I made it! I am in Italy! Screwed up a bit, no, a lot, from jet lag.
I could not write a blog yesterday. My head was all over the place.
So many things to share with you. I am going to run through as many as I recall.
Lets begin at Key West airport. The family saw me off. Robert and Ally excited. Each pulled one of my pieces of luggage. A big deal for them!
I have not flown in a while. The following may be old hat to you who do. To me it was new.
TSA security now permits those over 75 to go through with shoes on. No more shoes off. I am 76. Three different guards attacked me with shoes off! I looked, smiled and said I am over 75. They looked back in disbelief. The scenario made me feel good. Vanity involved. Meant I do not look my age.
New cell phone a disaster. I still do not have its use down. This one has bluetooth. Decided to use it in the airport. A mistake. I screwed things up. Every time the phone rang, no one was there. I could not correct it. I needed to put the cell phone on airport mode. Took me 20 minutes. It is still on airport mode.
Trip from Atlanta to Milan a pain. Nine hours. I did not sleep a wink. It seemed like the whole plane slept but me. I walked the aisles and everyone looked dead as they slept.
Because of blood pressure and heart problems, I have a fluid problem. My ankles swell occasionally. I feared they would be huge by the time I reached Milan. I visited with my heart doctor before the trip. He said wear compression socks and take a water pill as soon as you get on the plane in Atlanta. I did both. Peed a lot. It worked! Swelling very minimal when I got off the plane in Milan.
Arrived in Milan 8 in the morning Milan time. Two in the morning my time. Permit me to interject, Iwas up 34 straight hours before I went to bed. There was no time to rest once I arrived.
My driver took me to Navarro. I am staying in Navarro a few days till I am over jet lag. It was a 30 mile drive.
The scenery reminded me of two things. First, it was like driving route 5 from Utica to Frankfort in upstate New York. A smathering of houses and barns. Fields otherwise. Second, in many places there was heavy foliage. Like that I saw in Virginia near Mount Vernon.
The fields were rice paddies. As far as the eye could see. Pools of water with what appeared to be blades of grass growing above. I had never seen rice paddies before, except in movies about China. Turns out northern Italy is one of the largest suppliers of rice world wide. The reason is the area sits at the foot of Mount Blanc. Water flows down the mountain. Fills the many streams and rivers. Water abounds below the land surface also. Easily tapable well style.
After miles and miles of rice paddies, there appeared a castle. Sitting on a mountain nearby. The driver told me the man who lives in the castle owns all the rice paddies. Plus a golf course nearby.
We drove over many bridges. All old in appearance. Some stone. Others metal. Napoleon responsible for them all. The people refer to Napoleon as King Napoleon. He conquered northern Italy in the early 1800s. Many French persons came to live here under Napoleonic rule. Their descendants still speak French. France itself is a hop, skip and jump away. Switzerland is nearby and French is common there.
I found it strange that in our 30 mile drive I saw very little traffic. Whether on a major highway complex or on a back road. I was told it cost money to drive. The price of gasoline is $12 a gallon. Additionally most roads have a tolling system which is expensive. When contracts are let to build or repair a road, the contractor now gets a long time deal. Beside the construction or repair, the contractor gets to maintain the road for 30 years. It is the law! The contractor charges tolls purportedly to pay the cost of repairs. Actually it is a big money maker. Called positive cash flow. The tolls are very expensive. Some of the persons I discussed this topic with blamed the Mafia. In fact, in the short tinme I have been here I have discovered Italians blame the Mafia for everything.
We entered Navarro. Iwas impressed!
There is an extensive downtown area. Most of the buildings were built 1100 to 1300. They still stand. Are referred to as medieval. The roads are narrow. Very narrow. Like downtown Boston. The streets are all closed off, except to pedestrian traffic. No cars.
The buildings are magnificent. Majestic. Most muted pastel colors. Yellow, gray, tan and pink. Some concrete colored. Nothing big. Three to four stories. Ground floor expensive stores. A restaurant with outdoor seating here and there. Apartments on the floors above. The buildings appear to be of poured concrete. No wood. Tile roofs. Where ever stucco or brick is apparent, it is a facade. Merely attached to the wall of the building.
I am staying a few nights in one of the apartments. The buildings are magnificent as well. The staircases! I am staying in an apartment on the second floor. It is actually two stories. Once inside the apartment, there is a staircase to an upper floor. The apartment I am in is at least 4,000 square feet. Many rooms. Many baths.
The ceilings are art. Each is painted with a story. My bedroom is a hunt involving stags and dogs.
The furniture is all antique. It is like walking into a museum.
Every room has one or more outside balconies. Overlooking the street or inner court.
The inner court is a beauty in itself. Entrance is gained through a heavy wood door. The courtyard reminds me of the Roman courtyard to be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibit on the first floor to the left of the staircase as you enter the left hallway. Resident cars are parked in the inner court.
I attended a dinner party last night. Great food!
There was a mixture of people. Navarro is obviously cosmopolitan. People from all countries. I spoke at length with a woman from Morocco. Actually, Casablanca. 35ish. Lovely. Dressed like every one else.
I said Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman. She did not know what I was talking about.
Her husband is Italian. He converted from Catholic to Muslim to marry her.
They have two grammar school age children. Both attend Catholic school. Neither has been baptized or confirmed. Their parents are leaving it to the children to decide when they are older. The Catholic Church is giving them no issue. The priest and nuns welcome the two into school with open arms. I doubt such would be permitted in the United States.
I was told that Morocco is very modern. None of the women cover their faces or wear long black robes. Mini skirts are very much in style. Although there are wars in the African countries all around Morocco, there is no conflict in Morocco. The people are of a different mind set.
We drank Italian champagne. By the case. Apparently it is the drink of choice here.
Everyone was dressed as if we were at a party in Key West. Casual. Women in jeans. Men in jeans and khakis. Too cool yet for shorts.
Everyone wanted to talk with me. All were interested in our Presidential election. All like Obama. He is respected for his international endeavors. They knew we had financial problems also, but did not understand them. The euro is on their mind. They agreed however that if Greece goes down, so will the rest of Europe. With the United States being severely impacted.
I am sleeping in a suite complex. All for me. A bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. Bathrooms are big in size. Decorated. Different from ours.
Mine has a bidet. I was pleased. I have one in my Key West home and have become accustomed to its use. I found this one strange. A bidet requires a water spout near center from which the water can shoot up to cleanse the underside. No spout.
I inquired why. Turns out Mussolini was the driving force in bidets. He made sure every Italian home had one. Like a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. At the end of World War II, Mussolini was not too popular. You will recall that he and his mistress were beaten to death and then hung by their heels. The post war government decided to do away with bidets since they were Mussolini inspired. A law was passed outlawing the spout on the theory it was bacteria/microbe infested. My bidet is nothing but another sink. Based on its height, for child use I assume.
I got to bed at 10:30 in the evening Navarro time. I had been up more than 30 hours straight. I fell asleep immediately. Woke at 2. Was awake till 4. Then slept to 8.
Writing this first blog has been an exercise. A frustration.
Electricity is rationed in Italy. The computer I was working on had rationed electricity. Fifteen minutes and it went off. And stayed off for an hour. All to conserve electricity. This blog has been written piece meal over the course of a day.
Enjoy your day! More to come tomorrow!