Saturday, October 8, 2016

My Trip to Italy

I arrived home from Italy late Wednesday night, after midnight.  It was a long travel day home for sure.  3 hours in the Rome airport, nine hours to fly from Rome to JFK, three hours in JFK airport (2 of those to go through customs, recheck baggage, and go through security) then 5 hour flight to SFO and about one hour 20 minutes to drive home.  I'm still trying to get back to "regular" time.

I've always loved Italy and while I visited some of the usual places I love i.e. The Sistine Chapel in Rome, The Pitti Palace and Ufizzi in Florence, I got to add a new place to that list.  Orvieto, creating art with Kate Thompson and wonderful hosts Kristen and Bill Steiner.  (Bill I have your internet code memorized, ha!  Thanks for that!).

But this trip seemed to have a lot of challenges thrown my way.  Beginning with the fact we arrived in Rome and my suitcase was not there.  Long story short a woman had taken my suitcase by mistake leaving hers there.  It took some doing to get her to answer her phone and a lot of encouraging to take my suitcase to the airport and exchange it.  She seemed to not understand and kept saying she was in a coma or something.  geez.  I finally did get it.

When we left the airport the prepaid car that was to pick us up wasn't there so we had to pay again to get a shuttle to the hotel.  I'm fighting this one since I booked it through Travelocity I'm hoping they help me get a refund.

We stayed at the Piazza Farnese Luxury Suites and I have to recommend this to anyone who might be visiting Rome!  Chiara, the manager is wonderful!

We thought nothing else could go wrong right?  Wrong, lol!  The prepaid tickets to the Sistine Chapel were also a bust.  Seems we were to meet at an obscure area in a park across the street from the Vatican but we hiked all the way to the ticket line before realizing this.  When we got to the park it was a few minutes after the designated time so of course no one was there, or wait there was a guy conveniently there to let us know that the company we purchased through was not reputable as his company.  (Groan).  The company the tickets were purchased from is Viator a subsidiary of Trip Advisor.  Lots of bad reviews for them.  But I digress.  The line at the Sistine Chapel was very long and we were ready to just see it so we went with this guy for a couple blocks to the office to purchase more tickets. Said we did not want a group tour but got it anyway.  It turned out to be very boring and the guide wasn't stopping at things we wanted to see so we ditched him and proceeded on our own in the extremely crowded space.  Question, was the guy selling tickets conveniently there because he was in cahoots with the other guy who was suppose to be there but gone?  hhhmmm........

I think perhaps pre-buying tickets online is becoming a scam.

Six days in Orvieto was to be a nice respite but I had personal challenges thrown at me as I was told a fire had started in the mountains where I live.  It was very close and at one point my husband called and said they were to evacuate and that he had gotten the usual items (photos, hard drives, etc.) some of my sewing machines but was there anything else he should grab?  It's hard to answer that question.  Especially being so far away.  If I were home I'd grab all my artist friends work I own, some jewelry pieces, my favorite jeans and boots, you know.......... those things.  But how do you tell that to someone else?  The jeans in the bottom drawer, which ones?  yeah right.

But Orvieto was charming.

For a few days I fretted I may be coming home to a burned up house.  My studio, everything.

When I received the next call from my husband he said the firefighters had built a great firewall on the county line above us and the wind had shifted away from us and it looked like things were going to be fine.  We dodged a bullet this time.  So that was the good news but then he said the bad news is your mother's in the hospital.  Really?  sigh.  She's home now but getting an MRI next week so we'll see what that tells us.

One of the attendees had a health issue crop up while in Orvieto, thought perhaps she was having a stroke and we were very alarmed with this.  Thankfully it was not a stoke but Bell's Palsy and treatable!

Then we had issues with taxi's overcharging us, a shyster grabbing our luggage from the train station and forcing us to run after him thinking he was a cab driver but he only took us on a round about way to the taxi line when we could have gone across the terminal and out a different door.  I kept saying "NO!" but he wouldn't stop and we had to follow.  When he wanted ten Euro for doing this I was protesting but one of the ladies I was with pulled out a ten and I thought okay, but he wanted ten each!  NO!  what BS!

We arrived in Florence on a Sat. and planned to leave on Tues. morning.  So we had to see the museums we wanted on Sunday since they'd be closed on Monday.  We did not know that the first Sunday of the month all museums are free.  Needless to say they were crowded but at least it wasn't the hustle and bustle rudeness that Rome was.

Our final "misadventure" was getting the train from Florence to Rome.  A few missteps in finding the platform we needed and the three of us traveling all got separated from each other in the train station but miraculously we all made it on the train.  Unfortunately one person had a porter put her luggage on the train but he ran so far ahead of her in the crowded terminal she didn't see where he put here luggage.  She boarded the train and asked the ticket taker of the compartment she was in about it but he wasn't helpful.  When we got to Rome no one seemed to know where the luggage was and no one seemed to care or want to help us.  After hours of getting the runaround we were told that her luggage was not on the train and she had to go file a police report which was checked "stolen"  Seems this is a regular occurrence.  So both her bags with all her belongings in it are gone, lost, stolen.  We were all devastated!

So this being my third trip to Italy it was not the wonderful experiences I have previously had.  It has left a rather sour taste in my mouth and too bad for Italy that more and more people are coming to this same conclusion.

I know I wanted to write goodness and wonderfulness.  And if you notice the photos interspersed between my angst you'll see the wonder of it all.  Kate Thompson did a marvelous job of leading us in creating and painting mixed media collages.  As I said in the beginning Kristen and Bill Steiner were super hosts!  Good food and wine.  Got some fabulous Italian leather boots.  And I met some new and wonderful friends.

Images of the Fractured Angelics workshop with Kate Thompson.

The ending.