Tuscolo

Trip Start May 22, 2007
1
7
15
Trip End Jun 04, 2007


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Entry, Sunday-The last day in Frascati
 
We decided to stay out of Rome today and catch up on some housekeeping.  I spent a frustrating hour in the internet shop unable to post anything useful because I could not successfully load from my portable hard drive.  I also messed up and changed my NHMCCD email password when prompted the other night in a jetlagged stupor and I have no idea what it is now.  David, if you read this, can I have a re-set?  The Vesuvian Institute's propaganda flyers show high-speed internet access and a laundry facility.  Those are two things that we definitely need now.
 
Other than battling the computers, I spent the morning lounging and reading the museum guide that I purchased yesterday at the Campidoglio.  By lunchtime, we were ready to head out.  We raided a food stall and packed a picnic.  Taking a cab, we rode up to some reported Roman ruins at a place called Tuscolo.  The Roman elite used the entire Alban Hills area as a resort area to keep cool in the summer.  We helped ourselves to lots of free literature relating to the archeology at Tuscolo.  It is all in Italian, so it will take some time to decipher when we get home.  This visit should be a must for anyone near Frascati.  The ruins are not overly impressive, with just a cute amphitheater and some rock piles.  The real deal here is the view.  The Alban hills to the south of Rome are actually small, old volcanic mountains.  There is about a 1500-foot elevation gain between Rome and Tuscolo.  The view into the valley is beautiful.  Walking around each overlook gives a view of some other neat feature.  There is what looks like a big monastery (Buck disagrees and thinks it is a small village) visible with a huge vineyard below.  Looking south, we could see the rim of the caldera containing Lake Albano and the Castel Gandolfo was visible through the trees.  Gandolfo serves as a summer and weekend palace for the Pope.  Several other small/lovely hill towns were visible.  The entire area is lush and green and there was deer sign all over the ground on the hilltop.  We saw several varieties of birds and some cute lizards with black spots and green stripes.  We munched our picnic, which consisted of roast pork sandwiches, cheese, oranges, cookies and assorted beverages under the shade of a magnificent old tree.  After eating, we climbed around, explored the site, and were fortunate to be let through the locked gates to the amphitheater by the assistant to the superintendent for archeology for Tuscolo.  She is also an actor and was shepherding a theatrical group, which was performing this evening.  They had a program, which included excerpts from several Greco-Roman pieces.  We exchanged business cards and I asked her if student groups might perform in the theater and she indicated that those kinds of arrangements could be made.   The hike down was about three miles but was very cool since it was through the forest the entire way.
 
Frascati catches a lot of weekend traffic from Rome.  The piazza and all of the public areas have been awash with people since Friday evening.  The crowds have been very busy and noisy, but lots of fun.  We witnessed a wedding party posing for pictures on the promenade and they broke into several spontaneous dances.  It makes for a bustling and noisy place that does not quiet down until the wee hours.  Last night, they were carrying on until at least 2 am.  We have grown accustomed to it and have been able to sleep despite the noise.
 
Tomorrow is a transition day as we move south to visit Castellammare di Stabiae.  I am really looking forward to the trip since we were able to get tickets for the new high-speed train service.  I'm not sure what speed the train will achieve, but the trip to Naples is scheduled for only 1 hour and 25 minutes.  When I rode the normal train eight years ago, it took nearly an hour more.  Buck has the GPS and will track our speed.  We'll let you know.  I'm betting that we will reach somewhere between 300-350 kph on the new line.
 
After dinner tonight, I was able to negotiate my pre-paid phone card and call home.  I never got through to my house, so I called Mom instead.  It was fun to talk to a familiar voice from home.  She said that Houston had a big rain event today.  I can't say that I missed it.  We have been sunny and warm.  I'm tanning on the face and arms from all the walking about in the sun.  This morning, we had a small weather front come through and it cooled things a bit.  I may have to pull the sheet up tonight.
 
Things are much quieter in Frascati tonight.  The crowd began to thin out by dinnertime.  We have had a marvelous time learning the habits of the locals.  There are all sorts of interesting and different things to learn.  Some nights, it is impolite to try and have dinner before 7 pm.  Other nights, it is 8 pm.  Cafes charge different prices for service at the bar versus at a table.  They also offer different products.  Last night, we stopped at our favorite coffee shop and tried their gelato for the first time.  Since we wanted to sit for a while, we had to order fancy gelato in a glass dish served with a garnish.  Had we been moving on, we could have had the same gelato on a cone for 2 euro instead of 5. 
 
We have found communications to be workable.  When I have traveled to other parts of Europe, especially Germany, Switzerland or Scandinavia, I have found that most people in a service position spoke English.  Here in Frascati and also in several places in Rome, we have found little or no English.  I managed to leave my Italian phrase book at home, so I have been winging it.  Reading has not been too bad.  Italian has many cognates to French and Spanish, which are my stronger reading languages.  I have been able to work out a lot of the signage and menus.  The hard part is the more detailed or technical communication.  Questions of "how do I do this?" or "how does this work?" are very hard to resolve.  I am sure that if I knew a few verbs, things would go a bit better.  Today's travel tip: learn a few basic words and gestures.  Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, yes, no is a good starting point.  Beyond that, a smile, a gesture and a little chisum bop and we are getting by.  I have found that people want to communicate and interact and are quick to try working around the language barrier.  In short, do a little language homework before traveling to Europe.  But, don't be afraid of the languages.  Being able to greet or address someone in their language is polite and politeness encourages them to help bridge the communication gap.
 
We have seen a great example of the new Europe here in our hotel.  The front desk clerk and general "Jill of All Trades" is a young woman named Carmen.  Carmen speaks English and has been very helpful with everything from recovering from our lost reservation, to helping us find places to visit and to use the telephone.  Carmen has helped us transition to Italy.  Except that Carmen is not Italian.  She is, in fact, in transition herself.  Nine months ago, she left Romania and moved to Italy.  In that nine months, she has learned Italian and English.  She is an example of how Europe's boundaries are fading.  People, especially young people, have more opportunity than ever to move, study, learn a trade and change their lives.  Carmen dreams of moving to America, taking a degree in hotel/restaurant management and working in a big hotel.  Perhaps she may appear at the University of Houston one day.
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Comments

robert_obrien
robert_obrien on

Enjoying the journal
Hi Rob, Mr. Coyle and Buck,

Other than the luggage problems it sounds like you all are having a fun adventure. There is no ice cream more delicious than gelato. My mouth is watering thinking about it. Frascati sounds like a fascinating place to live.

Ciao,

Bobby

kobrien91
kobrien91 on

A little vino, some pasta & a whole lot of charm
Tales of your travels are making me green w/ envy. We'll have to get to Italy some day. Bobby would go just for the gelatto. Can't wait to hear more about your trip when you get back. In the meantime, we'll keep checking the blog.

Enjoy your trip. Howdy to Buck and your dad.

Regards,
Kris O'Brien

kobrien91
kobrien91 on

Re: A little vino, some pasta & a whole lot of cha
Correction: should read 'gelato'.

-Kris

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