Il bene e il male

Il bene e il male

The Good and the Bad (Italian Style)

As any experienced traveler will confirm, you never know what the unexpected will bring, so it is better to always be flexible and to be unconcerned if the world does not unfold as planned. The sun will rise and the sun will set, and everything else is up to chance.



The highlight of the first leg of my trip from Omaha to Miami was that my weight was used to provide ballast for the plane, and I was bumped up to business class. I have never slept so well. I woke up when we touched down in Miami, and it felt like no time had passed at all.


The trip to Lisbon on TAP Portugal  was mostly uneventful. They had no vegetarian food options, which I found odd. The planes aren’t nearly as luxurious as Lufthansa which I flew with Sue, Glen and dad last summer. The staff was pleasant. I spilled wine on myself and ruined my white shirt. Typical.

The final stint was from Lisbon to Milan. Rita warned me that in southern Europe the people are not as time-conscious as Germans or Americans. She was right. The plane was scheduled to board at 6:15 and take off at 7:15. We didn’t board until after 7 and took off at around 8. No one seemed to care. I was a bit worried because I was planning to pick her up at the Bergamo airport when she arrived.

In Milan, all of my electronic devices were dying. I had no European power converter, and the internet was awful. I decided to pay for the AT&T travel plan which is absolutely outrageous at $10/day of use. As soon as I get to Latvia, I will be cancelling my service and picking up a local provider. I went to Hertz to get my car rental and stood in line waiting for them to call my number only to realize that I rented from Enterprise through Locacar via Orbitz. Luckily, my Orbitz app reminded me of my reservation. My head was not in the right place after 27 hours of plane flights and airport layovers.


At Enterprise, I did not get the Audi that I had reserved, but instead got an Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback which was a lovely car. I rented it via my American Express card which is supposed to provide rental insurance. More about this later. I did pay extra for the Tom Tom GPS which was imperative. The drive to Bergamo was an hour in city traffic. My first move was to get out of the airport alive, and the Tom Tom took me the wrong way down a one way street. Not a good start.

I will say this, Italians love their roundabouts. I have never seen anything like it. Every 800 yards, there is a roundabout, and you have to carefully choose your exit because you may end up in some driveway if you don’t pay attention. Not that this happened to me.

Truthfully, other than the three tolls, the drive to Bergamo was pretty easy. Getting out of the airport parking lot took some doing. Every other toll was simple, you put your credit card in and the gate opened. But this one? You had to go to the booth to get the ticket to pay to escape. Why? I don’t know. They just like to make things complicated for people like me.


Traffic and Roundabouts Abound

Then it was on to Como for the first leg of my Italian holiday. This is where the roundabouts came to play. Traffic was light, which was a blessing, but the short 50 kilometer drive took over an hour with the constant slowing down and speeding up. Once we got closer to the mountains, the scenery was gorgeous which made the drive much more pleasant. We bought some plums after taking a wrong turn and carried on.



Streets of Como

The worst part of the day was when we arrived in Como and I relied on Google Maps to guide us to the Posta Design hotel in the heart of the city. Like many Italian cities (apparently) these towns are designed with a central cathedral and plazas and streets that radiate from the center. Some are designed for walking, and some allow cars. But a person who has never been to such a city would have absolutely no idea that google maps would guide him into a

Narrow streets

pedestrian walkway ending in a dead end at a nice restaurant while people watched him backing the Alfa Romeo slowly out with a nice Italian man moving chairs out of the way and guiding him. And how could he possibly know that the Polizia had mounted cameras all over the plaza for just such a case. A kind taxi driver told us that we had already been photographed, and that we would likely get a ticket. I have no idea what happens in this case, but it will be my second international ticket. Not bad, eh?



Eventually, after twisting and turning on narrow streets, and making a few more wrong turns we finally found the hotel. There was absolutely no way we could have driven there. As it was, we had to park two blocks away even after asking the lady at the front desk what to do.

So that was the worst. But once I figured out parking and unloaded the suitcases and settled in, Como was a really nice place to spend the evening.

Lake Como

The lake at night was spiritual with mountains rising up on all sides, lit up by the manors that climb the hills. People were out and about, and apparently they don’t really start eating supper until very late, so our meal at this fancy seafood place was perfect.




Eyes of the Shrimp

We ordered way too much food. I had shrimp with eyes staring at me, and a delicious swordfish. The other people in the restaurant ordered these giant steaming bowls of every seafood imaginable, and even sea bass coated in salt and set on fire to cook at your table while you waited. Incredible!




If you’re ever in northern Italy, I would recommend Como, but I would recommend taking public transportation and leaving the driving up to experts. Up next, Switzerland, and more good, bad, and a little ugly!

And an obligatory slideshow. Enjoy! Godere!



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