I have to say, this must be the most beautiful place in the world. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven (if that's where I'll end up, I can't complain - may even have to reserve a little spot for myself for when the time is right).
We're in a place called Castel Gandolfo, in a hotel called Hotel Castel Gandolfo, overlooking Lago Albano. Lago Albano is a water filled crater left over from an extinct volcano. Our hotel is below the Castel Gandolfo, the local castle. We're told that when in the village, the pope will reside in the castle and even speak to the nation from the balcony. He doesn't appear to be in the village at the moment because I've not yet received my invitation to supper with him!
Castel Gandolfo is approximately 20 kilometers outside of Rome (south east). The traffic from the airport is quite busy and the locals drive like lunatics. I was not driving so I can say that, but if I were I'd be right in the thick of things... When in Rome... The speed limit on the highway is 130 kilometers per hour, but if you adhere to it you'll have to stick in the slow lane. My driver stayed in the slow lane most of the way, but I am very proud to admit that we were able to drive fast enough to be able to overtake a vehicle, albeit a slow moving truck.
It took us about an hour to find our hotel, it's hidden between the Castel Gandolfo and Lago Albano. The only way in is down a one way, which is a very narrow winding cobble stone road - hardly the place one wants to drive an ordinary size motor vehicle down. Fortunately we've rented a small vehicle but were mortified when we were upgraded to a larger one. Thankfully larger didn't mean too big otherwise we would have had to park our vehicle 20 kilometers out of town and hiked in.
We drove up a one way (the wrong way) for about half a kilometer. All the signs said no entry but George (the GPS) told us that was the only way to our hotel and because he is Italian and apparently knows what he is doing, we listened him. When we got to the top of the road there was a string of vehicles driving down towards us, hooting and cursing, and of course because the roads are so narrow, we couldn't do a U-turn. My driver nearly drove us into a street restaurant as he tried to do a 50 point U-turn. We had spectators watching us, cars hooting at us and my driver cursing because the vehicle wouldn't go into reverse. I chose this time to wisely keep my mouth shut! We were videoed by the city doing our illegal escapade and I assume we'll pick up a hefty fine for that. There's nothing like first hand experience to really know that you shouldn't have done that.
Our hotel is a boutique hotel. It is beautiful but like everything else, it is small. Mind you the Italian people are small too, so I guess there was never much of a need to build bigger dwellings, streets or walkways. The elevator going up to our floor is so small that only one person can use it at a time (or two Italian persons). We had to carry our suitcases up the stairs because there's not enough room for a suitcase and a person in the elevator at one time.
The Italian culture is great. The locals have siesta every afternoon from 13:00 hrs until 15:00 hrs. All shops close during this time, however all restaurants are open and busy. Businesses are generally family owned, with all members of the family lending a hand. It would appear that when locals frequent a restaurant, they will sit down and eat for a couple of hours. Eating becomes an art and not just a task one has to do.
At 15:00 hrs, the shops open again and the streets become a hive of activity. We chose this time to go back to our hotel to arrange a reservation at a local restaurant that sells meat (steak) for moi and pasta for my driver.
Most of the little shops we've been in sell wine in them - even (or perhaps, especially) the religious places. I'm liking this in a very genuine and sincere way and already feel my ancestry coming alive. I'm assuming that since I feel so incredibly at home here that the spirits of my forefathers reside here too. I could be wrong but I'm willing to be adopted.
From what we've seen so far, the Italian people are very expressive and the young men are very gorgeous. Whilst I'm willinging availing myself to a pinch on the backside by one such beauty, it has not yet happened. Perhaps I am trying too hard, but I won't give up just yet.
The weather is glorious. I'm loving the heat and the summer breeze. I doubt that we'll require any cool weather gear.
No time left for chatter, there's a whole world out there to explore!
Legend: my driver - Kimo
The GPS - George
The Gigolo - the first young man who dares to pinch my rear in a flirtatious way.
Thursday, May 19, 2011