Stella and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on the morning of April 21st.
I was prepared for the vigorous interrogation by Passport Control for bringing a dog into Italy. I had all the necessary paperwork in hand showing Stella had 2 microchips (the first being too old for international travel ) all her vaccinations and passport documents from my vet.
The agent just looked at my passport, stamped it and said ‘Benvenuto a Italia’, and we walked through. Perhaps he didn’t see Stella, I know she’s little.
I managed to get to the Rental Car counter pushing 3 huge suitcases and dragging a small dog, who had not peed since Chicago, 15 hours ago. We were in desperate need of blade of grass. But she’d have to wait a little longer.
I decided on a manual transmission, something I have not driven since high school, because the rate was less for a monthly rental.
Perhaps this was not the best decision . I clearly forgot that Cortona is a hill town.
We were soon buzzing out of the airport on our way to Cortona.
I missed the turn to go north on the A1 and instead headed into central Rome. I understand that all roads lead to Rome but I need to go in the direction of Florence. A couple of illegal u-turns later and we were onto the A1. I desperately needed coffee and Stella a pee break so we stopped at the first Autogrill.
If you have never been to one of these stops along the highways in Italy, they are a thing of beauty. All delicious food Italy has to offer and you can fill your gas tank too.
I decided on a panini with fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, ripe tomatoes and basil on crusty fresh bread.
Good god…I could have cried. I ate it before I even started the car.
Two hours later and I pulled off the A1 into Cortona. I had directions to my home but for some reason they made no sense, perhaps it was jet lag or maybe the caffeine was wearing off.
I stopped at a little roadside bar/cafe. Elderly men were sitting at outside tables smoking cigarettes and having their afternoon espresso. I used my Rosetta Stone Italian to ask for directions. They had no idea what I was saying. I felt like I was playing Charades and started acting out what I was asking. But they weren’t playing and just sat there and looked at me as if I had just landed from another planet. Thank god a kind young man, who spoke a little English, came to my rescue. I gave him my business card with my name and new address on it and asked if he knew where it was. He looked at the name on the card and said "Why don’t you call Nancy Palmer and ask her? “ I didn’t want to tell him I was Nancy Palmer and this was my home and I couldn’t find it. This was getting awkward. He said he thinks he knows where it is and to follow him.
I know this was not the safest thing to do, but at this point, I just wanted to find my house in this vast Tuscan farmland.
He turned onto a dirt road and the land started to look familiar. He stopped to ask a farmer directions and he pointed in the direction we were going. I thought it best not to lead this stranger straight to my home, so I beeped my horn, yelled out the window ‘Grazie Mille!” and passed him by.
A mere 40 yards ahead was my entrance.
Thank god, Stella, we are home….I wasn't prepared for what was waiting for us.