The reality of leaving Rome and Italy hit like a hard punch in the nose when I was given my airplane "lunch". After a month of the finest food on this planet I had a piece of chicken that clearly came from the smallest chicken in the world and almost made me turn vegetarian. Spongy carrots and whatever they did to the rice should be punishable by making them eat it. The sucker punch came when the "snack" was delivered. It was a lunchable gone very wrong. Not entirely sure if that was cheese or butter or an unknown substance on the bread, it was tasteless and slimy in a kind of creepy way so I used a lot of mustard to take my mind off it. Brutal re-entry.
Rome - after being here for a month I got into the rhythm of the city just "being" there, people watching, got into the daily cappuccino at my local cafe routine. Rome is a big very busy, chaotic city, it is NYC on massive quantities of caffeine! For cheap sightseeing and because I love to people watch I rode the buses everywhere and watched the riders. Romans, Italians, work very hard and endlessly they have a most admirable work ethic which I always appreciate in anyone. My fellow bus riders look like everyone else who works hard for a living, never earns enough for their efforts, hate the political structures they are saddled with - they are tired.
As I mentioned above buses are the way to go anywhere in the towns, great for cheap sightseeing. Chances are you will only need to get a few tickets as most of the validating machines on the buses don't work and most of the riders don't bother using them. One wonders how they pay for anything as no one on the bus pays but you'd better have a ticket or a euro and make a good faith effort. One time I got frustrated the validating machine wouldn't work and there wasn't a machine to deposit a coin so I went to the driver and handed him a euro…he refused!
Florence is very walkable, very sweet and just my kind of town, however, it's a real toss up between Orvieto and Florence. I dream of moving to Italy for a while and would love to live in either town. Bologna, not so much. I'm glad I went there, I was on a pilgrimage to see the Giorgio Morandi museum and loved it. One of the best things are Bologna's covered streets and the cafe scene I wrote about in an earlier post but overall it didn't really move me. Wish I had planned it differently as there were some towns I would have rather seen but it just means they are on the list for the next visit!
Be advised: they give directions just like they do in Boston. So, keeping that in mind, ask several people many times which way. Around the corner or down the street doesn't mean one corner or close by. It could be 12 miles away or around lots of corners.
It's good to be back, see my friends and so forth but there is a quality of life in Europe that I adore and miss terribly. The food is amazing, local, fresh and not processed to death. Being an artist in Europe, even visiting, is fantastic. Their reaction to hearing you make art is the best, they want to know what you work on, what you are interested in, they never ask the tacky crap that you get in the U.S. which is always "how much do you sell it for", or "how many galleries do you have". You never hear that dreaded phrase "I know what I like"…always said by people who haven't a clue. Europeans instantly understand because they have been surrounded by art for millenniums and have a deep almost genetic love of culture it's hard not to want to be there all the time….sigh.