He eventually moved north to Rome, where he has been married to a Japanese guide the past 10 years. As the chatty Italian accompanied us to the airport Wednesday, we compared notes and shared laughs about our native lands.
Escorting our family to check-in and security, he shook hands and wished us well.
Luigi was the last of many impressions we formed of Italy.
Here are some others:
PUBLIC BATHROOMS: You will forever have your eyes peeled for the toilette or WC, as in water closet. Take advantage of every opportunity. While some restrooms are free, it typically will cost between .50 and 1.50 euro to relieve yourself.
And don’t wait too late. The toilet at the Arezzo train station closes at 8 p.m.
LANGUAGE BARRIER: If you don’t have a working grasp of Italian by the time you arrive, don’t bother. Strangely, locals seem insulted if you attempt to string together a few words in the native tongue.
English is common practically everywhere except in the nooks of the smaller cities, where the frustration will grow exponentially with every word you cannot comprehend.
CLIMATE: Avoid coming in July or August. We couldn’t and paid the price.
The personal hygiene of your neighbors takes a holiday in the museums, which largely have no air conditioning. So if you have a long day planned and can’t freshen up at the hotel, take along a stick of deodorant.
Anybody within whiffing distance will thank you.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Aside from the occasional personnel strike, to which we fell victim, the regional and high-speed rail system is efficient, inexpensive and a great way to see the countryside. Taxis are first-rate. Rome’s subway, sketchy in spots, performs admirably. Before taking a bus, know precisely where you’re going (in Italian).
CIVILITY: Apparently, the word “yield” doesn’t exist in Italy. Every sidewalk stroll is a game of chicken you never win.
Be prepared to bump shoulders with pedestrians. And don’t wait for an “Excuse me.” It’s not coming.
Also, many shop owners possess an indifference to foreigners that is unflattering. I expected more from a place that depends so much on tourism.
WHAT I LIKED MOST: The sights. The archaeological and architectural grandeur of the country is cause for genuflection.
The language, landscape and ambiance evoke romance.
No restaurant reservation? No problem. Eateries are about as plentiful as the pigeons.
WHAT I LIKED LEAST: No free water or refills on pop….The scarcity of ice… Lukewarm beverages, both canned and bottled…The lack of public benches…Uber-aggressive gypsy beggars and rose salesmen…Pickpockets. We were eyewitnesses to two unsuccessful thefts, one involving my daughter’s IPhone.