We drove on the 13th of September to our 92year old friend Mary in Greve in Chianti. It is always a lovely and tranquil place to visit and we enjoyed chats with her and her carer Barbara and Mary drove us (she is a great driver!) to ‘Le Panzanelle’ about 15 minutes away to have a wonderful yet very reasonable meal.
Our run of good weather prevailed with sunny, warm days.
We drove on the Autostrada to Sezze Scalo which took us about five hours to stay with my relatives and next morning took the 7am train into Rome which took about 45minutes.
We wanted to get in early to visit an agent who completed our Indian visa applications and uploaded the necessary photos before we took them to the Consulate.
Maurice had checked the weather the previous night and because there was only ten percent chance of rain (never trust the weather bureau) we set off in short sleeves and with one umbrella. By 9.00am it was like a black night sky with torrential rain. Within minutes the street looked like a river and I gave up trying to keep my feet dry in my sandals. Maurice stood with many others for half an hour wet to the knees, waiting for the consulate to open at 9.30am and the Indian visa agents kindly lent me an umbrella to get further down the road to the consulate who are not the friendliest of people. We wanted to be assured of being towards the front of the queue as we
had a 10.30am appointment for our vaccinations on the other side of Rome.
They herded us like a mob of sheep and there was no logic to their system. The electronic dispenser for numbers should have been activated at 9.30 but the Indian official told us that it would not operate until 9.45am. No rhyme nor reason. We luckily were seen quickly and on the way out at the entrance we did laugh at a little enterprising Indian man who was selling umbrellas and vegetable samosas so we bought one umbrella and two samosas and they were delicious.
We had vaccinations for yellow fever, compulsory when entering South Africa from Kenya as well as the Hepatitis A and B. We could have gone the whole hog and had cholera and typhoid as well which was also recommended by the tropical medicine doctor who was very thorough in giving us every possible disastrous medical condition that we could encounter. We did also opt for some anti malarial/intestinal fix all etc tablets and some natural
neem oil to combat parasites in water when showering or as a preventative to mosquito bites as well as a cure all for a myriad of other maladies which we might need in Africa.
After recovering from the bill (a whopping 414euros) we had one of the worst meals we had ever had in Italy at ‘Ragna D’Oro’ which had been recommended by the tropical medicine doctor.
I suspect he was a regular and was treated as such but we should have had warning bells when we saw many tourists in the restaurant. By then we were feeling a little sore and woozy from the vaccinations so we took the train home and had an early night.
The ten days we spent in Sezze with the family ensured I put on about three kilos – too much good food as usual. Our Perth friends Tony and Michelle arrived on the 21st of September and we found them (with the help of my American born cousin Ruth Lotero now living in the town of her grandfather)a lovely B and B with 180degree view of
the surrounding countryside and the sea in the distance.
We did some touristy things going to ‘Piano delle Orme’ an amazing museum with exhibits displaying early rural life and the history of the draining of the Pontine marshes (one of the good things that Mussolini did) as well as an amazing, vast collection of every kind of military vehicles from the second world war.

On the Friday we went to Tivoli, hoping to miss the weekend crowds and visited Hadrian’s villa which is much, much more than a villa. It cover’s hectares and is the remains of a whole Roman city. Within a few kilometres is Villa D’este and Villa Gregoriana so we set off with the help of the sat.nav which unfortunately took us through the old town again – a bit hairy for Van Mauriceson but we made it through without scraping the van or any other cars. Maurice has become much more relaxed in Italy about stopping or turning the vehicle and making others wait as does everyone else in Italy but at least we don’t double park and leave the car or park on a corner on a crosswalk which we have seen many times. No-one seems to get excited by all of this but we do shake our heads every time we
see it. There also is never any urgency at the supermarket checkouts if the checkout chick knows the customer as everyone waits patiently for them to finish their conversation. The other interesting habit is if someone is serving you in a shop and another person comes in they start serving them at the same time rather than
finish with one customer. It is Italy after all.
Maurice and I had been to Villa D’Este in May so while I made lunch in the van our guests went through the gardens and after lunch we moved to another parking spot where we could walk to a view point to take some photos of Villa Gregoriana.
We also managed to catch the huge Sezze Saturday market selling household goods, clothes, plants and all sorts of foods. We were all kindly invited to cousins’ houses for a meal and had a couple of delicious meals at a fish restaurant and one specializing in open fire roasted meats.
We briefly saw cousin Ruth Lotero who had just arrived back from San Francisco and London on the 25th September, had a great paella meal at a new Spanish restaurant that night and left Sezze on the 26th September to Roccamandolfi. We detoured slightly to Monte Cassino and visited the enormous and ornate Abbey on top of the
mountain. The enormous Abbey except for the belowground level areas where the monks and many refugees sheltered was totally destroyed by the Americans during the war as they thought it was a German stronghold which wasn’t at all. Hadn’t they thought of spies?
There were only monks and refugees but it it did make it easier then for the Germans in the vicinity to then comandeer it. Many refugees were killed but the monks and other refugees who hid in the basement survived. We opted for the guided tour which was fortuitous as we learnt a lot from our guide and were shown areas that we would not have otherwise seen. The views from the top over the town of Cassino below and the large Polish war cemetery were lovely and clear given it was another warm and sunny day.
After lunching in the van we continued on to Roccamandolfi where we dropped our guests at the only hotel (and a good one) in the lower town and Maurice and I then proceeded to empty the van of most things which were then taken down by Luca to Joe’s house to be stored for the winter. We had a relaxing few days and some nice local restaurant meals. We took a picnic up to the ‘Campitello’ past the castle and up into the mountains and were so lucky to see the wood brought down from the thick forrest by a few hardy men and their mules. We saw our guests off on the early morning train to Rome from Boiano where we saw our first sunrise there which was a bonus.
Luckily the weather had been lovely for their stay. Two days later we had overnight rain but it was still not cold for the start of October.
I was invited to a ‘ladies night’ at the hotel where a lot of good food and wine was served. Roll on the diet!
Everyone in the town was stacking their firewood for the winter. Some of the townsfolk had made a transition to pellets instead of wood. We had a woodburning stove and still had wood from a couple of years ago. We saw a lot of people at their mountain plots gathering their crops of potatoes, corn and beans and I helped one day shelling
the borlotti beans with another few women. Maurice and I both imagined the towns people doing the same thing centuries ago.
We had another anxious wait for our Indian visas (why don’t they make it easier for tourists who want to stay longer than 1month?). We had to surrender all passports -Australian, my British and Maurice’s Irish one as well has his expired Aussie passport. I had written in bold 18font letters a letter stating we would be leaving Italy on the 7th October giving them 3weeks to process the visas but it still hadn’t happened two and a half weeks later!
Two of my cousins and a husband make the two hour journey by car to visit us in Roccamandolfi bringing enough food for twenty.
On the 6th October we had the van washed and then prepared it and covered it for it’s 6month stay in the garage. On the 7th October we left Roccamandolfi for Rome and went to the Indian consulate at the designated time of 4.30pm to collect our passports with our Indian visas. Thank God it was the last time we needed to do this in Rome as the officials at the consulate were not only unhelpful but one was particularly rude.
We visited my old aunt and her husband in Rome and stayed at our favourite B and B Nik Niks just down the road and only 10mins from the centre of Rome by metro.
A taxi ride to the airport on Sunday the 9th October only took 30minutes and 50euros which saved the hassle of a taxi to the train station and then the train to the airpoprt.
It was even getting cooler in Rome so we were glad to leave Italy was the warmth of Dubai.

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