on journey: a drive from rome to la spezia

A driver arrived early to take me to Leonardo da Vinci Airport (at Fiumicino), so I said “Arrive derci” to the painted cat on The Beehive’s courtyard walls.

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courtyard at The Beehive

I arrived at the airport by 8:00. Mike’s flight was to arrive at 8:10, but the board showed that his plane had already landed. I stood for a long time waiting with my luggage at the Meeting Point, where drivers held up random names written hastily on white pieces of paper. I watched as hordes of Chinese travelers followed obediently behind tour guides waving triangular flags.

A sea of faces flowed past, and I thought Mike should have come through already because of the electronic passport scanners for Americans.  When he finally walked up, I was looking at him but didn’t really see him.  He thought I was mad at him for something, but my eyes had just glazed over from so much searching. It honestly surprised me to find him standing right in front of me.  “Sto benissimo!” we greeted each other, but in English!

We walked across a pedestrian walkway to the rental car place.  We found AutoEurope and there seemed to be no order to the line but a young guy told us we had to take a ticket.  Mike got #55 but they were on #51 and very slow-moving. If the guy hadn’t said something, we’d have been standing there forever.

When we finally got to the front of the line, they informed us we were in the wrong line; our rental was with Europecar! We went around a couple of corners  and found a very efficient and not crowded system with someone to check you in and they ended up giving us a black Mercedes, small, sporty and very nice! It took us forever to figure out the details of the car – the GPS, the climate control, the music system, how to plug in our phones.  Finally we were on our way.  Mike missed a sharp turn to exit down a ramp and I said I should hop out and stop the traffic so he could back up.  I opened the door to hop out, but he told me to stay in, so I jumped back.  I hadn’t closed my door firmly, so when he went around a corner, the door flew open and almost hit the wall. What a couple of bumbling idiots!

We had received a ticket to get out of the parking lot.  We were looking for the ticket to get out, searching everywhere for it, in bags and compartments, under junk on the floor, in pockets.  Finally, I got up when Mike pulled over, and there was the ticket flattened on the seat under my behind! We couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it all was.

Once we got out of the airport, we got on the coastal route of the E80/A12 and zipped along past fields of poppies and rapeseed, or commercial mustard.  Rapeseed, aka canola, is used for human and animal food purposes, but its main uses is for biodiesel. Anyway, what sensational flowers, cheerfully yellow in all the green fields with the mountains behind and hilltop towns all around. Bars, gas stations, and convenience stores punctuated the roadsides.

Villas sat on hilltops surrounded by trees, fields of crops, and orchards.  Olive groves and vineyards skirted the hills below shaded houses.  It was a beautiful drive and at times we got glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea.  Umbrella pines made canopies over the land, solitary or in lines, their silhouettes elegant against the blue skies.  These trees were widely used by Romans in shipbuilding but also to adorn their gardens.  During the Renaissance, they were used as ornamental trees in Medicean Villas.

We stopped in San. Vincenzo along the coast and had lunch at a restaurant by the sea.  Mike ordered a clam and mussels soup and I had Penne with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. It was sunny, cool and breezy.  Kids were swimming in the water, but I thought it a little chilly for swimming.

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San Vincenzo

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San Vincenzo

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San Vincenzo

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San Vincenzo

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Mike in San Vincenzo

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penne with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil

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clam and mussels soup

After a while, we arrived in La Spezia where we checked into Davide’s Airbnb Piano Apartment.

Mike went to the market with Davide and came back with wine, cheese, and Gran Pavesi Olive Crackers.  We had wine and cheese on crackers and settled into the apartment.

Before dinner, we went to the market for breakfast foods for the next couple of days: yogurt, bananas, raspberries, blood orange juice, granola, cheese and granola bars.

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La Spezia

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Tabacchi in La Spezia

We relaxed for a while after our long drive and then we walked into La Spezia’s Old Town in search of dinner.

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La Spezia

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Umbrella pines in La Spezia

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La Spezia

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La Spezia

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La Spezia

We ended up at Bella Napoli, a cozy restaurant with stone arches and strange floor lighting that cast eerie shadows on our faces.  We had a Classica Salad: lettuce, tomato, celery, and carrots.  We shared Melanzane-Pizza Vegetariane: with corn, tomato, eggplant, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and basil.  Our meal was accompanied by wine and a very salty bread.

Then we walked back through the old town, past churches, government buildings, apartment blocks, and a few shady characters hovering about a tobacco shop.

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church in La Spezia

When we got to our apartment after a mile walk home, Mike fell straight to sleep with his eye mask on, exhausted by his overnight flight and long drive, while I read The Forgiven. The next day, we’d explore the Cinque Terre.

*Steps: 10,719, or 4.54 miles*

*Friday, April 26, 2019*

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“ON JOURNEY” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about the journey itself for a recently visited specific destination. You could write about the journey you hope to take in the year ahead.  If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.

In this case, my intentions for my trip to Italy were determined before I left home. One was to use a different Italian word each day.  I had two words for today: “Sto benissimo” or “I’m great,” and “Arrive derci,” or “Goodbye.” The other intention was as follows: Pick up any book you have on your shelf.  Turn to page 79.  Pick the 4th sentence on the page and write that sentence at the top of each day’s journal entry. Then brainstorm any ideas that come to your mind related to that sentence.  Write a travel essay using that sentence as your topic sentence.

The sentence I wrote in my travel journal was this: “What sensational flowers!” This is from a short story called “Rafe’s Coat” from the collection The Stories (So Far) of Deborah Eisenberg.  I used the sentence to describe the beautiful rapeseed that brightened the landscape along the coast of Italy.

Include the link in the comments below by Tuesday, April 14 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Wednesday, April 15, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation, once on the third Wednesday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!