ITALIAN RHAPSODY: An Unconventional Travel Story: Getting to Europe from Dallas

  • By Joel Jacobs (a friend of David M. Kinchen)

Close up of departure board

Close up of departure board

While I am not comparing myself -– in the least -– to John Steinbeck,  he and I do share a trait: we often let things ferment, foment, and boil a bit before setting down observations and experiences.

 Such is the case here… you will not get everything in one story.  This is going to wander out in fits and starts, blubs and sentence fragments, scattered thoughts, and sometimes sentences that are likely a bit too long and clumsy, but, in the end, if I’m true to things it’ll all blunder into a semblance of sense, or so I hope. I am, though, going to try to set things down in somewhat of a chronological order as it will, hopefully, unfold, at least a little, logically… and too, hopefully, you’ll get the sense, at least some of the time, that you were there with me…

Part I

Lufthansa is still a marvelous way to fly. The plane left Dallas on time, arrived in Frankfurt on time, and the flights for Frankfurt and Rome were on time as well.

Lufthansa’s planes are new, clean, have six bathrooms available for coach, and have a bit more leg room than that of economy class seating on domestic carriers. The meals are quite good, as were the wine and spirits. The white wine, a German one, was very good.  In-flight movies?  I counted 82 choices – new and old, including the original “Flight of the Phoenix”  and “Bullitt.”  Lots of new stuff was available as well.

There was a huge music selection but while I only listened to Hayden, Strauss (Richard), and a couple of other folks a bit I listened mostly to Ravi Shankar’s “The Living Room Series” Part II. I already own Part I.

 Arrival to a location in the EU, if you’re flying in from another EU country is a piece of cake. Get your bag -– in my case I carried only a carry on — you walk off the plane and out into the air terminal. No customs or immigrations hassle. And even when arriving in Europe -– in Germany, this time — German customs and border clearance were a piece of cake as well… just go through the check points, get your passport stamped and you’re free to roam about all the EU countries.

Departure schedule of trains leaving Rome and people waiting.

Departure schedule of trains leaving Rome and people waiting.

To get from the airport to Rome the convenient way is the express train.  I bought my ticket, but also bought a reserved seat ticket on the next morning’s express train to Modena so that I’d not have a hassle in getting a ticket the next morning should lines suddenly appear or any of the ticketing machines be down.  Leaving Rome at the time I did next morning I did not have to change trains, just step off at Modena, catch a cab and pay $6.00 to long-time friend Katherine Donnellan’s house.

First day in Rome… I checked into my hotel, the Scott House, not far from the Central Train Station (Stazione Centrale)…. It was a really nice, modern, clean hotel in an old building.  I walked from the train station to the hotel, took five, six minutes.  Upon arrival I did find a surprise; the sign for the hotel indicated it was on the fourth and fifth floors.  Some delivery guy was coming out of the hotel and I asked him if there were an elevator in the building. He told me there was and how to get to it…. the elevator was an OTIS…. Yup.  As I stepped out it was a pleasant surprise to see how modern and update the hotel was.  If memory serves me correctly I paid a bit less than $100. The price, as do most European hotels, includes breakfast.

Before venturing out into Rome I stowed my luggage, took a shower, changed clothes, and took a two hour nap.  I asked the desk clerk where there was a good restaurant, not the typical tourist places in the neighborhood and he told me how to get away from them in just two blocks up, a right turn, another right turn, and “poof” I was back in the Italy I love…

My train

My train


Now, don’t get me wrong, tourists have a way of wandering into even the most  off-the-beaten-path  places in the world and my restaurant for the evening was no exception – but there were a  lot  of regulars in the place and they were treated as if they were family.

I have zero illusions about travel and places. Rome gets millions upon millions of visitors every year from people all around the world so I anticipated that, initially, I was just another American tourist. I was greeted by a, not surly, but just tired, waiter who said, “Good evening without much enthusiasm.”  When I told him, in Italian, that I was by myself he perked up a tiny bit – but only a tiny bit.

I told him I wanted mineral water, a half liter of house wine, and that I’d like to see the menu.  What I wanted as a first course wasn’t on the menu.  So I told the waiter, “I don’t see  cacio e pepe  (cheese and black pepper) on the menu. This is the most Roman of Roman dishes…. The water looked a bit surprised at me and replied, “We can make it for you.”  I, of course, knew that… and from that point on I was, while not treated like family, neither was I treated like a regular non-Italian speaking tourist that knew little -– or nothing -– about Italy and its food.

I made it an early night, went to bed, slept the sleep of the dead and the next morning I was off to Modena to spend the weekend with long-time friend Katherine Donnellan…

About the author 

Joel Jacobs is a retired U.S. Navy photographer. He has lived in Italy and now lives in Scatter Branch, Texas, near Commerce in Hunt County.


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