The Retirees visit Roberto in Cesi Italy

We flew to Rome landing at Ciampino Airport not Fumincino as we expected. This meant finding a way from an Airport we had never been to before to Terminii and our hotel. We located a bus which took paying passengers to Terminii – eventually. When we arrived the driver dropped us off at Terminii station. Now we have been here numerous times but the bus had dropped us on the opposite side to where we usually arrived. So we spent some time dragging the luggage up and down looking for the hotel Dreamstation B&B. After about an hour we located the hotel. A shower a change of clothes and a comfortable bed and it was dream time at the Dreamstation.

As planned after awaking we strolled across the road pushing our luggage and boarded the train to Terni Umbria. We were more relaxed than our first trip to Terni. We knew it was platform 1 and knew that it was a 20 minute walk dragging the luggage and that we had to validate the ticket. The trip takes over an hour but to compensate there is some interesting countryside once you leave Rome. The deeper into Umbria the more hilltop villages can be spotted. These villages are often 800 – 1,000 year old settlements and some of the inhabitants have had generations of ancestors making a living in the fields around the village.

On arrival nothing has changed form our last visit 2 years earlier. The fountain in the main square still had not been repaired. The heat of the day was intense. We moved to the taxi rank and as we were slow getting out of the train (the platform lift is still not repaired), all taxis (there is only one or two of them) were busy rushing their fare to a destination. I spotted a passing taxi and waved it down. “I thought all a passenger she had arrive, wheres ya wanta go? Said the moustached Italian driving the Skoda. “Cesi” we say. “Cesi?” said the cabbie eyeing us up and down. With a shrug of his shoulders “Cesi!” Off we go, and I asked about the route he was taking, and he says “roada works, we go thisa way”.

Our arrival at Cesi in the main square was quite deflating – no Robert to greet us and the driver was not interested in tackling the narrow streets to get closer to our destination. So with the sun turning up the heat we dragged the luggage up the hill to the town hall through the shadows of the crowded town houses (they gave some relief from the sun) and after two further hills we see a beaming Robert swanning out of the shadows of his villa complaining about the heat. F**k me what a welcome.

Aided with the luggage (Robert suggested I leave the heavy bags in the foyer downstairs) we were offered a refreshing libation (a cordial or something) and told he had booked a table at the restaurant at Portaria where he can purchase his favourite meal. S**t we felt wrung out and in need of a lie down but no onto the bus (we had to stand in the sun at the bus stop and the bloody rattletrap excuse of a bus (unairconditioned) finally decided to attempt the climb up the hill and across the range to Portaria. The season has changed since we were here last and outdoor dining is all the go – well outdoor in the sense that we sat under a crude lean to, against a stone rampart in an airless courtyard. The saving grace an icy beer with the hot lunch and a breeze hot enough to dry the sweat from my shirt. Finally, I could stand it no longer, so making some excuse I made a break for the eastern side of the village where there is deep shade of an afternoon and hopefully a breeze that does not feel it was produce by a fan forced oven.

The eastern gate opens onto the road that circles outside the town walls. Many of the residents park their cars out here and there is, as in many other places in the village, a little shrine with the Virgin seeking your prayers. The countryside is still green, but the heat has caused a haze adding to the feeling of oppression. Here are some photos of the gate, the Virgin, the road around the walls, the walls, the houses perched on top and the memorial to the lost youth of the village through fighting in both the first and second wars.

I walked up past the war memorial past the shuttered empty former restaurant in the town walls and spotted Kerry and Robert sitting in the shade of a (the only) cafe in the village which also serves as the bus stop. The return journey is not straight forward. We have to travel by the bus back out from the village onto the main hill road down to the town of Aquasparta to the bus terminus turn around and travel back to Cesi. This time the bus was air-conditioned and more modern. The sting of the sun was waning and we were feeling tiredness wrapping around us so the journey passed unnoticed. The final walk through the village to Robert’s Villa Contessa from the bus stop for the day saw us flake into the lounge and after showering off the dust of the road bed to sleep and dream.

The Retirees Celebrate 30 years – Nottingham, Cesi and Rome

We don’t often decide to embark on a journey with such speed and decision as on this occasion. We had barely returned from our Mississippi trip that was over 12 months in planning than we were off again to celebrate 30 years of marriage. In truth we had celebrated at year ten then forgotten about anniversaries often finding ourselves remembering on the day but with no other particular thought or preparation.

Over dinner on the American Queen outside of Memphis and after a bottle of wine I said words to the effect that we should celebrate this 30th year with a trip to Rome. I don’t know why. Why Rome? Why this particular year/milestone. But Kerry didn’t miss the slip (if it be a slip) and the planning began in earnest upon our return to Brisbane.

The final itinerary;

Travel to London overnight and then catch the National Express bus to Nottingham and catch up with Cilla and Bob and meet with Martin and Christine visit the Rotary Club of Nottingham members, visit St Mary of the Virgin church in Attenborough where we tended the gardens and graves.

Travel to East Midlands Airport for the flight to Rome by RyanAir landing at Ciampino Airport travel into Rome and overnight at the Dreamstation Hotel before catching a train at Terminii out to Terni then the taxi up to Cesi in the hills overlooking Terni to visit Roberto and whilst there to visit Splato, Portaria and Kerry to visit Purugia (I was resting my injured tendon and doing the washing).

Travel to Rome by train and find our accommodation at the Maittise B&B in Via Nationalize to enjoy 5 romantic days in a stinking hot and humid Rome,

Then travel back to Australia.

That’s it – two weeks and we return home. Most unusual for us to take such a short trip. So settle back whilst I take on the trip across the world and back again.


The Retirees return – to Cesi then Australia – the last four days

On arriving in Cesi, it was our priority was to do some washing but that could wait whilst we relaxed in the serene quietness of the village watching the bustle of life in the valley below. We had a further four days in Cesi to prepare for the trip home. My plan was read a book in the sun but instead we;

climbed a mountain.

Although Cesi is some 400+ metres above the valley floor, there is at least another 400 metres of granite extrusion above the village and Robert assured us that it was a gentle walk of 15 minutes to the top. Now Robert is not stupid but he does have a problem with measuring time and a propensity to minimize the difficulty of tasks. After climbing along the footpaths of Cesi to the end of the village then the road to the old church of St Erasmus, we veered off into the undergrowth on a rock strewn winding goat track (actually it looked like the path followed by the local vermin pigs) and after half an hour we stopped at the lookout half way up the mountain.

Kerry and I turned back leaving Robert to fossick for wild asparagus and flowers. The trip down was treacherous with the loose stones and rocks sliding under foot. Whilst in Cesi we had often heard helicopters delivering building materials and now we could see the result – a fence to prevent landslides onto the village. We sat and waited for Robert on the stub wall leading to the church which must have had bottoms parked on it for centuries.

Caught a bus.

We visited Narni  a village on the south eastern end of the valley and miles from Cesi. It involved catching two buses, one from Cesi to the terminus and the second from the terminus to Narni. This is a far more substantial village (don’t be fooled when catching the train – it stops at Narni but that is the new Narni miles from the old village where we were in the hills behind). The bus stopped in a parking station below the village and via a funicular and an elevator we traveled up to the “High” street of the village.

The streets are so narrow in parts that traffic lights govern the passage of single lanes of traffic. The village is aware of its past and many buildings have been restored to preserve their antiquity. We enjoyed a lunch in an establishment that called itself a hotel but the usual facilities of rooms reception bar etc were not obvious. Catching buses may have been inexpensive but the timetable meant often you had little time to explore and we always seemed to arrive when everyone was on siesta.

Caught another bus.

We planned a farewell Easter lunch in Portaria (apparently it means pig shit in Italian – go figure). We had been to the village previously but Robert had heard the restaurant in town did the wild boar and polenta in the true traditional way so Portaria it was. The other specialty of the house is BBQ’ed mixed grill. They have an open fire place and they BBQ your lunch on the coals. Very rustic! But I have burnt my sausage over coals camping before. This was followed by a stroll around the village as we waited for the bus.

Did the washing. That evening Easter Friday, the village paraded through the main street with a litter containing an effigy of Christ after being taken from the cross. This is a tradition that has been performed every Easter Friday for centuries and it was a privilege to observe the village people young and old participating.Our last four days with Robert came to an end and after packing  we are back on the train (two trains actually) to Fumucino Airport. It has been a busy month away from home; now we are going back to plan to do it all again somewhere else.

The Retirees return to Florence – Palazzo Pitti and the other side of the Arno

We were exhausted again and retired after dinner. Not to be kept down we rose early to walk to the other side of the Arno to visit Palazzo Pitti. This is the giant home created by Cosimo I for his wife who wanted a garden and then he wanted safe passage to work at Palazzo Vecchio on the other side of the Arno. We weren’t that interested to see another palace but I was interested to see how the Duke’s walkway connected as it had to pass across the top of the Ponte Vecchio, over private homes and into Palazzo Pitti. A gateway at the side of the palace allowed us to see the passage into the palace.

From the Palace, we could see the steeple of the Basilica di Santo Spirito so we took to the lanes past a cobbler’s shop and a man walking his dog (if you can call something the size of a rat a dog) and voila we entered Piazza Santo Spirito. The Basilica di Santo Spirito (“Basilica of the Holy Spirit”) is usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name. The interior of the building is one of the preeminent examples of Renaissance architecture. In 1252, the Augustinians started the church and the convent incorporating an old church of San Romolo in the complex. The convent had two cloisters, called Cloister of the Dead and Grand Cloister. The first takes its name from the great number of tombstone decorating its walls, and was built around 1600. The latter was constructed in 1564-1569.

The former convent also contains the great refectory (Cenacolo di Santo Spirito) with a large fresco portraying the Crucifixion over a fragmentary Last Supper (1360–1365). It is one of the rare examples of Late Gothic Art which can still be seen in Florence. Michelangelo, when he was seventeen years old, was allowed to make anatomical studies on the corpses coming from the convent’s hospital; in exchange, he sculpted a wooden crucifix which was placed over the high altar. Today the crucifix is in the octagonal sacristy that can be reached from the convent.  The only remaining wooden sculpture by Michelangelo. No photography permitted.

VvThus, ended our stay in Florence. The next morning we caught a taxi to the train station and a wait for the “fast train” to Rome occupied most of our morning, then the train trip (the train achieved a mere 250 klm per hour compared to the 430 klm per hour in Shanghai) to Rome and a quick turn around through the tunnel (which I wish we had known about when going to Fumacino from Civitavecchia) to catch the much more sedate train to Terni and a warm welcome from Robert at the train station (I think not – MIA). So a taxi to Cesi and dragging the suitcases up the steepest of streets in the village to be welcomed by Robert from his kitchen landing. An offer to help with the suitcases to drag them up the stairs and at last we can stand still and rest.

The Retirees in Umbria – return to Italy.

After 10 hectic days at home we boarded a plane for Italy. Our friend Roberto (formerly Robert) has made his home in Italy and desperately wanted to show off his renovated Villa Contessa in Cesi. What kind of friends would we be if we disappointed him?

Our flight with Qantas (an Emirates code share) was trouble free but lasted 23 hours with a three hour stopover in Dubai. Wisely we had decided to overnight it in Rome and get a good night rest before training it to Cesi. After landing we were talked into taking a minicab ride to our hotel. It turned out to be a good idea even though our hotel is directly across the road from Termini – Rome’s city terminus for the train. Our cab brought us into Rome through Trastevere across the Tiber past the Colosseum and through Piazza Vitorio past the ruins of the Forum (there were two other couples to be dropped off hence the circuitous route) and finally to Termini where we were greeted by a large green door and a small card on the intercom system telling us our “hotel” Dream Station Hotel was on the 4th piano (floor).

No one had said it was behind a large green door down a lane through a heavily barred gate on the 4th floor and we had 4 suitcases and hand luggage. Fortunately, there was a lift. It looked like a refrigerator and was about the same size internally saving us the difficulty of getting a refund and finding a new hotel. Once we had taken the suitcases up in the elevator two x two due to its carrying capacity, we discovered a quaint set of bedrooms (three for sure and may be three more across the landing) fitted out with a share kitchen and comfortable rooms with private bathroom. Good value at €65.00 per night.

We were settled in by 2.00pm. So here we are in Rome – what to do? Firstly, we went to Termini to book our tickets to Cesi and work out the train system. We visited the tourism information office and then the Trenatalia office to book the tickets. This is important to understand/question what happened later. Having finished the necessary, we wandered through the back streets of the area some five blocks southwest of Stazione Termini encountering The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.

It is a Papal major basilica (presently undergoing renovation) and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome, from which size it receives the appellation “major”. The ancient basilica enshrines the venerated image of Salus Populi Romani, depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary as the health and protectress of the Roman people. Pursuant to the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Holy See and Italy, the Basilica is within Italian territory.

From there we found our way to an architects’ conference in a recently renovated building and in the grounds of course ruins of some previous use and one of the inhabitants of Rome still making use of it (picture below). Jet lag and the cold of the Roman evening started to take its toll, so we had an earlier dinner and retired to our hotel. Big day tomorrow training it to Terni and then up to Cesi.

Breakfast finished we walked around to Piazza della Republica and The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs. The building was created by the rearrangement in 1562, of the work of Michelangelo Buonarroti, and the central hall of the Baths of Diocletian, by order of Pope Pius IV at the request of the priest Sicilian Antonio Duke, uncle of the faithful disciple of Michelangelo, Jacopo del Duca. We had been here previously so we moved through the Basilica itself and went to the Sacristy and into a small courtyard where we spotted a statue of Galileo (donated by the PRC – Peoples Republic of China) and another religious scene before existing the building through the tradesman’s entrance onto Via Cernaia.

Our journey then took us past Domus  Australia in Via Cernaia bearing the Australian flag and the Vatican flag (I suspect the lodgings of Cardinal Pell whilst in Rome based on the protest notices affixed the bars on the windows), past the British embassy, past a memorial to the soldiers lost in 3 wars in the first 2 decades of the twentieth century, and the Magistrates Court.

These are a few things to see around Terminii whilst waiting for a trian.