Monday, September 3

Tante Belle Cose: Italy Travel Edition

As we wrap up the Italian holiday season, it's hard to say enough good things about spending a summer in Italy.  This summer even came to a perfect close, letting the cool temperatures come in and blessed rainfall to come down only during the last few days of holidays.  It helped ease traffic patterns, and the drought in many a garden and park.  And of course, the win 3-1 of Rome over Inter (Milan) near my old stomping grounds of San Siro, really put me in a good mood (and judging from the uproar from my neighbors, pretty much everyone else as well).
August in Italy may be sweltering but it's also swell:  there are the open air concert series, the gelato, the movies in the parks, the gelato, the dining out on city streets, the gelato...And even though gas prices were beating records at $10/gallon and gas tanks (not to mention wallets) were waving white flags, all the while the Rome metro thermometer readings were in red alert, there were a few sunny spots on this traveler's radar:

- It may just be summer, but I seemed to notice a whole heck of a lot fewer 'blue cars' whizzing along the streets, motorcycle cops escorting them in all their revelry.  What is my hangup for blue cars?  They're the ones with blue flashing lights on top, whisking politicians from one event to another (not always "official" ones at that).   Under Berlusconi, they were buzzing around town more than the tiger mosquitos.  Now, you barely notice them - but that's probably because the politicians are hiding from the proletariat.

Find the blue button (as indicated on top & bottom)
- I found myself in a parking spot on a busy stretch of road (the Lungotevere in Rome) gloriously right in front of the meter.  Sadly for me, it was a place with no shopfronts or newsstands nearby, and I with no spare change in my wallet for the meter.  I looked across the way and noticed a funny looking parcometro machine on the other side.  I wondered if - by some strange hand of fate - over there, I could actually pay by bank card.  Of course, as I dodged in and out of cars roaring by on the busy thoroughfare just to get to the other side, I had to giggle.  I felt like I had finally solved the riddle of the chicken who wanted to cross the road.  Once there, of course, I prayed that a meter maid wouldn't be coming by while I tried my hand at 'thinking like an Italian'; one of my favorite pastimes when it comes to solving any new-fangled technology, or public service.
The meter read, in very easy-to-follow graphics & numbers, 1) Insert card  2) Push blue button (indicating amount of time)  3) push large green button -- and you were good to go.  Except there was no blue button.  A moment later I tried my hand at pushing in repeatedly various amounts on the other keys there, and Ecco fatto!  My first automated parking transaction.  I was delighted.  Of course, I had to make it back across the Lungotevere now to put my little ticket in the dash window, all before the meter maids came a knocking, and before my ticket expired!

- The automated features catching on, in Florence (where they have done away with the bus info & ticket sales handy booth just outside the station), I saw that you can now buy a bus ticket by texting.  Now, I can't vouch for the ease of service, but according to Mayor Renzi's web page, all you have to do is:
1)  Use this handy telephone number:  4880105  
2)  Send a message writing ATAF (Florence Transport Authority)
It acts as your ticket on buses and trams.  This is the first in Italy, and actually, a very brilliant idea.  Let's just hope it works as promised.

-  But the best news yet has to do with the hobgoblin of my existence, Rome's Ostiense Train Station.  Looking to improve its image, it has seen the arrival of Eataly and the new Italo Train Service with both companies going all out to turn around what TrenItalia is steadfast in promoting as the gateway to the underdeveloped world (replete with hordes of immigrants sleeping on the sidewalks out front).  First Eataly disgraced the City into allowing them to open their gorgeous doors to great fanfare (hiring hundreds in the process), and then Italo won the right in court to board people from the flipside of the train station (so you wouldn't have to pass by the Somalian conditions out front).  But now, the Consumer's Unions are suing Trenitalia to get the escalators and elevators working again, after years of being 'temporary closed for repair.'  Maybe in my lifetime there will be an escalator up to the airport train as well, but, let's just say, I won't hold my breath.

- Oh.  Did I forget to mention gelato?  My personal favorite place is Ice Angels in the Garbatella, but it's a bit out of the way for most people.  In a wonderful piazza frequented by locals only, its a great place to stroll around in any season.  This summer, I tried the famous gelateria (I believe Giolitti) on the laghetto of the EUR zone - wonderful - and of course, my favorite small-scooped (read: pricey) place is on the Via Aventina near the Circus Maximus.  But, I'm sure there's a lot more out there worth tasting...Here's a pretty interesting list of Roman Gelaterias for anyone whose interested in conducting their own taste test experience!

**many live links throughout the post above!

No comments: