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Friday, November 07, 2008

Adventures in Italy

Prelude - We have been without internet service our entire time at the agritourismo. I am at an internet cafe near the finish line area of the race. Everything is going well, but we haven't done much touring. I'll post more when able, but for now, you can read a bit.

The adventure begins.

Our first day in Italy was the end of a very long flight. With little sleep in the past 28 hours Brian and I still managed to function well enough to find the train into Rome, and onto Tarquinia. Arriving at the station at 5:30, we looked for a taxi to take us to our final destination – the agritourismo (farm lodging) the entire USA Team would be housed in. The parking lot was devoid of anything resembling a taxi or a taxi stand – just cars and very few people milling about. Knowing the agritourismo was 4.5 km from town, and not knowing the directions, I was certain we weren't going to try to haul our luggage on foot. I ventured inside the station to ask the woman working in the convenience shop if she spoke English – no – only a little – so I said 'taxi?' and she said signaled for me to wait. Thinking she might call for one or have a good answer, I waited while she waited on a couple of customers, then gestured for me to follow her to the bulletin board, where she pointed to an advertisement for a taxi company, complete with phone number. So now it appeared I would need to converse on the payphone. I inserted my visa card and dialed the number. 'Pronto', I heard. Not knowing that was 'hello' I thought the phone needed money. I was trying to figure this out while saying 'taxi?' on the phone, and to the dismay of both parties, we did not speak the same language. After much Italian on his end, and English on mine, a helpful bystander stepped in. He tried my card in the phone, then we gestured to the sign on the wall that we wanted a taxi. He called on his cell phone, but no answer. He also spoke no English. Soon a thin woman with a very bad cough chimed in and the enthusiastic conversation grew more animated. She knew a little English, and understood we were seeking transportation to our agritourismo. We scoured more numbers, and our young man phoned the agritourismo, but there was no answer. Another young man in the station joined the group and now we were all gesturing and shouting and pointing. One called the LOC contact for transportation and finally I had someone to speak with. She new some English and after she understood who I was and what I wanted, she said she could not help and that I needed to find a taxi – at the same time the two young men were ready to call the taxi again. Young man number one called and got someone and spent the next 5 minutes convincing the driver that there were 2 Americanos at the train station needing a ride. Gratefully, we waited for 10 minutes for the driver, loaded our bags, and in 10 minutes more, we arrived.

We were greeted by Fabio and Tatiana, employees of the agritourismo. Tatiana spoke some English, but was on her way home. Fabio spoke no English, but took us to our room. We inquired about dinner possibilities, and not understanding, he left and returned shortly with Christine – a German woman who spoke English. Through her we learned that the restaurant is only open Friday through Sunday, except for breakfast. We said we had snacks, so would be okay until tomorrow, but they were so concerned that they offered to bring us something from the kitchen ('a bottle of wine? Some bread and cheese?'). We were very grateful, and when they returned with a tray of meats, cheeses, half a loaf of bread, pickles, eggplant and a bottle of house red wine, we were extremely pleased.

Day 2 – Up by 7:30, we headed for breakfast at 8:30. Tatiana was back, and seated us, then brought us the typical Italian coffee – single shots of espresso. Croissants and sweetbread, yogurt, juice, biscotti were available. It was all good, and as we left, I asked Tatiana about renting a bicyclette.

She was not sure, but would find out for me. After a couple of hours of relaxing, I found Christine and asked her about places to go running. She suggested running on the road, as the farm roads were too muddy (it had been raining). Then I asked her if she thought we would be able to get to town for some supplies. She took me to the office to talk to one of the owners, and through he, Christine, and Tatiana, it was decided that Tatiana would take me to the store. I grabbed some euros, and soon we were speeding into town.

Tatiana, Angelo, Fabio

At the store, I just told Tatiana what I was looking for and she took me around. Groceries seemed inexpensive relative to the States. Pasta, pesto, eggs, salad, fruit, bread, cheese, and potato chips (made with olive oil, of course). Then a quick trip back. I learned as much about Tatiana as our limited language skills allowed. She lives in Tarquinia with her family, went to school in Bologna to study philosophy. She likes it here – not to busy, but close enough to Roma if she wants to go to the big city. The schools don't usually teach English, so most residents only speak Italian. I used what little Italian I could to at least show I cared enough to try.

Brian and I went for a run down the road, trying to get out to the ocean, but were never successful. Cars went zooming by at breakneck speed, but always giving us plenty of room. The landscape was mostly agricultural, and the climate very temperate. We avoided rain during the run, but the wind picked up rather strongly, suggesting of more rain. After lunch, we crashed for a long nap, during which there was some heavy downpours and thunder.

Dinner was pasta and pesto, while watching the Italian news to follow the election that hadn't really started yet. We would have to wait until the morning to get the results.


  1. Ahhh, Italy. It takes some getting used to, doesn't it? Somehow it always works out though, and you'll end up sipping vino with great food in a beautiful setting.

    Good luck on the race! I'll be sending out the good vibes.

  2. susan empey9:05 PM

    I've been trying to track you down to wish you luck this weekend. You've been on my mind a lot lately as I've slowly been recovering from TCM wondering how you can recover and get geared up at the same time for a race such as this one. I've so enjoyed reading your race reports too, so I'm glad I thought to google you today! Good luck -- I will be thinking of you and sending you some good thoughts. You are one tough cookie!

  3. What an awesome adventure, Gayman...and that's even way before you kicked ass in the race! I hope you enjoyed all parts of your trip.