Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

In early August, Joshua returned from North Woods camp and the family was reassembled… So we packed up and flew off for a Mediterranean adventure!

Our Thursday night departing flight was delayed by almost three hours but we were able to adjust connections in Munich and still managed to land in Venice only a couple of hours late on Friday afternoon. We took a water taxi to the Hotel Olympia and still had time to shower up, do a little exploring, and find a leisurely cafe for dinner.

Saturday morning was a leisurely breakfast at the hotel buffet before we were off to meet the nearby Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas.  We boarded quickly and without incident and were poolside with an umbrella drink before noon! We’d sail out of Venice just as the afternoon sun began to sink with marvelous views of the island’s southern coast, as well as Giudecca and San Georgio.

Sunday morning we sailed into the port of Dubrovnik, Croatia, past a bridge that reminded us a bit of Boston’s Zakim Bridge.

Not previously on our vacation radar, we found the city beautiful and the people friendly. Though it was hot and crowded, we thoroughly enjoyed walking the ancient city’s walls and exploring the streets and back alleys.

This is Jake on the “Balancing Step” at the front of the Franciscan Monastery.

On Monday we were ar the Greek island of Corfu where we’d enjoy a day trip on The Nautilus. Our captain, Iakis, took us on a wonderful tour of the northeast portion of Corfu allowing us to swim and relax away from the cruise ship’s crowds. Sharing the boat with just one other friendly family, we gawked at the landscape, swam in the clear waters, and enjoyed Iakis’ lunchtime barbecue. Beautiful and relaxing! Well, at least until we were pulling into port just moments before our ship was due to sail. Nothing like boarding just as they’re announcing your names as missing passengers!!!

Iakis was an incredible host. He pointed out the sights, shared the history, shared ouzo and his fathers wine, provided bread and tzatziki sauce, cooked saganaki, chicken, and fish, and took us to all the places we wanted to see!

Tuesday was Athens. We’d arranged a taxi tour to get us around the city as we knew there was a lot to see! Our driver, Dimitrios, was outstanding. He was a non-stop fountain of knowledge! He advised on itinerary, introduced us to all of the sites, pointed out all of the buildings of note, suggested an authentic cafe for our lunch, took pictures, and was generally wonderful to us! We saw everything we could handle!

This is the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

In the Agora, there’s a fantastic museum at the Stoa of Attalos. We loved the artifacts on display here!

Throughout Athens, we were serenaded by the many cicadas!

We really enjoyed watching the changing of the presidential guard, The Evzones, at the Tomb of the unknown soldier.

Next we were up to the Acropolis itself with a stop on Mars Hill where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians.

Wednesday, we were at Mykonos. Everything here is white, Heck, they even paint the sidewalks and streets! Most trim is a blue – a few in other colors. All of this gives the island a glow that requires constant use of sunglasses! We strolled the streets, dodged the vehicles, shopped the shops, saw the windmills, and enjoyed a nice Greek lunch at Katarina’s.

On Thursday, we docked at Argostoli on Kefalonia. With afternoon temperatures reaching 103°,  we were glad that we’d arranged an air-conditioned bus tour of the island that took us to the Saint Andreas Monastery (where we could see the Apostle Andrew’s right foot!) and the Cave of the Nymphs at Lake Mellisani. Along the way, we enjoyed many sights, including the fabulous Myrtos Beach.

Friday was a day at sea as we worked our way back up the coast. That meant a leisurely day by the pool with music and whacky pool games, and sun to spare. Saturday we arrived back in Venice with just enough time for a quick final shopping run before heading back to the airport for the long trip home!

Overall, we had a blast! It was great being back together as a family and the adventure was non-stop. There are many more pictures for the curious!

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Ragazzi Italiani

Posted: April 24, 2012 in Italy, School, Travel

Much like the trip that Josh made to Spain a couple of years back, our high school this year organized a trip to to Italy! This time, both Joshua and Jacob joined the crowd!

After an early morning luggage inspection, they piled on a bus into the city. They flew out of Boston via New York arriving in Milan the next morning for a brief tour.

After a bit of a stroll in the city, they’d board a luxury coach (bus) for travel to Venice where they’d complete their long first day.

The next day in Venice, they’d take a guided tour of the city including the Dodge’s Palace and the famous canals. They’d see a demonstration of the making of Murano Glass and Jake would crush St Mark’s Campanile.

The following day they’d move on to Florence where they’d see the Chiesa di Santa Croce and Ponte Vechio.

On the next day, they’d visit the mountain village of San Gimignano in the hills outside Florence.

It also happened to be Josh’s birthday!! We were thrilled to see that it was suitably celebrated and documented in the picture below we found on the principle’s blog.

The next day was on to Assisi and the Basilica of St. Francis under azure skies.


And then into Rome itself for The Vatican and St. Peter’s,  and then the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.


Here’s Josh and his pal Cristina at the top of the Spanish Steps.

The group would later enjoy a nighttime tour of Rome under the lights!

When they headed home at the end of their trip, they were tired but enriched by a great trip!

Don’t let on but… Shawn turns 50 on August 19th this year. As a slightly early “gift”, John took her on a “Surprise” trip this summer – of course, he got to go along too!

The hints began to drop this past winter – Shawn would be going on a “special trip” for her birthday. John let on to the dates pretty early so that work arrangements could be made. The trip would be timed so that both kids would be at North Woods Camp. Initial vacation plans were approved by employers and things looked good.

In the spring, John let on that “bicycling” would be involved. This meant Shawn would be a little more motivated to get out and do some riding and have those legs in great shape for the trip!

Sixty days before the trip, the detailed hints began. They were added daily to Shawn’s Facebook page. She and her friends had a good time speculating about possible hidden meanings and potential locations. By thirty days before the trip, the destination countries of Slovenia, Austria, and Italy were revealed and the detailed itinerary began to be posted. As the trip drew nearer, more and more facts and details were revealed and the anticipation grew.

When July 13 finally rolled around, the trip was on! Our good friends and neighbors, Bob and Maureen, had once again volunteered to provide airport transportation. Sure enough, Maureen scooped us up on Monday evening and we were off!  Our trip included a stop in Munich before we continued on to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.

Yes, we had to look it up too.  But once we got there… Wow! What a great little city! We visited the ancient castle on the hill and strolled the many cafés along the cobblestone streets before settling into our comfy rooftop hotel suite for the evening!

On Wednesday morning, our adventure truly got underway. We began by meeting our tour-mates! 16 of us in addition to the two guides. Four from Canada, four from Atlanta, a couple of Navy doctors from California, a 75 year-old fireplug and her son, a couple from Salt Lake City and us. We’d have a lot of fun together over the next week – many miles and many smiles!

We met our driver and took a short bus ride with our native Slovenian guide, Samo, excitedly telling us of the history of his native country. In his 30’s, Samo had lived in the pre-independence Soviet Yugoslavia and in the new independent Slovenia and could tell us personal stories of each.

We traveled to Begunje where we stopped at the Avsenik Homestead for some traditional Slovenian cake, met our second guide, Josi, had a briefing on bike safety and tour logistics, and a final fitting for our bikes. It was then out on the road for our first ride! Learning to use the directions provided, we paused in the little village of Radovljia for a slow but scenic lunch.

It was then on to Lake Bled – a scenic resort area. On the way, Shawn had a bit of a run-in with a bus. As usual in these things, the bus won. Shawn hit the curb, flatted the front, and fell toward the sidewalk. Fortunately, beyond a bruised hip and a bit of embarrassment, there was no major damage.

We’d continue up to the little village of Bled. Warm from the afternoon heat and hill climb, we couldn’t wait to take a swim in the clear blue water before viewing the beautiful Church of the Assumption that makes this area so famous. It was pretty tempting to swim right out there!

We circled the rest of the lake before returning to the village for another short bus hop to the tiny village of Podkoren.

Here, just outside of Kranjska Gora, we found the alpine ski lodge, Hotel Vitranc. This great old village would host us for two nights. That first night, we’d enjoy a happy hour welcome reception with some traditional local beverages and snacks before settling in for a wonderful traditional dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Our tour the next day would begin with a brief sweep over the Italian border before turning back toward Kranjska Gora, a winter resort town and home of World Cup slalom and ski jump events. We made an optional climb to see the big 90m ski jump.

It was next into the resort village where we enjoyed snacks that were hauled in for us by a local farmer and his 10 year-old horse, Sarah.

We continued downriver to a wonderful picnic lunch along the ice-cold river in the Triglav National Park. Samo grilled us sausages while beers chilled in the water. It was great!

We soon rode back up the way we had come down and, just before Kranjska Gora, climbed a bit more to Lake Jasna for an incredibly chilly plunge before coasting back down into the resort village for a couple of beers and a bit of shopping.

That evening, we shared in some local culture as we were invited into the oldest home (500 years or more) in the village of Podkoren. We learned how the building had evolved and participated in the creation of a batch of “Krapi” – these great polenta-stuffed dumplings that we were treated to along with local music, dance, and stories! We even got a lesson from one of the local fire league leaders about the importance of this functional and social institution.

We followed that with a trip back in to Kranjska Gora for a great traditional Slovenian dinner with our randomly chosen “Dates” for the evening. We’d get to know our “Dates” and, later in the week, present them with a farewell trinket. Great ice-breaker!

The next day, we had an awesome downhill ride into Tarvisio, Italy. The bike paths here were gorgeous – gentle grades, sweeping corners, gorgeous views into the valleys…

In Tarvisio, we paused at a café beneath the lovely clock tower for some refreshing gelato before continuing to the border crossing into Austria.

We’d continue to ride along the Gail River, stopping at a fun little wilderness café for – what else? – meat and cheese! It was great and came with cold beer. How can you beat this?

We’d later pause for a refreshing swim in the Gail (heat and humidity were a recurring theme throughout our trip) before crossing the big red bridge and arriving in Villach where the hotel’s café provided cold refreshment as we watched the rest of our crew arrive.

Our room, or rather “suite”, here at the Hotel Post was gorgeous. We had two rooms, a large bath, and a beautiful view into the flowered courtyard. Unfortunately, the 500 year-old building lacked air conditioning. But, a nice fan made things almost tolerable and we enjoyed the ambiance.

Our Austrian-native guide, Josi, briefed us here on many Austrian traditions. He graciously shared his personal family stories of traditions, history, his grandfather, his leather shorts and more. He spun eloquent and scholarly tails of Hitler, lederhosen, schnapps and sausage. It was great.

We’d soon retire to the local Villacher Brauhof for local beers and traditional meals in the garden on a warm summer evening. Awesome.

The warm night meant a rough sleep for many of us but we were up and on our way the next morning. We headed up the Drau River Cycle Path through some gorgeous corn and wheat fields with views of the Alps throughout.

We’d stop along the way at the organic farm, Buschenschank Egger, where the pig was roasting, the meats were local, the vegetables from the garden, and the cheese cured on-site. The food was great and the animals fun! (Shawn tried to tell one of them that it “smelled like a goat” but got no response!)

After lunch, we continued on into the village of Spittal. Though it was mostly closed for the weekend, we looked around a bit and then found the train station where we’d drop our bikes and board our ride back to Villach.

It was a lovely clear night as we’d head out on our own to find dinner and adventure – and boy did we!

Our first stop was at a random café on the pedestrian way where we were treated to the site of a naked woman (who obviously suntans topless wearing only a thong) running through the square carrying high-heeled shoes and being filmed by both video and still photographers – we assume for a commercial of some sort. So this is what Austria is about!

We had nice, though quiet, traditional dinner at the Goldenen Lowen before finding a table in a semi-quiet café on the street with the local club scene. We sipped beers and enjoyed watching the local youths before moving on…

We eventually arrived at lovely café table in front of Duke’s. Here, we met the owner, Martin, a fan of all things American. He treated us to nachos, schnapps, and then, coincidentally, the entertainment of a bachelorette party that was strolling the streets of the city, selling kisses, thongs, and schnapps. Yah, it was a little weird – but great fun!

A bit slower, perhaps from the schnapps, we rolled out in a light rain the next morning but it was shortly gone and the day warmed again. We followed a lovely route that looped through the local villages and fields.

We’d eventually arrive at the “Monte Carlo of Austria”, the great town of Velden. We’d soon find ourselves surrounded in luxury at the 5+ star Schloss Velden. The courtyard view from our room (after we used the bedside touchscreen to open the curtains) was amazing as was the exquisite service – what a place!

Drinks in the Schloss Bar preceded an evening on the town. We’d dine at a nearby steakhouse before returning to the Wörthersee lakefront for a cool fountain, light, video, and laser show!

We’d retire to our room to find a fine snack set for us…

We’d arise (well rested this time) for a loop of Lake Wörthersee the next morning. Delayed only once by a train crossing, we enjoyed biking through Klagenfurt and seeing all of the road graffiti from the recent Ironman Austria.

We’d continue leisurely to the beautiful church at Maria Wörth before stoking the fires for a brisk ride back to Velden.

After a relaxed lunch looking over a sailboat from a lakeside café and a swim in the pool, John would enjoy the waterfront and village while Shawn melted in the spa – pampered to the max.

We’d meet up at the Seespitz for some Schloss Brau and wine – totally relaxed!

We’d later participate in the presentation of awards to our assigned “Dates” – a great exchange of trinkets from the trip. This was followed a by a bizarre Austrian schnapps-drinking tradition introduced to us by our wonderful guides. We’d then share a farewell dinner prepared exclusively for us at a nearby delicatessen.

We’d pause in front of the hotel the next morning for a group picture before bidding farewell to our guides and boarding a bus for our three-hour transfer to Venice!  Thanks Samo & Josi – you did an awesome job for us!

Arriving in Venice to continued heat and humidity (though they claimed it was cooler than the week before!), we took a private water taxi to our hotel where we dropped our bags before venturing out for an orientation walk around the city. We’d enjoy a bit of Café-hopping before a nice dinner in a traditional local restaurant.

We linked up with our four Canadian friends in hiring a guide for a tour of the city the following day. Little did we know that Roberta, a true Venetian, would teach us of the long history of the Venetians from their times retreating to the swamp to avoid the barbarians to their prosperous times as merchants of the sea. She taught us about cisterns, the theft of St. Mark beneath forbidden ham, the man with three testicles, and all sorts of other stories that greatly enhanced our appreciation of the city. She was great!

Our feet tired, we requested a recommendation for a nearby restaurant from the hotel and enjoyed a relaxing evening at the Trattoria Storica enjoying fish, pasta, and wine. What a lovely night!

Our final morning in Venice, we’d again dine with the Birds of Giorgione in our hotel’s lovely but well-flocked courtyard before we sallied forth to visit more churches and museums and cafés and shops. We walked for miles and had a blast.

We’d find a nice café for a cocktail and then enjoy a fine final vacation dinner at L’Osteria di San Marina before retiring for our last night away. Perhaps the most formal meal of our trip, our “goodbye” dinner included fine wine, table-smoked tuna, cicchetti, fresh pasta, a lamb chop that fell apart, and more. It was classic and enjoyable!

The next morning, we’d sadly catch our final glimpses of Venice from the back of our private water taxi to the airport as we prepared for a long flight home and a return to civilization.

Can we go back?

It was a great trip. Lot’s more higher resolution pictures are here. We’d highly recommend VBT to anyone contemplating such a venture and could offer only trivial complaints about any of the providers along the way – it was really a well put-together itinerary that left us thoroughly relaxed, suitably fed, somewhat exercised, and, for some of us, ready to turn over the birthday clock for the big five-oh!

Buongiorno Italia!!!

Posted: February 25, 2008 in Family, Grampa, Italy, Vacation

For the last few years we’ve talked, sometimes fancifully, about the possibility of taking Grampa back to “the old country“, from where his father had come to America in 1902. As his 80th birthday approached, the time seemed more right than it might ever be again. So, last March 29th, we presented him with a somewhat self-serving promise that was fulfilled over the 2008 February school vacation – a trip to Italy!!

Arrivederci Home-a!

Grampa flew up from Florida on the Wednesday evening before our departure. Though it was raining buckets as he arrived, the water couldn’t dampen our spirits as we anticipated our departure and made final preparations. Confirming our flight on Thursday morning, we found that it would be leaving an hour earlier than we had expected but all else seemed in order. We finished packing, gathered the boys from school, and were expertly chauffeured to the airport by our good friend and neighbor, Bob. Not until we arrived at the Iberia counter did we find that our flight to Madrid was leaving an hour early because it would now be routed via Washington, DC and that, with the detour, we’d miss our planned connection from Madrid to Rome and would be arriving hours later than we’d expected.

Having arranged a ride at a specific time from the airport in Rome (and just being eager to get there), we were not happy about the delay – particularly because only a couple hours earlier our previously scheduled time had been “confirmed”. Some serious pouting on our part netted us a transfer to Alitalia and a slightly earlier than planned arrival. Sometimes it pays to complain!

After mere moments of sleep on the plane, we were met on Friday morning at the airport by our driver, Aldo, ready to take us to Casa Anna, the apartment that would be our home in Rome for the next few nights. As we drove past the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum, we were excited but tired. We arrived at our apartment and found it much to our liking with three bedrooms, two baths, and a kitchen where we’d prepare breakfasts and sandwiches. From our sunny balcony, we had a view of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.

Somewhat exhausted from our trip, we took a short walk to the supermercado on our block to retrieve some staples, identified the nearby Metro stop, an ATM machine, and a tabacchi, and surveyed the surrounding restaurants. We had a socially inappropriate early (7PM!) meal in a nearby pizzeria, and settled in for an early night.

Vatican City

Up early on Saturday morning, recharged and ready, we boarded the Metro for a trip to Vatican City. We began our day on the square of St. Peter’s Basilica where our chins were moved to the lowered position in which they’d remain throughout much of our stay.

A short walk to a long line around the corner for a tour of the Musei Vaticani and the “Sixteenth Chapel” was no less awe inspiring – though the many stairs did tax Grampa’s titanium knees and, at times, the boys’ patience with yet another lovely room.

An excellent pizza lunch followed at the local Chinese restaurant…

After Jake and John made a brief stop at the central Termini to view the trains, we cleaned up a bit and then headed to the home of cousin Mario and his family.

Though we spoke only a few broken phrases of Italian, Grampa was only one notch better, and Mario and his family spoke little English, we spent a fine afternoon trying to break the language barrier while managing to discuss families and share stories of our careers and homes. We were treated to a tour of Rome, including the US Embassy, and taken out to dinner at a wonderful favorite pizzeria by Mario and his wife, Pina.

Mario remembered Grampa from his 1958 visit when he and John’s mother, Ouida, had brought Grampa’s father, Giuseppe, back to visit Italy. Mario had met Giuseppe at the train station and had many tales to tell accompanied by many laughs. Mario’s daughter, Rita, and granddaughter, Flavia, joined the fun – Flavia exercising the English she was learning in school well enough to share with the boys that she’s a fan of The Simpsons and plays the drums! Mario and family could not be convinced that we had come from a colder place and insisted on supplying Grampa and the boys with additional warm clothing! We reluctantly accepted and at least Grampa would gratefully wear his newly acquired overcoat for the rest of the trip!

Ancient Rome

On Sunday, we left Grampa sunning in our apartment to rest his tired legs while we took off to tour some of the more challenging terrain. We walked from our apartment past the Colosseum and down the Via dei Fori Imperiali, closed to traffic on Sundays, where we enjoyed the classic view, the bustling crowd, and the street performers.

Circling the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, disappointingly wrapped for renovation, we climbed the Cordonata to the Piazza del Campidoglio and its replica statue of Marcus Aurelius.

From here, we passed through the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Septimius Severus as we toured the crumbled remains of ancient Forum Romanum. We wandered south, over Palatine Hill, to views of Domitian’s Stadium and the Circus Maximus, before pausing for pizza and proceeding to tour the awesome Colosseum.

Our final stop for the day was the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – another stunning Christian monument on the route back to our apartment.

We returned to our Italian home with tired feet to pick up the Grampa and find yet another local pizzeria for yet another great Italian dinner.

Linea 110 Open

On Monday, we loaded Grampa onto the open double-decker Rome tour bus for a wonderful tour around the city. Our first stop was a visit to the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) where we extracted very key information from the boys.

We stopped at the Palazzo Venezia for more views of the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II and its “tomb of the unknown soldier” before continuing to Piazza Navona. There we found Bernini’s famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi under renovation but still enjoyed time at a small caffé in the square and the wonderful sunshine.

We viewed many more famous sights from the bus before stopping again at the Fontana di Trevi to enjoy more sun. The fountain’s cobblestone square was a bustling scene direct from a what we imagined as a Hollywood movie set. Here we shopped and ate pizza and threw coins in the fountain for luck.

A bit chilled, we finished the bus tour and returned to our apartment. Most of us rested a bit though John took a wonderful scenic run around Rome (he really enjoys the adventure of running through new places!) before he prepared some sauce from scratch and served pasta and sausage for dinner. A trend-setting cutthroat card game followed.

Benevento

Tuesday morning we packed our things and left our comfortable home in Rome. We picked up a rental Fiat Croma, a HUGE car by Italian standards, that just about accommodated the five of us spoiled Americans and our luggage. We drove south on the A1 and, after a bit of an adventure through Caserta, Maddaloni, and Cancello that included some buxom babes in the fields outside Naples (don’t ask!), we found our way through the mountains and tunnels and into the town of Benevento.

Arriving at the Stazione, just across from the home of Strega, we were greeted by cousin Antonio. Antonio immediately remembered Grampa from his ’58 visit, and the two took off in a pain ridden conversation of broken English and mangled Italian that nonetheless, felt like family. Antonio treated us to ice cream and coffee at the local bar.

Thankfully, Antonio’s son, Pierluigi, soon arrived and served as interpreter. With his help, we were treated to a tour of Benevento including the Arco de Traiano and the site of Grampa’s Grampa’s farm – now the site of the home of another Intorcia cousin.

Antonio also took us to the home of his father and aunt where we were treated to Strega chocolates and unbelievably good homemade Crema de Limoncello. The hospitality and family warmth were too wonderful to describe but had to stop too soon as we had to leave for our lodgings in Sorrento.

Heading West to the coast, we may have taken another wrong turn or two and there may have been a bit of wandering in Sorrento (next time we’ll sport for the European maps for the GPS!) but… We eventually stumbled upon our lodging site at Porto Salvo, a converted abbey, found a nearby pizzeria for a quick dinner, and crashed.

Pompeii

On Wednesday, while Grampa explored the coastal surroundings of the abbey, we headed for Pompeii where we enjoyed the ancient city and its secret frescoes. We climbed over the huge cobbles and through the homes and stores of the preserved city. We saw the theaters and stadiums and imagined what it might have been like.

Back in Sorrento, we explored the black sand Mediterranean beach and enjoyed the cliffs rising to our hotel. Though it was off-season and many of the resorts businesses were closed, the community still bustled with tourists.

Another no-holds-barred card game (including broken glass and spilled wine!) preceded a trip through the narrow streets and alleys of Sorrento’s central square and another fine Italian meal where Jacob, feeling particularly adventurous, sampled the fantastic local seafood.

Amalfi Drive

Our last full day in Italy, our first with rain, would be spent traveling the Amalfi Drive from Sorrento, through Amalfi, to Salerno. A 30+ kilometer narrow twisty road, it seemed to be more enjoyable from the front seat of a car than from the back. While John got a full upper body workout swinging the big Fiat through the corners, those in the back seat repeatedly asked for the windows to be further opened and took on a pallor strangely resembling the Mediterranean kelp. We did all agree that the views were fantastic and that frequent stops were required!

We survived the rain-slicked twists, reached the highway, and traveled back through Naples and past Rome to Fiumicino, the home of Rome’s airport. We turned in our rental car and taxied to a local hotel near some more of ancient Rome’s ruins at Ostia Antica. We took an enjoyable walk to the local market where we spent some time exploring an awesome fish counter admiring the variety of shellfish, cephalopods, and fish.  We bought some wine and snacks and then held yet another high stakes card game in one of our rooms before dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

The Long Way Home

Up early on our last morning, we arrived at the Rome airport in plenty of time for our soon to be delayed flight. In fact, we’d leave Rome late enough that, by the time we de-planed in Madrid, we had less than 15 minutes to make our connection. As we read the signs that told us we’d need 24 minutes to get to the departure gate, we knew we were in trouble. While Shawn and the boys ran ahead, Grampa and John did their best to make time. At one point, Grampa was loaded onto a luggage cart but, over balanced to the front, he was dumped on his butt. Back on his feet, they arrived at the gate to see the disappointment on the faces of Shawn and the boys who had missed the opportunity to wedge a shoe into the gate of the plane by a matter of seconds.

Treated to a meal and rescheduled through London, we again traversed the vast Madrid airport and boarded another Iberia flight. Delayed by traffic at Heathrow, we once again arrived with less than optimal time to make our connection but an even greater desire to find a way onward. In a scene worthy of The Amazing Race, the family hurried through the London hub. While Shawn and the boys missed a turn in the shopping mall, John and Ralph hijacked a wayward wheelchair for the final sprint to the gate. Arriving with roughly 90 seconds to spare, we were all welcomed on-board our homeward flight by many weary travelers waiting for the doors to close.

Unfortunately, in our haste to make the flight, we’d neglected to inform our poor friend Bob that our plans had changed. In the blizzard back home in Boston, Bob eagerly circled Logan Airport looking for his passengers before coaxing an airport official into revealing the fact that we had not been on the plane.

When we finally arrived bleary eyed at Logan, we found that our bags had missed one of their turns. Resolved to the fact that our laundry was delayed, we sought out a taxi willing to drive 15 miles in a snow storm, and arrived back home near midnight, almost exactly 24 hours after awakening in Rome.

Summary

It was an awesome trip. Though Grampa’s flight home to Florida was cancelled on Saturday morning, he was rescheduled to a First Class seat on the afternoon flight and made it home. Our bags were reported traveling from London to Boston via Canada and New York and would eventually find their way home. We’ve collected fond family memories and lots of pictures (see them ALL here) and we’ve taken Grampa to the home country!! Molto bene!! Ciao!!