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Plotting a course out of Roma
After our week in Roma, we were due to check out on Saturday, March 2nd, then make our way back up to Siena and our next rental villa. Because Dawn, David, and Keegan were now traveling with us, the logistics were a bit more complicated.
We had arranged for a very late check-out time at 12:00 noon. Meanwhile, David needed to pick up his own rental car at the train station at 11:00 AM. We knew from our previous walk to the Museo Nazionale Romano that it takes about one and a half hours to walk there, and David was not enamored of making that hike by himself. The alternative of Dawn, David, and Keegan all walking there with all of their luggage was not appealing either. We decided that the best solution would be for us to drive David there in our own car.
This required some additional logistics on our own end. Because we had found a rare free parking space right next to the apartment a week ago, we had not moved our car since. We would have to load all of our own luggage before we took David to the train station, as we might not be able to find a comparable space again afterwards. So at 10:00 AM, Gail and Russell (with some help from David) packed up our station wagon. At 10:30 AM Gail and Russell drove David to the train station, leaving Dawn behind with the three children.
So far, so good. We navigated Roma's downtown streets (which did not match our Roma map) with Russell driving like a native, dropped David off, and drove back to the Piazza Trilussa, where amazingly enough we found another free parking space very close to our apartment. However, because our station wagon was now loaded with all of our luggage, we could not leave it unattended. So Russell volunteered to keep an eye on the car, while Gail returned to the apartment to help Dawn and make lunch for Cameron and Joss. (While we were out, Dawn had actually taken the three children out for a walk in order to find a bancomat so that she could withdraw some money. She found four, but they were all out of service.)
A half hour later, at 11:45, Gail came out to tell Russell that the landlord was here for check-out. She took a turn to stay with the car, and Russell headed back to the apartment. Just outside, he bumped into David. David was not happy. He had gone into the train station 45 minutes ago to rent the car, but they would not let him have it because he did not have his driver's license. In fact, David had not even brought his driver's license to Europe (the rental agency had told him that he would only need his passport and a credit card. Dawn had a driver's license, but the car reservation was in David's name.) David had walked all the way back from the train station to the apartment in 45 minutes, desperate to arrive before we checked out.
Fortunately, after we checked out at noon, Massimiliano the landlord said that we could continue to use the apartment for as long as we needed to that day. So Gail now took a turn watching the three children in the apartment, while Russell drove David and Dawn back to the train station, as both of them would be needed in order to get their car. By now Russell was an expert at getting to and from the train station, and after dropping them off he was amazingly able to find yet another free parking space very close to the apartment. Gail minded a very fussy Keegan and Russell ate hot dogs at the car until Dawn and David showed up again -- this time with their car -- 45 minutes later.
(Dawn and David had additional problems actually getting their car. The agency demanded a credit card with the same name as the driver's license holder. While Dawn had a driver's license, she did not have a credit card. And while David had a credit card, he did not have a driver's license. Dawn was ultimately able to produce a bank debit card, which the agency used to pay for the car rental. After Dawn and David subsequently walked out to retrieve their car, they discovered that it did not have the promised baby seat. They had to walk back to the train station to get one. And their actual drive back to the apartment was further delayed by a number of road closures due to ongoing Italian demonstrations that day.)
By now it was almost 1:30 PM -- an hour and a half later than our intended departure time -- so we left Keegan with his parents in the apartment, got in our car, and finally left Roma. (We needed to get an early start because as usual we did not plan to take the autostrada. Dawn and David had actually stayed up late the night before researching all of the places they might tour on their own way up. We wondered if they would still have the time.)
By now, we were also experts at making our way from Roma to Toscano, and we had a very smooth drive. The thermometer registered 23° C (73° F), the warmest weather we've had in months. We took the A12 autostrada for a short distance until Civitavecchia in order to bypass all of the coastal towns we had gotten stuck in a week ago, then took our old friend the SS1 back to Grosseto. From there, we turned inland towards Siena on the SS223. Our ultimate goal was Castellina in Chianti, a small town north of Siena where our next villa awaited us. In the end, we couldn't have timed things more perfectly. After only two and a half hours of driving, we arrived in Castellina at 4:00 PM, giving us enough time to do some grocery shopping at the local Coop mercato and visit our own bancomat. This in turn enabled us to arrive at the villa just after 5:00 PM, the earliest check-in time allowed.
Outside of Castellina we turned onto a 3-km dirt road leading to the villa. (On the Web, previous tenants had described the unpaved road with horror, but after Carnarvon in Australia and the entire country of Tanzania, the drive was a piece of cake for us). In the end we found Il Caggio, a set of villas that are technically categorized as "agriturismo" (the Italian equivalent of a self-catered accommodation). The landlord, was Lisa, a Canadian ex-patriot who has been living in Italy with her twenty-month-old son, Matteo. The property also boasted a dog named Charlie and a cat named Geneve (Joss was ecstatic).
Il Caggio, our villa outside of Castellina in Chianti -- our unit is called "Cabernet"
Our villa is the largest -- it can accommodate six people in three bedrooms -- but it only has one bathroom, and theree is no living room, telephone, or television (Roma had a television, but everything was in Italian, so we never bothered to turn it on). Fortunately, the kitchen and its contents were much cleaner than in Roma, and Gail set out cooking dinner while Russell unloaded the car. The Miller/Schaefers arrived at about 6:30 PM (they had not left Roma until two hours after we did, but they gained time on the autostrada), and we didn't end up eating our dinner until after 8:00 PM (Dawn and David had their own frozen pizza even later, at 9:30 PM).
The villa's heat had just been turned on that morning, so everyone was pretty cold (our gas charge here is about 1€ per hour). We ended up buying some firewood from the office, and Gail and Dawn spent the later part of the evening relaxing in front of the fireplace while Keegan wiggled around on the floor. After all of our struggles getting out of Roma, it was good to put up our feet and relax.
Tending fire (this is the entire "living room" for the seven of us)
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