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When in Rome...

Judy loves adventure. I love the four walls of our apartment. That's why I felt a certain trepidation when she suggested a three-week tour of Italy. I hope you mean an organized tour, I responded. On our own, was her short reply. And so, one bright May morning, we flew off to Italy. Our first destination was Rome. In preparing for the journey we had divided Italy into two parts: I was put in charge of all arrangements and accommodations in Rome while the rest of Italy was under Judy's domain. Rome turned out surprisingly fine, once I stopped asking every other passerby how to get to where we were going.

Eli, just enjoy the feeling of being here, Judy said. It's all right to be lost.

That directive, plus a cell phone loaded with Google Maps provided by our charming and helpful B&B host, soothed my nerves those first few days. I am happy to report that we successfully visited all the important tourist sites in Rome including Vatican City, The Coliseum, and the Pantheon.

Our next stop was Florence. Trains run very efficiently in Italy and once you understand how to buy a ticket, validate it (or risk a 130 euro fine), locate the correct train platform, and find the carriage and seat you have been assigned, it is a piece of cake. A taxi from the train station took us to our rented apartment located in the heart of the old historical city. Unfortunately, the proprietor was under a time constraint when we arrived and was able to give us only the most cursory overview of the sites of Florence. More significantly, he hurried his explanation of how to run the apartment's two major appliances, namely the washing machine and the dishwasher. This was to result in unpleasant consequences. Suffice it to say that our laundry remained locked inside the drum of the washing machine for three days until a repairman was finally found. Thankfully, Judy separates whites from darks so only half our soiled clothes got the three day underwater treatment. But overall, I can report that our visit to Florence was also successful and we were able to visit the famous tourist sites including the Uffizi Gallery, the Medici Palace, and the Duomo Cathedral.

Venice was our next port of call. I loved arriving there. The train from Florence brings you to within one hundred feet of the main canal of this charmed city, and I felt I was entering Disney's Magic Kingdom. The feeling did not last long. While I was looking around, two men with a luggage cart came up to Judy and informed her that all public transportation in Venice had been canceled for the day. Judy, be careful, I cautioned. They just want your money for a private jaunt. It subsequently turned out that the men were telling the truth (mea culpa). We had arrived in Venice on Regatta Day and the canals were cleared of all boats not taking part in competitions. We were in Venice, the city of canals, on the day you couldn't get around by boat! But the following day all was right with the world. We sailed to the island of Murano and saw the world famous glass being made. We visited the Doge's Palace, the grandiose seat of government of the Republic of Venice in all its former glory. And we walked the streets of the first Jewish ghetto in history.

Judy is a wise and compassionate woman. She arranged the last week of our stay to be tranquil and unhurried. And it was. We stayed in Cinque Terre for three nights. Located on the northwestern coast of Italy it is a resort area comprised of five seaside villages linked by arduous hiking paths or speedy train. We took the hiking path between the first two villages and the train to the next three. In contrast to our bed and breakfasts in the cities, our hotel had all the pampering amenities one could think of. I could finally breathe.

The last four nights were spent in a country inn in scenic Tuscany. Set amid vineyards and olive groves the inn provided a relaxing respite and contrast to the bustling Italy we had experienced. Among the guests we were the only ones without a car. What more could a person want other than being with a good friend, a good book, and a good glass of wine.

Judy's approach to life differs from my own. She often says the journey is the destination and not the other way around. People, I suppose, learn from one another and, in retrospect, I am very happy to have made the trip. It enriched me in many ways.

But truth be told, when I first saw the outline of our apartment from the window of our taxi that was taking us home from the airport I felt my heart go ping. 



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