Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Italy: A Striking Country

After numerous visits to Italy, this has been our longest sojourn to date of not encountering some kind of transportation strike. Today was our day.

We set off to visit the nearby town of Viterbo. We stopped at a tabacchi to buy a BIRG pass that, for 2.50 Euros, would allow us to ride public transportation thoughout Lazio for the day.

We hiked down to the local stazione and waited for the 12:33 p.m. train in solitude - the office had closed at 11:50. We did notice a sign announcing a strike tomorrow.

Italian unions customarily give advance notice of their strikes - except when they don't.

Eventually a uniformed woman, obviously an employee, emerged from a door and we asked her where to wait for il treno to Viterbo.

"No train," she replied, and we understood the following torrent of words to include "autobus." We stuck around until five minutes after the train was due, and then left. Outside was a bus sitting with Viterbo flashing on the screen.

"Bon Giorno. Viterbo?" We asked the driver. "No," he replied succinctly before turning his back on us and hitching up his pants.

All righty, we thought, and retreated back to our apartment at Palazzo Catalani. We outlined our little misadventure to one of the lovely clerks, who immediately researched the Internet to see what the problem was. A half hour later she still had no idea why the train wasn't running today.

We decided we'd walked enough to have at least earned ourselves a nice lunch as consolation for missing Viterbo. By now it was 1:30 p.m. so we walked down the hill again, thinking we'd try one of the other recommended restaurants, Taverni dei Frati, sitting adjacent to the town's large parking lot. It was closed today. We then decided we'd return to Tre Scalini, where we'd recently enjoyed dinner. They were closed. Before returning to a lunch of soup in our room, we tried I Due Camini, and were surprised to find it open. Here we had a very enjoyable mid-day dinner, starting with a shared pasta.

Kathy chose Vitello al Limone for her main course.

Brian enjoyed the taglia so much the other night at Tre Scalini that he ordered it again, this time asking for the beef to be al sangue (rare). It was a slightly different presentation but equally delicious, as was the side of roasted potatoes included.

Just as we were about to leave the server let us know he'd bringing a complimentary plate of desserts, complete with a little dollop of dark chocolate on the side.

It's a charming little restaurant the closest of all to our room and our server knew enough English to ease the ordering, while still reminding us that we're dining in Italy. We definitely recommend it, as we do al Tre Scalia.

The total bill for the above, including half liter of very drinkable house red, was an affordable 35 Euros. In fact, we'd call it an excellent investment, especially since we'll probably average down by eating soup in our room for dinner.

And now it's time to relax back back at Palazzo Catalini and watch the pigeons watching us.

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