Subject: Returning member in Oklahoma
Dear Ziners,

Two and a half months without a computer is a long time. Now I must reinstate myself with TheTravelzine.

If you crave a new travel experience, pull a ligament in your ankle just before you leave and label yourself Needs Assistance. In every Italian airport you will be kept firmly in the hands of EMSA-like professionals. You will bypass the milling throng of fellow passengers at the transfers security checkpoint, who will cast hostile glares at you over their shoulders. You will be stowed in a club-like lounge until your aircraft is fully loaded with passengers, then sped back through the airport and airlifted up to the door of the plane. On arrival you may not leave the plane until the support crew of six has come to get you. On one hand, it is comforting, on the other hand rather traumatic for the independent traveler.

So in late January I flew from Tulsa directly to Venice, thanks to a Ziners' warning about the over-long train ride from Milan to Venice. The Londra Palace was the perfect place to be coddled and entranced with my balcony view of the Grand Canal, plus a special treat of one night of rare snowfall on the gondolas.

Met Don and Linda in Florence for luscious dinner and late-night computer lesson. Saw La Sonnambula at Florence opera (try to find out which door your ticket is designated for as there are three sides of the building for entry. Important if you're hobbling alone in the dark. Your Taxi driver knows only one drop-off, the farthest away.

Took train to Cortona. Of course, you sage travelers already know that vacation time for shopkeepers and restauranteurs in the hill towns is mid-January to mid-February. All my favorite haunts were closed for ferie. So had lovely dinners at Osteria del Teatro. This venerable restaurant has moved across the street and now has two handsome and spacious dining rooms where the food is fantastic along with the service.

The Information office in Cortona had contacted a local car rental agency for me in Camucia which would have leased me a car for 4 days (EUR 241.50) or 7 days (EUR 354.00) much desired, as opposed to having to rent for a week or two weeks, driving it from an airport and dropping it off at some wee hour of the morning, plus not having to worry with parking at times the car is not needed.

Good Hotel San Luca friends remembered to save me my favorite room overlooking the Val de Chiana. Spent a day with Chiara at her villa out of Mercatale where she grilled a slab of pancetta and homemade sausage in the fireplace. Shared the cozy room with only two of her thirteen dogs, a St. Bernard and a well-fed retriever, and her son and daughter.

Returned to Florence for two days of shopping but BIG find was stunning grocery/ take-out store, a real Dean & DeLuca without the exhorbitant prices. Only one problem, it was too popular with the locals standing in long lines. Called Standa, I believe, but I do know how to get there. Turned left out of the Hotel Cavour on Via Proconsolo, go right at first street across toward Piazza San Croce. Fine meats, fish cheeses, bakery, immense banks of prepared salads, roast chickens, dinners ready to eat and dinners ready to bake, large wine selection, and complete standard supermarket items.

My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the moderators of this fine Travelzine.

Yours, Jane in Tulsa