reunited and it feels so good

I've been so blessed to share many amazing travel experiences over the last year with my best friend, and in late January I was lucky enough to share a trip to Italy with my family too.  My mom, dad, and sister, Mallory, met Joey and me at the airport in Rome and I'm pretty sure they were almost as excited to see us as they were to return to Italy.  Sadly, my other sister, Elizabeth, wasn't able to join us, although we kept her with us in spirit as we spent the next ten days touring the Italian countryside.

We'd arranged to meet my family at the Advantage rental car desk.  Unfortunately, we didn't realize that half of the reason we got such a good deal on the rental car was because Advantage is located off-site, so the first hour of our trip to Italy was spent running in circles, searching for the rental car desk and each other.  Joey and I decided to get the car - maybe my family had somehow managed to find the shuttle to the rental car station even though we couldn't figure that out without calling the phone number on the confirmation sheet - if they weren't there, we'd drive back to the airport and try to find them.

So we got the car and with no sign of my family headed back to the airport.  We parked the car in short-term parking and started walking toward the terminal in which my family had landed and I heard a familiar whistle - about fifty yards away Mallory and Dad stood waving.  Poor Mom had been placed in a different location to try to find Joey and me, so the four of us went back to the car and drove as close as we could to where she was waiting.  We decided to send Dad to get her, and they returned together about fifteen minutes later.  We exchanged more big hugs and set off for our home for the next eleven days: Umbertide (pronounced Oom-bear-tee-day).

How did people manage without cell phones?

We spent the next three hours in the car catching up, laughing and excitedly discussing our plans for the trip (which was more like Joey'd recruited three other people to make fun of my Excel vacation itineraries and European death marches).  We exited the main highway and as we twisted and turned according to the lovely voice of our friend, Garmin, we all wondered how people managed without GPS (it's interesting how we travel to Italy for the splendor of Roman history only to appreciate the convenience of today's technology).  But with the help of the Garmin and the directions from the caretakers, we managed to find Casa San Gabriel.

We pulled up to the villa in the valley where we'd rented two cottages as the sun set, casting a brilliant red and orange hue over the mountains, cypress trees and ancient stone hamlets that surrounded us.  After dropping off our suitcases, we all piled back in the car and headed back into town to stock up on groceries and eat dinner.

Taking Joey into a grocery store in Italy is like taking a kid to a candy store; I imagine trying to pry a child away from the shiny and colorful sweets is like trying to pry my husband away from the meat and cheese counters.  But one hour and massive cart-full of groceries later, we finally escaped.  We drove back toward our villa, spotting a sign for Pane e Vino, and figured it'd be worth a try.  The restaurant was located in what appeared to be a deserted industrial park, but it looked like it had character and so we went inside.  We found a huge roaring pizza oven, bookshelves full of wine and white tablecloths.  Perfect!  We immediately ordered wine and pizza and pasta too, and spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company.

What should have been an uneventful drive back to Casa San Gabriel became far more interesting when Joey unknowingly turned the wrong way on a one-way road.  Although we didn't encounter any cars along the way, we did have a hell of a time getting up the hill.  Apparently the route to the villa from the highway is one-way because the incline is so steep; with the sharp drop-off looming precariously only a few feet away from where our wheels were spinning, I was truly afraid enough that I got out of the car.  Mallory and Mom soon followed, then Dad took the wheel and Joey got behind and pushed.  I was fairly certain I was watching my father kill my husband, but Dad got the car up the hill and around the corner, albeit not without a few jokes about the size of our asses or the capability of my husband.