Subject: Rome, Abruzzo, and more. Long Post
Ziners, My wife and I just returned from a couple of (way too fast) weeks in Italy. Here is a brief on the trip. Questions welcome.

We started our trip in LAX on Friday morning and arrived LHR Saturday morning. We had a 5 hour layover if we tried to go to Rome Saturday, so we stayed one night in stayed in Hounslow at the Renaissance (600+ rooms) for 55GBP. It was nice to have a room at 9 in the morning. Took tube into town for a few hours. Had late lunch in a GREAT PAKISTANI restaurant. Lahor Kebab House in East London. Not the best area but ok in daytime. There are reviews all over the London press for years for this place. It was all we hoped. Real spicy food, in a room made for eating in and not much else with the same decor as it had under Churchill I think.

We did the usual walk around Mayfair to see the beautiful homes and have a taste of old London (read quiet), Covent Garden area for a beer and people watching in Piccadilly (closed on one side for some event). A good night's sleep and off to LHR at 5 AM for our flight to Rome. Unfortunately we were bumped by Alitalia and had to sit in the lounge for 4 hours. They actually sold tickets just ahead of us at the check in and then bumped us with our 6 month old purchased tkts. I was livid but soon got over it and figure they are bankrupt and soon to collapse anyway so it figured. Too bad really because in the past, and why we chose them, was their great service.

Anyway we get to Rome too late for Porta Portese market. This is the Sunday antique and etc. market that is a big part of why we booked early flight. So we saved some money. Our hotel was the Due Torre and I can not say enough good things about this gem. It is tucked away on a lovely little street one car wide. No traffic, no vespas, and no late night bars. We slept with the windows open all night with peace and quiet. It is around the corner from the Pantheon and 5 minutes to P. Navona. Basically Via Stroffa and Via Ripeta intersection, then down the alley. Around the corner from La Campagna Restaurant. Rate was 188E a night. Rooms were typically small but enough room for us to manoeuver around and the W.C. was ample and shower was strong and large. They have top floor rooms with balcony over rooftops but the rooms are smaller by about the size of the balcony. We stayed at room w/o balcony.

Four nights in Rome is a blur. It is an amazing city. Bella citta!!! Buying food in Campo Fiori for lunch and tucking a pizza bianca under my arm I wielded my umbrella (yes it rained, a lot) and marched around with other early morning Romans and felt as though I have lived there for years. For those who have yet to go to Rome. Go! See as much as you can and try to stay a week at least.

I am a native New Yorker born and bred, 3rd generation NYC, and I will say Rome impressed me. It is the first city I have ever been that seemed more important than NYC (My point is I'm not easily impressed). You can eat anywhere, it is all good. It is safe to walk the streets any hour in all of the historic center.

After Rome we went to Vico Equense on the Sorrentine peninsula. About 1/2 way down towards Sorrento. It is a great town that is more local than most of the area. More working class than Amalfi Coast and much, much less crowded. We took a drive around to Masa Lubrense at the tip. It was in a word, horrible!! We sat in 3 hours of bumper to bumper traffic in black, chocking, life shortening diesel smoke. Based on that we kept our travels around the peninsula limited. We went to Ravello early one morning via the long way around. Back to the A1 and across the mountains and down. It was better but still getting through the traffic in Angri was a mess. Our hotel in Vico Equense was a jewel and a treasure to return to after a day in the smoke. Set on a bluff all you heard was ocean. All you smelled is sea.

Daytrip to Pompeii. WOW! Need to go back and take a real tour. It has such an amazing sense of life to it. You can feel the people in the streets at the shops, halls, etc. They were so advanced compared to the "new world" by thousands of years. Parking was easy and cost 5E. So after three days we head to Abruzzo. This is what Italians call "God's Country" . Mountains, rivers, lakes and very few people.

We stayed 2 days in Rocaroso and 2 in Scano. The most wonderful part of our trip. The air is so clean at 1200M and all the peaks around you. Shepherds, sheep, wild horses, and towns clinging to the earth. Mostly 18th century buildings in centro's. With newer alpine type homes outside. The food was great and the people were so friendly. At the bar on only the second morning the Barista knew it was one decaf one normal. He was asking how we liked his area of the world than showed us old photos with 3M of snow in the town, another with a parade in 1910. The Ristorante insisted we have the smoked Trout crostini so we bit and it was great, so we ordered it the next day only to find out there was none as it is very limited which is why they insisted we have it day before. It makes it so personal and welcoming.

In Scano we stayed on the Lake with the perfect view. 60E a night, large triple room large W.C., small but strong shower. The waters in and around Abruzzo are ice cold, delicious and full of natural minerals. One we had was a natural diuretic, to our surprise. In Rocarosso we stayed a ski area hotel which was the only hotel open in a town of 12 or more. It was the total off season and we had everything to ourselves, with the bars and restaurants mostly open. Not like Paris in August. I told my wife if I ever run away from home look for me in Scano. We then took a few days to go to Assisi, Norcia, Bevagna, Montalcino.

I will write about that next. Happy Trails David West California