FLORENCE, Italy–“Babbo . . ?” “D’amore?” Italian daddy getting his sleepy, curly headed toddler off the plane. Babbo must have called his son Love or Treasure, I don’t know how many times, just getting out of their seats and into the aisle. Made me ashamed of my parenting skills. I wanted to be that dad and have one of our kids be that lucky toddler for even just that moment. We are in a good place.


FLORENCE, Italy–As I said, we are in a good place. Except. I must do a rant on the new airport. OMG. Has anyone else had this problem? Please tell me it was just us on a bad day. Does anyone else think they’ve ruined the airport with their “renovations”? Who created this mess. I want names. I want them now.

Is this tacky of me? Everyone hates a complainer. In fairness, you may know I have bragged on the Florence airport here for years. Always a favorite. A jewel among airports in my book. I take it all back. They were closed or months to Renovate and all they did was Ruin. Shame, shame. Some how, they did not get the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” memo. Ok, they had already started the goofy unloading thing where you get off the plane and jam your way onto a waiting bus. Then when it is totally stuffed with people and their bags, the driver puts it in gear and goes maybe half a bus length. And stops. You uncurl yourself from around a pole and get out. Totally Peter Sellers movie material and idiotic but everything else was so charming it was sort of light comic relief. Now it is just another annoyance.

Previously, there was one belt delivering up bags along the back wall of the first room you came to right off the plane/bus. Instant bags. Now there are two or three mini baggage carousels. But no baggage. Not without a wait. There was only one plane on the ground and it was ours. Only maybe 15 people waiting for their bags. And waiting. And waiting. The Italians in the group were throwing blind, running fits. A British expat, the picture of patient patrician ennui, said no bag ever comes in less than half an hour in this new system. Whattheheck. The plane is parked right there at the end of the bus right outside the door to this room. I’ve known Malpensa and believe me this is no Malpensa. Just tiny little Florence. And wait a full half an hour we did. The wait for the bags was almost as long as the flight. Unexcusable. And no excuses were offered to anyone by anyone. The Italians kept yelling at the staff behind the glass partition of Lost Baggage and didn’t even get a shoulder shrug out of them. Baffling.

In an aside here, yes I do know/admit that I have advised heartily against non-carryon bags. For this very reason. I was tricked. They changed the rules on us and only one carry on is now allowed on almost every flight in Europe. I will be blogging on that subject shortly. I have a plan!

oh we got dem mean old rental car blues in Italy this time

whats not to like in car rental in Italy today?
Oh, I’m wound up now. It use to be you came out of the door to baggage, had the customs guys totally avoid eye contact with you and you were in The Car Rental Zone. In the Arrivals building. Because you had Arrived. Well, the customs guys in the dove grey military uniforms and the German Shepards still act like you don’t exist and the car rental places? They do not exist. They are solid gone. Now you are just dumped directly into the Departures Terminal where you run into a wall of people trying to Depart. No clues to location of auto rentals at all. If you ask around someone may point you out the door. Where you are literally now on the outside looking in.

The building vaguely to the left as you go out the door of Departures is low, concrete and foreboding with chain link and barbed wire on most sides and there is one side with four windows cut in it, facing the parking lot. The concept appears to be that it is never, ever going to rain or snow here and you can just cue up OUTSIDE for your car. In any kind of weather, all year round without so much as a piece of plywood tacked up as a shelter. And you can stand there all you want. The people inside are so confused and distracted that they pay you no mind at all. At least that was our experience at autoEuro???? Their window was covered with notices in every language saying Stay Outside. Then. OK, if you HAVE to come in, one person in a group can maybe come in. BUT NO BAGS. Leave them somewhere? And so there you are. And really outside really looking in between the friendly notices. And no obvious door whatsoever. The only door that potentially could get you in the building is sort of white painted so you can’t see in and all it has to invite you in is three signs. All saying the same thing. All in English. Here’s what they say: Only Staff.

welcome mat is always out at the Florence airport.Naturally, here and in Wonderland, that could mean Come In because everyone is doing that anyway. With bags. I don’t care what their sign says, you can’t “leave bags unattended” in an airport. So you enter this strange world. Blank white walls, no signage, like a regular row of offices in your accountant’s building except with lines of irritable people cue’d up at the doors of each office. The Germans ahead of me had been given a car with at least one flat tire. They couldn’t even leave the parking lot. They had filled a whole sheet of paper with written explanation of their plight and then the frazzled clerk told them to Go to the car and wait and in half an hour someone would be there to fix the flat.

Perfect opening for RyanAir flights to Umbria. Can’t wait to give their Stanstead to Perugia flight a try next trip.

See you in Italy!


P. S.

I would love to hear positive stories of this new airport, because Florence is totally cool. And we have raves on downtown Florence coming up from the end of our trip. Let me know if this airport debacle was just me? Go to the “Comments” icon right here and tell me your experiences there in Florence.

OK, the next blog is a total rave! Promise. Just felt I had to warn travelers about this big sea change at our formerly favorite airport.

Tripping over the pond. The day flight. Fun facts to know and tell:

teatime in londonBOSTON/LONDON –This was a real flight of fantasy. We wanted to go to London to visit the Queen Wiley on our way to Umbria. To see her, spend a few days enjoying London and to get almost on Italian time. So that let us take the day trip to London. Love, love day flights to Europe. And really loved this flight as the plane was almost empty. The airlines rarely do that empty plane thing anymore. But this flight, on this day, on this AA flight, was less than a quarter full. In Economy.

My wife has a theory on the joys of Economy Class. She has noted several times that on less than full flights Business Class will be stuffed to the gills and YOOHOO, ANYBODY HOME? in dumb old Economy Class. She thinks the airlines are making nice and upgrading favorite flyers because they can – on a lightly packed flight. But she observes that it is sometimes better to just hang back in steerage and spread out. Case in point: this particular trip. Midge had her own row. I had staked one out as well. Until the dad ahead of me jumped up holding an empty “airline sickness” bag. I usually more delicately refer to them by the street name of barf bag but in the name of chic and decorum thought I would show that I knew it had a real name. Anyway, daddy pops straight up out of the row ahead of me like a Jack in the Box hoping to get out of the line of fire and looks down at Little Billy – totally wide eyed and open mouthed. You can read what he’s thinking “Hey, Billy. I’ve got the bag. Right here.” I could tell which way the wind was blowing so jumped up too and said “Please. Take this row.” And I was gone. I was so checking out of that hotel and quickstepping it to the back, trying not to trip over my armload of blankets and headsets. Seconds later I was taking over yet another empty row of five across.

Huh? Are we in London? Already? Cool.

But you’ve got to wonder: Who’s sitting in little Billy’s row the day after? Ugrrrgh.


Here’s the good part of day trips to London (versus the more typical overnight flights to Europe): they get you to London in early evening – London time. What we call dinner and see you, goodnight time. Totally lovely. And you’re not beat from the flight because even if its midnight there in London, its only seven pm on your body clock. How tired can you be at seven pm with all that napping on the flight anyway, right? That’s what I think. This continues to be my favorite flight concept of late. Great excuse for a couple days in London.

So. Day trips rule. And on day trips or any trip, don’t let them upgrade you out of economy if economy is empty. Of course if an airline offers to upgrade you past Business and all the way to the whole sleeper seat First Class, sure, take that! Smile and say “Thank you very much, I will try to be worthy. And I will try to look like First Class material.” British Airways has upgraded me to that twice. No idea why but Oh Stewardess, more hot towels here please! We never turn those sweet seats down.

See you in Italy,


P.S. The new format on the blog here? Love it? Hate it? We think you can finally leave comments now. Probably should be careful what I wish for! And it has a search function. I don’t know if it has perfect recall but it seems to be able to dredge by subject to some extent. I wish it would highlight the word you put in search but we haven’t trained it to do that as of yet. Meglio di niente as they say.


YARMOUTH, MAINE, LONDON, FLORENCE— October is here, October is here! We can count the days till we leave for Italy. 18. Ah, that is a fine looking number. Finally. Whew. But HOW do we get there? Let me count the ways. We’ve flown into Antwerp, London, Frankfurt, Paris and probably other places I’ve forgotten about.

One thing these originating flights all have in common is that they seem to want to herd you up the gangplank late, late afternoon or early evening so that you arrive in one of those capitals completely confused and sleep deprived at five in the morning and then they expect you to scamper off and find that connecting flight you’ve been fretting about. And by the time we’ve hopefully made that connection and found a rentacar or the train, we’re just bushed and useless for the first couple days in the promised land.

Here’s what we’re doing this time. There are a very few U.S. to England day flights and we are taking one. Leave Boston in the morning and arrive in London early evening. Their time. But it is only early afternoon by our bodyclock time and so we can even keep up with the Wiley Traveler who will be there to meet us. Even if she has us out till midnight it is still only 7 pm to us. Bring it on! She’s going to grad school there in London now and so, of course, that was our original excuse/reason to fly into London on the way to Italy. But think about it. OK, that’s long enough. Really folks. How bad can it be? Couple days in London on the way to Italy and you get there fresh as a daisy? Va le la pena in my book. London is almost on the same time zone as Italy and the flight from London to Italy is short and sweet. When you haven’t been up all night. Can’t wait.


Speaking of flying, Katia (shown here at left with Midge outside the real estate office in Italy) whispered this news to us: Ryanair is going to start flying into Perugia! Three times a week. Ryanair Stanstead (London) to Perugia. Starting in December. Wiley said they rumored that last year and nothing came of it. But they appear to be booking flights there now. It must be true, it is up on their web site. And we believe everything we read on the web, right? Well, good. Was counting on that.

Their two newest landing sites are Perugia (in our very own backyard) and exotic Malta. The price of the Pisa/Malta flight I typed in as a test at the end of January was 10 British pounds. Yike. You can’t stay home for that price. And that includes the taxes and airport charges it says. Oh, we’ll be trying that one. I’ve flown into Perugia before but not since they extended their runway. We’ll see how they are at handling 150 Ryanair passengers at a time. I liked the airport. Small but likeable. So, I’m cautiously optimistic. And I’ll be watching for good low specials London/Perugia for our next trip. If we can pair that with a special from Boston or New York to London we’ll really be getting away with something.

Stay tuned to this spot on your dial and see how this Ryanair connection pans out. In the meantime, we’ve done those day flights to London, they work like a charm and we are Ready To Go!

See you in Italy,


Taking flight

UMBRIA, Italy. — Omg. Where did the time go? Oh well, that’s alright because we are heading back to Italy and have tickets in hand that will get us to Umbria in October. But we’re not even caught up on stories from the last trip! Don’t ask. It has been wild. Ok, since you asked yes we did buy an old house here in the states and the brain scans show we may be quite totally insane. Stuff happens. It was getting waaay to easy around here, living in the same finished home for the last multi, multi years. That is another story entirely but that’s our excuse and we’re sticking with it.

But here’s the thing to remember about taking trips and taking trip notes. Keep the note book in your hand or in your carryon. Violently resist the siren call of the back of the seat pocket ahead of you. See, here’s the deal: that seat pocket generally stays with the plane. Lost a note book two trips ago and royally put me off my feed being mad at myself.

But on the other hand. That seat pocket can conceivably be your friend. Now this may not be a big break through for you. But it was for me so I pass it on to you. In fact, it may be blindingly obvious to you, but it took me many millions of miles to tumble to it. The villain here is not the seat pocket but the in flight “magazine”. Toss it. Toss it now. There. Isn’t that better? Put it in the overhead, under your neighbor’s seat, on the drink cart when the sky waitresses aren’ looking, anywhere. Just not right there at knee level.

On my last flight, an Air France flight, the magazine, cleverly named “Magazine” was over 3/8 of an inch thick. No big thing you say? Well, they say God is in the details and here is a detail: The seat ahead of you has some flex. But not the magazine. When its lumber hard 8×10 inch mass was stuffed in the pocket of the seat ahead of me and the big guy in the seat was in full laydown position, my knees were killing me. And that was five minutes into a 6 hour flight. As soon as I had dumped Le Magazine I felt like I had been upgraded. And don’t forget the Duty Free magazines. They are not a magazines, just bad news for your knees. Get them all the heck out of there and stretch out a bit.

This next trip we are going to Italy via London because our daughter and travel correspondent is going to grad school at Central Saint Martins. So, we’ll visit the Wiley Traveler there for a couple days on the way over. Very wiley of her to be so relatively close to Italy. Good choice, Wiley.

Next up, having solved the air travel issues we take on the Italian rail system.

See you in Italy,