Recently Joyce and I spent 12 days in Italy. This is one of the two countries that begin with ďIĒ that I have always wanted to visit, the other being Ireland. In deciding where to go you might say that pasta won out over a pint of Guinness, and boy did we eat pasta. There are several things about Italy I really liked and some not so much. For example, I really liked how they are able to keep the wasted use of electricity to a minimum in hotels. They give you one plastic key card to the room and after you open the door you have to insert it in a slot inside by the door. This turns the room electricity on. If you donít put the card in the slot the lights go off after about a minute. The nice thing is that when you leave the room, and take the card with you, the lights, and TV, go off. No using electricity when you leave the room.
One thing I wasnít too fond of was the public restrooms. They were clean, and you had to pay at least 50 cents to get through the turnstiles, but there are no toilet seats on the toilets. And occasionally, there were no toilets, just a ceramic hole in the floor with places to put your feet. Needless to say, I quickly rearranged my personal hygiene schedule.
There are more churches in Italy, particularly in Rome, than a forest has trees. You couldnít swing a cat without hitting a church in Rome, where there are over 900 churches and I think most of them have a dead body in them. I donít mean buried in them, but an actual body, or body part, under glass. I saw more dead Popes, saints, and other relics than I have ever seem in my life.
One thing I never saw in Rome, or any of the other small towns, was a pick-up truck. The streets were filled with those little Fiats and Smart cars and scooters. Hundreds of scooters roam the streets driven by everyone from men in suites to women in mini skirts with spike heels. Most wore helmets and all seemed to have no problem weaving in and out of traffic.
People in Italy love to go out at night, all dressed up, and window shop. The plazas in all the towns are filled with restaurants and customers in the evening. These gatherings are informal and everyone is welcome, even if you donít speak Italian. We found the people to be very friendly and welcoming.
Italians, like most of Europe, encounters strikes on a regular basis. Our second day in Rome we discovered that the taxis, buses, and public venues like the Colosseum† were closed or not running because of a strike. No one seemed to know why, and no one seemed surprised. Thatís just life in Italy. Apparently, itís not a right to work state.
I love Kansas, as people who know me realize, but I have to admit that I canít wait to go back to Italy. Our trip was with a tour. We did spend a few days in Rome on our own, then joined the tour which made the experience like work. We were up every day at 5 AM, walked miles a day, and usually collapsed in our bed at 10 PM full of pasta and vino. We were able to see an awful lot of Italy by going on a tour. But there is a bench in Siena that I want to sit on for a while and watch the tourists quickly walk by as they try to see everything in three hours before loading back on the bus.