day 1 :
sunday, 14 may
There's nothing quite like finding yourself halfway across the world, ready to begin a long-awaited adventure — it's a feeling of endless possibility and excitement. On this Sunday morning, the sun was shining over us at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport. Feeling the warm Italian coastal air breeze past us as we walked to our shuttle on the airport tarmac, we were ready to tackle our first task of the trip: find our way to our accommodations in Trevignano Romano.
We had heard a number of stories of what a nightmare it is to navigate in Italy, especially around Rome, so we weren't quite sure what to expect in our jetlagged state. We were relieved to discover that driving in Italy is, in fact, not such a big deal at all. Yes, many of the drivers are rather aggressive, happily tailgating you at any speed, but getting around from place to place was easy in even the most remote areas we ventured. As we had learned while driving in Spain and France last fall, the best thing you can have with you is a highly-detailed Michelin map — the green-colored 1:200,000 scale maps are excellent, and had enough detail for everywhere but the most congested urban areas. So, if you're trying to get from point A to B, you'll need to look up a few of the big towns between those points and use them as waypoints in your navigating, because most road signs only have the next nearest large town or two listed.
After an hour's drive, we were meandering through some small towns on the edge of Lago di Bracciano (Lake Bracciano) and decided we better catch lunch before we missed our window of opportunity and everything closed for afternoon siesta. We had a simple lunch of pasta and fish at Le Papere (“the geese”), where we had a great view from the dining-room-on-a-dock of the lake, wind surfers, ducks, and of course the geese. Amazingly, we survived the event with our limited, barely-practiced Italian, not having to resort to English at any point. Of course, there was a fair bit of finger-pointing at the menu, and the fatherly cameriere chuckled at our pronunciation, but it was still enough of a morale boost to encourage us to speak Italian as much as possible for the rest of our trip.
We continued on our journey to the beautiful little village of Trevignano Romano (situated on the northeastern edge of Lago di Bracciano), and checked into our bed and breakfast. We were in serious need of a couple hour siesta to get over our jet lag at this point. The hardest time to get up is after that jetlag nap, where you're simply dead asleep and just want to sleep for another eight hours, but we've found that forcing ourselves to get up, walk around, eat dinner, and then go to bed at the end of the regular day, that we're practically over our jetlag by the next day. An almost instant transition.
After getting some dinner recommendations from our hosts, we walked along the town's waterfront promenade for a while, and ambled into La Grotta Azzura around 8:30. Not surprisingly, we were only the second table to be seated that evening, given the relatively early hour. After a very tasty meal, ordering the standard antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci courses, topped with a perfect espresso, we knew we were in for a good trip. Perfetto!