Good morning, since it is nearly 6 am at home. I can tell you that Tuesday is a gorgeous day and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have! I have a few random thoughts about Rome to throw out here that I don’t remember hitting in the last postings. Rome is an ancient city (yes, I am sure you know that!) and the residents of Rome are true Romans-they have been there for all of time. Our wonderful tour coordinator, Doumina, set us up with a private tour guide and Pina was so fantastic, she told us quite a bit about life in Rome, along with all the historical, architectural and cultural information that she packed into our heads. We saw this giant building of ornate white marble, and statues all over it, that stuck out like a sore thumb in this city of ruins. Pina laughed as we gawked at it and told us that Romans hated this building. They consider it the ‘new’ building and they make fun of it because it is only 500 years old and looks like a wedding cake! Their ‘new’ building is older than anything we have around!

Also I wanted to mention in more detail the water fountains around the city. They are everywhere and you can fill your water bottle from the brass spigot, or stop up the constant flow of water to divert it through a top hole for drinking straight from the fountain. Many of them look like little stone fire hydrants with water pouring out of them. I cannot find any information on how this works, it must be some sort of closed system that recirculates the waters, though it would be filtering rain water as well… it gets very hot in the summer in Rome and I am sure these fountains are a big relief to everyone who passes them.

So yesterday. It was a travel day and we had a bit of an adventure. Our apartment landlord arranged for the car to take us to the airport (the same one that picked us up) and we arrived around noon. It was too early to check in for the flight so we had to kill a half an hour just standing around. We watched the luggage wrapping machine and tried to figure out why people pay for that. We finally got checked in and through security (Mark’s mom had accidentally packed her expensive hair mousse and some lotion in her carry on and they took it from her), then up to the terminal. I found my TIM store there after looking all over Rome and now I can get online with a secure connection and so far the coverage has been very good. We had a quick lunch and they bussed us out to the little 737 which was not crowded at all, so we enjoyed the hour and 15 minute flight in relative comfort. We found out that we had to take a bus 45 minutes to the train station and then we got our tickets to Asti. We had some difficulty figuring out which track was ours and finally we decided it was track 1, so we ran to it since it was leaving soon. We got on and it did not leave right away, which should have been our first clue. The train made frequent stops and we had no idea what any of the planned stops would be so we tried to figure it out as we went. Pretty soon it turned to the west (the sun was right in front of us) and I began to wonder if we were on the right train. After about 20 minutes on the train a porter was making his way towards us, taking tickets, so I knew we would find out soon enough. Sure enough this train did not go to Asti. He helped us off at the next stop, all the while explaining in rapid fire Italian what we needed to do. I thought I understood, and I was able to repeat the important parts and he agreed that I was comprehending. He then told the station porter about us and so he took over and told me in rapid fire Italian all about what we needed to do. Again, I repeated what I thought were the key points and we agreed that I understood. We got on the next train going back towards where we started and got off 3 stops away. We asked the porter at this much larger station where to go and he directed us to one of 2 tracks (there were 6) so we went down and around and read all the signs, deciding on track 6. The 2nd porter had printed out a schedule for us so we now had a train number to look for and we found it. It came very quickly and we hopped on and headed to Asti.

After about an hour and a half total train time we arrived. Asti is very much larger than we had anticipated, it was dark, nearing 8 oclock, and we were hungry. Mark was sure the hotel was near the station so we headed out. Let me just say that we all agree we should have gotten a cab. We stopped no less than 4 times to ask for directions and still had trouble! Finally we got here and stowed our luggage in our rooms to go look for dinner. The Hotel Lis is old, though very clean and well kept, and the location is excellent. We have connecting rooms at the end of the hall, no neighbors and overlooking a courtyard, so again we are lucky with a quiet room. We lock/unlock the doors with a big key, not a key card, the bed is rather hard, but all in all it is a very nice place. Breakfast is part of the board and it is very comprehensive! So yesterday was not all wonderful, though we got to see a lot of Torino and the country between there and Asti, which was interesting and very different from Rome/Lazio area. The moon is getting more full each night, so we will soon have a full moon to see in Italy.

Today we have walked all over Asti, seen a couple of wonderful old gothic style churches, several medieval towers and enjoyed wine at two different little caffe/bars. Every time we order a glass of wine they bring a little snack as well. One time it was pastries and tiny sandwiches (we did not enjoy those so much) and another time it was olives and potato chips! Things close up for siesta so I thought I would check in with you while the others rest a bit and we will figure out what our next adventure is. I have a couple of places to try for dinner tonight that are recommended by Slow Food, and tomorrow Doumina and Fabio (our driver for the tour) will pick us up around 2. We will begin work then, researching some different wines for the tour, and getting ready to greet our guests, who will begin arriving tomorrow evening. The tour starts Thursday morning and I am sure I will be able to check in at least once more before then. The weather has been great and while it is a bit chillier up here, the sun was out all day! I hope your day is as good as ours has been. The meal last night was ok by Italian standards, very good by ours, and I hope that tonights will be reportable.

Ciao for now!