure we must have eaten something when we got back, but I can’t remember now.  (ok, it HAS been over a year! Lol!)  I do know we just rested and took a little nap.  I’m sure we had a snack of something.  We may have raided the little goodies in the room.  Lol!  After our rest, I kept thinking and thinking about that Murano glass shop.  Lorna was still tired, so Rose and I ventured out again.  When I went back, I bought those other items mentioned and bought myself a large necklace of Murano beads in amber/black.  Gorgeous of course, as well as pricey!  But, I figured, I may never come back here and what is a few more dollars spent!?  We got back and Lorna was still resting.  I think we decided to have an earlyish dinner and ate at a different restaurant down the street.  Inside, this time.  😊  Rose treated Lorna and I.  I had pizza, and I think Rose and Lorna had some kind of pasta.  We also ordered a bottle of Moscato.  I was still not feeling well.  (I had no idea at the time, my affliction was really acid reflux and all the tomato-based stuff I was eating, was what was killing me! – as I just found that out THIS January 2020!)  So, again, after dinner, they went for gelato, and again, I was not feeling too keen and didn’t get any.  I did take some pictures though!  😊  I didn’t even finish my Moscato! ☹

An early departure again, for us.  Again, I think we missed breakfast again, since our flight left about 11a and we had to get to the airport.  Luckily for us, this hotel called us a nice taxi, was more like limo ride, in a older model Mercedes or Lincoln.  Nice, sane driver, even in a suit.  We had no idea, we were so close to the coliseum! We had only gone a few blocks, and around a few corners, when it popped into view!  It was a sight to behold.  So, took my last picture on the way to the airport.  The driver took a bit of a scenic route to the freeway, through a park of sorts.  It was very pretty….

Since Lorna was not feeling well and walking a bit slow, and I was not my best, we requested wheelchairs for when we got back to Detroit.  They asked if we wanted them for Rome, as well, but we said no.  After our at least mile plus walk to get to the terminal, I wish we HAD asked for wheelchairs.  

We finally had a chance to get a bite to eat at a little café area near the gate.  I got a sandwich and a chocolate filled croissant for later, and a bottle of water.

It wasn’t long before we could board the plane.  Rose was not feeling well and wanted to upgrade to first class.  Luckily, I think there were only 2 seats or so left and she was able to get one of them.  So we kind of said goodbye and we boarded the plane.

Ah, finally on our way…. As luck would have it, there was a delay!  Like, an hour delay!  Oh man, I was so miserable.  I was having another attack.  Fortunately, at least the movies were working, so I chose some dumb movie, I don’t even remember what it was.  I was so miserable until we were finally airborne and I was able to get my prosecco!  It’s the oddest thing, they say that carbonated beverages are a trigger for the acid reflux, but the prosecco calms mine down!  So, nearly 2 hours of feeling miserable, I finally got some relief!  We were finally on our way.  Lorna and I were sitting next to each other and Rose was in first class.  Lorna put on a movie and then dozed off.  I did the same, on and off.  It was an extra long flight, with the hour delay on the ground, but I think the pilot made up some time, as I don’t think we were that late coming in.  I think Delta buffers in a lot of extra time, for delays, etc.

Our good friend Chris, picked us up from the airport and dropped us safely to home.  As always, there’s no place like home and I was so glad to get there and see my kitty!

 

All-in-all, we did have a good time and I hope Lorna and Rose Marie, agree!  I just hope, the next time, if there is one, I am a lot healthier!  No surgeries, 6 weeks prior, no acid reflux – trying to control with diet, was on Prilosec for like nearly 6 months, until I was reading and you really are not supposed to be on it for more than 2 weeks!?  And no more blood clots (this past January, so now on coumadin for likely life..).  Seriously, I’m so tired of being sick and doctors and hospitals!  I know I’m not the only one with health issues, but these past few years have been so rough, with my job depression, then the hysterectomy, the acid reflux, the blood clots (found another one in October on TOP of the other one that will never go away), and chronic, intermittent leg aches and pains from the blood clots.  I would just like to be able to go and enjoy myself and be healthy at the same time.  If I go again, I’d of course like to see Sicily, perhaps.  I’d also like to spend more time around the Lake Garda area.  It was so beautiful and the little town we stayed in was so quaint.  Of course Brescia is beautiful and I know Daniela was disappointed she could not show us around her city.  I love meeting my new Italian friends, Daniela, Dani, and Veronica.  Sadly, I missed seeing Veronica this time.  Would love to visit the Adriatic coast again, as well.  I know there are so many beautiful places to see in Italy and you can only do so much in a week or so.  Hopefully, the world will be a better and healthier place in the next few years!!

Thank you, Daniela, for being so gracious and understanding to Lorna and I.  We wished our health had been better and we could have done more while in Desenzano!  But it was lovely to just walk  along the lake and sit in the sunshine!

 

Until, next time???  Ciao a tutti!!  🙂 

 

Jana

Part I: Verona, Italy September 24, 2019 (2 yrs in the making!) – The Story of Jana, Lorna, & Rose Marie…

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.

THE CONCERT!

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.

Part II to come on Saturday!  🙂 

Atlanta, April 3, 2017 – Our Last Notte Magica!

 

atlanta poster

It was a last-minute decision, but I decided I could not bear the thought of not seeing the guys one last time before they left the United States for who knows how long. Had heard various reports from they were taking a year off, to they were “evaluating options,” and most recently from Gianluca – “see you in a few months!” from his Instagram story! Well, I wasn’t taking any chances! Lorna and I saw them at the beginning of this tour in Florence and we saw them at the end of it in the US!

 

I quickly analyzed their remaining concerts and figured out the best option and it ended up being the Atlanta show. We could still get meet/greet upgrades and there were still some decent seats left and the timing was good all-around for me taking a few more days off work and flight costs, etc.

 

I called Lorna and asked if she wanted to go to Atlanta? She was all in! We quickly bought the tickets, bought the upgrades (ouch!), then booked the flights and hotel. We stayed at the Artmore, practically right across the street from the Atlanta Symphony 20170402_155413Orchestra where they were playing. We flew out Saturday evening and arrived about 8:30p to the hotel. There was a wedding going on in the courtyard, so we could not go out there. From what a few persons told us, it was the same place the guys stayed last year. Yeah, doubt we’d get that lucky again! The location was perfect and right across the street and down a bit from the train and transportation center – MARTA.

 

Sunday, April 2, brought a beautiful, sunny, gorgeous day, with a high of 81. We had decided we wanted to go to the World of Coke, so we asked at the front desk how to get 20170402_093913there. Oh, she said, just go across the street to the train station and you catch the train into town, etc. Was pretty cheap, just $2.50 one way. Wow, seemed like a grand idea to us. So, we headed out after breakfast and away we went, crossing the street. We went to the right and the only thing we saw was this driveway going up that said “buses only and that pedestrians will be arrested!” What? Uh oh, don’t want to take any chances there, so we went in the other direction. Must be the other way? Ok, we walked, and got almost to the corner and realized, this was too far, so turned around again. Saw this other20170402_112520 driveway/street and decided that must be the way. So, we hiked up this hill, brought back some fond memories of being in Italy. We finally make it to the top and realized it was the arts center and that the symphony must be behind there. We went up some more steps (more shades of Italy!) and lo and behold, there it was! Ok, perfect. We can walk here – but wow, up that hill and if it’s raining? Well, we’ll decide on that later. Came back down and walked in a few more circles until we finally came to the place where we decided it must be the terminal area. It was pretty deserted, almost freaky. We found an elevator and took it down. We got out, and again, not a lot of people around. Of course, it was a Sunday. However, we did run into this nice worker who explained how things worked to these lost tourists from Dearborn! We ended up buying a 3-day pass and found out you could take this same train to the airport. What a deal! Uber cost us $45 from the airport – but we did get to ride in a Jaguar!

 

We got off the train (lots of escalators!) made it to street level and were lost. Again, Google Maps to the rescue! We rounded a few corners and up and down some more hills. Who knew Atlanta was so hilly? We finally made it! The World of Coke was a lot of fun and I’d recommend it to anyone who visited the area. “Included” in your ticket was a free little 8.5 ounce bottle of Coke, Coke Zero, or Sprite, upon entry, while you waited for your tour and little info movie to start. We got through with that and the movie and you were on your own. We walked through this little exhibit on the history of how Coke got started, then made our way to get your picture taken with the polar bear. Then we went through the “secret vault” area. There was also this 4D movie with moving chairs, which was a little hard on your back. Saw the place where you got your pictures. They started at $30! No way! Kept on walking… then, the best place ever! The tasting room! They had these little kiosk like areas set up all over this huge room, with each continent/area of the world represented and each of the various “Coke” brand beverages there for you to try. 20170402_125026It was pretty cool and you could taste all you wanted! After about 15 – 20 minutes, I’d had enough to drink! The last on the agenda there was the store. It was one of the most incredible souvenir stores I’d ever seen. It was huge and they had just about everything imaginable in there that you could think of that had to do with Coke. From mugs, glasses, and magnets, to phone cases, badge holders, lip smackers and even OPI nail polish, called Coke Red! And can’t forget all of the clothes and t-shirts. We got a little lost on the way back, but finally made it back to the train station and back to the hotel.

 

We got back about 4p and were exhausted. I checked my phone and we had walked just over 6 miles. No wonder we were tired! We ordered in and also got a bottle of wine to take back to our room. Bummer the hotel had no type of real restaurant or room service. It was a gorgeous night and we took the last of our wine outside to enjoy the courtyard by the firepit.Screenshot_20170405-232111

 

We knew storms were headed our way and I was keeping track of them. We woke to rain the next morning, but it was supposed to clear soon. We met briefly with Judy, Joanie, and the girls from Il Volo Miami, Gaby and Becky. We chatted a bit, anticipating the concert that night and relaying our stories from past concerts. Judy had gone to see them at Radio City. She did see them “almost” first and last in the US! Later, Nancy came to our room to get the extra ticket that Ticketmaster made me buy and after she had left, we went in search of another shuttle that was free to take us into town. That was a bit confusing. We asked at the desk if there was an easier way to get to the train station. We told the girl at the front desk we had walked around and up that big hill. She got a really good chuckle out of that one! She says no….. you go to your right and the entrance is right between those two benches… lol! So, we went her way and it was a whole lot easier. But just think of the workout our gluts got the day before!

 

While on the bus, I got this instant message from Judy saying there was a tornado warning and they were moving to the ground floor and where was Nancy? I said, “I don’t know, we’re on a bus!” Sure enough, it had started raining again. I checked my phone and indeed there was a tornado warning for the next 15 minutes or so. Luckily, nothing materialized. The few persons that were on this bus got off and then it stopped. Lorna said, isn’t this where we started? Yes, it was? Well, lost tourists again – we went in a circle, but they never announced Peachtree Center or anything? Ok, we gave up and took the train again. After a few more little mishaps, we finally ended up at Lenox Station. Somehow, I had an easier time in Italy getting around than I did in Atlanta? Of course, when we finally got out, it was raining pretty good and we had neither a coat or an umbrella!

 

We walked the short distance to the mall and I looked like an almost drowned rat. So much for my hair that night – would have to start all over. We proceeded to find Lorna a new outfit to wear and had an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. With all the walking we did, I still managed to gain 5 pounds somewhere! It couldn’t have possibly been the Nutella-topped, hazelnut chocolate crunch cheesecake I had for dessert, was it? It was so good. Not sure which was better, Gianluca singing, or the cheesecake. Ok, we all really know the answer, but that’s how good it was!

 

We kept going south, when we wanted to go north, or was that just the opposite? Per my calculations, we ended up in our room about 30 minutes ahead of my schedule and had a full two hours to get ready for the concert. We were ready early, so decided to just start walking. We went the easy way around this time and it was a whole lot easier, although we still had to go up the stairs to get to the symphony hall. With the luck of Il Volo, the storms had passed and it had turned into a beautiful evening with even the sun peeking out. We got to the lobby area shortly before 6:30p. We looked in and there were quite a few people. This was a large building with 3 separate theatres. We walked in and Lorna noticed a large group of people in the corner. We walked over and it was the VIP table. A little different than the previous venues. We signed in and got our stuff. Shortly after, they opened the doors. There was a big sign that said no “flash” photography. Ok, we could turn the flashes off? We were good. Unfortunately, the ushers did not agree with our reasoning and were telling people they could not take pictures again. They were really watching, too. Several times we saw the meany ushers go up to people and tell them no pictures – me included! I did sneak a few here and there when they left their post. Luckily those in the middle, they could not get to, so they got to take pictures!

 

Oh, the concert – lol! Like all of the others, it began with the orchestra and the guys came out to sing Nessun Dorma, etc. I had heard the ushers talking earlier and heard them say they had to end at 9:45p. Ok….after Granada, Piero began by saying it was their last concert and we all said “aw…..” and then he said they were glad to be going home tomorrow. Then Gianluca chastised Piero and said, “That’s not a nice way to start your last concert,” and of course we all laughed. They went on to sing, with several of the same little banter and jokes in between. They also took another 15 minute break. Orchestra again, and we were waiting for Grande Amore. Piero told a few little quips on how badly Americans pronounce Italian words. Like “macchiato” in Starbucks. He says, it’s not “macchiato” like the “ch” in macho, but like a “k” in Boschetto. Then Ignazio comments on how we say spaghetti – I guess we are lazy here and don’t pronounce each consonant separately, if there is a double. Then Piero says, “who is Alfredo?” I never realized, because I don’t like it, but apparently, they have never seen or heard of a person, as Chicken Alfredo in Italy. (however, I did look this up and it did start in Italy with a guy named Alfredo – he cooked this special dish for his pregnant wife).  Since we had been to several concerts already and had reviewed several of them, we “thought” we knew what was going on. Still waiting for Grande Amore. They did their “fake” leaving and came back and sang O Sole Mio. Gianluca had also led the audience brilliantly a few times in clapping sequences during the Libiamo song. After they sang O Sole Mio, the crowd was on its feet. Lorna and I were tired, so we just sat there, knowing it really wasn’t over yet. However, the crowd did not stop. I finally got up and realized the guys were waving goodbye and people were handing them gifts, etc. Ok, that was a sure sign it was over! But where was Grande Amore, and the last Nessun Dorma? Yes, Atlanta, you were cheated out of 3 songs! Not only those two, but also Caruso. I looked at the time – it was 9:45p on the nose! Their voices were still superb and I swear I noticed a few little different nuances here and there. Again, it was all over way too soon, this time, for sure!

 

The Meet/Greet

We waited about the usual amount of time and then they led us down many flights of stairs. We wanted to go to the bathroom, but were afraid they would come get us and we wouldn’t know where to go. We were lucky and passed a bathroom on the way and asked if it was ok to use it. They said ok. Of course, everyone wanted to be last, so when we finally came down the stairs, you could see the icicle glares! We really didn’t do it on purpose, it just worked out that way. But, of course, everyone is so polite and said, “why no, after YOU, of course!” So, we weren’t really last, but that was ok, we were near the end, with maybe 20 people or so behind us. We never really counted.

 

Ignazio was in rare form. They had their music playing in the background and he was singing his part every so often. Even Gian and Piero piped in once or twice I think. Although, after a little while, Igna told them to turn it off. Crazy me, I didn’t want Alessandra to feel left out, so I was up til 2:30am the night before we left, making both her and I, a scarf with the winged logo! I ended up doing a black scarf similar to Barbara’s with the gold, then crystal, and then black little “ends.” I think it came out nice. Leonora and Alessandra were sitting in chairs against the wall. It was a large room, but nothing fancy and they had tables set up to put your stuff on in the middle. There was also a piano in the corner. Ignazio was acting crazier than normal and dancing with a few of the ladies. There was one girl who had to be over 6 feet tall and very thin. No one could be taller than Igna, so he pulled over a chair and stood on it! People were saying he was not feeling well. If that was the case, he was putting on a pretty good show!

 

When I got close enough, I approached Alessandra. I gave her the scarf and told her I had made one for her also because I did not want her to feel left out. I guess I spoke too quickly and she asked me to repeat it. I slowed down a bit and said I had made them for all of the mothers. Then, for me, the real surprise, I did mention Leonora, and then she said “the green one!” Wow, she does know some English! I said, “Si!” Alessandra said the “usual” “thank you so much!” and I got back in line. I don’t think she opened it. I also gave her a card, as I did for Leonora and Barbara. Hey, all their names end in an “a”?” Lol!

 

It was my turn and I went up to each of them and gave them a hug, saying it was hugs from Detroit, then reached down to squeeze each of their hands, telling them we were really going to miss them for a while. I recall their hands being very soft and a little cold. I accidentally stepped on Piero’s foot – oops! I did the same with Igna (no, did not step on his foot) and also told him “remember it’s 3 parts flour and 1 part cocoa” and he laughed! I really have no clue if they really remember me or not. None of them said anything after I told them we were going to miss them. Did I remember to really look into their eyes? I’m sure I did, but I don’t remember. Oh well… I’ll just have to pretend I did when I look at their picture on my wallpaper at work!

 

However, they remembered Lorna! She started to walk up there and Igna pointed to her and said, “I remember you!” She jokingly hid behind the backdrop for a second, then she said Gian told her she was a rock star! Ok, that did it, she was in heaven again and almost forgot to get her picture a 2nd time!!

 

We were about to leave, when all of a sudden, we realized that Ignazio is singing and playing the piano! This one girl was having a long talk with Piero, so I guess he decided to kill some time! He performed Unchained Melody. It was so beautiful, his voice was loud and perfection! Their photographer got most of it, I think, so I hope it ends up on the Internet/Social Media somewhere! We were afraid they were going to make us leave, but they didn’t. What a special and as Nancy said, a “once in a lifetime” treat! That is for sure! There were still a lot of people in line, so I could not really see Alessandra during the song, which he of course, was singing for her. Afterward though, she seemed, not sure, almost a little annoyed.  She crossed her legs and went back to her phone.  They were waiting for him, so he had to go back to the m/g area and finish up.

 

As we were leaving, I gave a little shout out, saying ciao and buonanotte. Barbara was standing there by the wall as we left and at least SHE remembered me! She saw me and said, “thank you again for the scarf!” I was so tickled right then! I told her I was so glad she liked it. Wonder if she’ll actually wear it? Then I told her we were going to miss them for the next few years. I also told her we’d love to see them back at PBS and that I would do everything I could to make sure they said Ignazio’s name correctly! She smiled and agreed! I told her for her to tell them…. Then we said goodbye. Lorna thought I had gotten lost, as she had gone ahead of me. So maybe I did not connect with the guys, but I did with Leonora and Barbara. I know there are many out there who talk to the mothers and Barbara and Alessandra, but I never did before, so it was pretty cool for me.

 

With regret, our notte magica was coming to an end. We went out into the beautiful, 20170403_231249magical night, under the stars, and walked to our hotel. As I think about this now, this is how we ended the first one! However, thankfully, there were no dive-bombing pigeons!