By Don and Linda Freedman

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ITALY Fall 1998 (1)
Index of this travelogue


Our early Fall 1998 trip to Italy was a year in the planning. We started early because it was to be a five week trip which would include regions and places we'd not previously visited; we were anxious to organize a get-together of internet friends; Linda's sister, Jill, and our brother-in-law, Richie, would be flying in from New York to join us for more than two of the weeks; and it was our 36th wedding anniversary so, considering we'd known each other little more than 36 days when we married, it was high time for our long-delayed honeymoon!

Once again the internet worked like a charm. Fabio and Cornelia, our Swiss friends, had enthusiastically recommended the Valle d'Aosta and Piemonte regions. This northwest corner of Italy is well-traveled and appreciated by Europeans but is still off the beaten path for other travelers. We tried contacting the regional tourist offices with little success but finally, with the help of internet friend Stefano in Italy, the information rolled-in and our anticipation increased. Stefano and Nicoletta also offered us dining and lodging suggestions. With so much great info, we already knew this trip would be a winner.

We like to acknowledge the help we receive via the internet because we are constantly thrilled by this medium's ability to bring us together. Our hope is to stimulate the desire in others to reach out person-to-person to forge international friendships which promote understanding and improve the quality of the traveling experience.

We'd met Laurie in just this way a couple of years ago and when she met and married Peter, we attended their wedding in Montreal. Now here we were again, arriving in Rome, where they live, on this second day of September on an incredibly hot day. Having been to Rome many times, always staying in the city center, we opted this time to stay out of the center within easy driving distance of our friends' home.
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An internet search yielded the Hotel Delle Muse, Via Tommaso Salvini 18,  located in the Parioli district, a quiet, green, residential area considered to be one of the most elegant parts of Rome. Though just a short bus ride from the center, you are in a different world. With its tree-lined streets and lovely homes, the tumult of the city faded as we approached the three star Hotel Delle Muse, two old villas, joined together, blending nicely into the neighborhood.

We were enthusiastically greeted by Giorgio Lazar, the warm and gregarious proprietor whom we had come to know since we started exchanging emails many months earlier. We were eager to meet Giorgio's parents who established the hotel 41 years ago and continue to be active in the day-to-day running of the business. With a dedicated staff, averaging 20 years at the hotel, we quickly discovered that they are like a family working together with the aim of ensuring the comfort and safety of every guest.

The hotel is comprised of sixty guest rooms of various shapes and sizes, all of which are immaculately clean and nicely decorated. Our room with its ceramic tile floor and ensuite modern bathroom, overlooked the garden. The front rooms face the quiet, tree-lined street.

The highlight of the property is the large garden at the rear of the hotel, visible from the modest but comfortable lobby. The garden has lots of space for lounging, relaxing, reading or writing postcards to the folks back home. We welcomed the chance to take some of our meals in the vine-covered area of the garden where guests who choose to eat at the hotel can enjoy fresh and simple fare, served at lunch and dinner time in warm weather. Most notable was the delicious preparation of spaghetti aglio/olio e peperoncino and, as we've come to expect in Italy, the freshest, most delicious vegetables and salads with the best balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs.

The ample buffet breakfast is served in an interior dining room. In this friendly environment, chatting with fellow guests over breakfast and in the public areas is quite natural. First-time guests and regular visitors alike expressed the same sentiment: "We love it here because we feel at home". It's no wonder that Gambero Rosso, the guide for savvy tourists to Italy, has designated the Hotel Delle Muse the best value hotel in Rome in its category.
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In our off-the-beaten-track wanderings, we found a terrific restaurant whose owners would probably prefer that we'd never discovered the place nor mentioned it to our readers. Ristorante/Pizzeria Bruno ai Quattro Venti on Viale dei Quattro Venti was jam-packed with local couples and families enjoying the reasonably priced home style cooking. We were lucky to get a table despite arriving without a reservation. The huge menu offers every basic Italian preparation you've ever enjoyed. We shared an appetizer of fritto misto veggies, deliciously battered and fried crisp-dry. Next we shared a Margherita pizza topped with rucola and potato gnocchi in a tomato sauce with a touch of cheese. Delicious, fresh watermelon was the perfect finish to our excellent meal.

As our readers already know, one of our favorite pastimes is seeking out the best gelaterias in Italy. This time we discovered three new favorites, the first of which was heartily endorsed by Giorgio on nearby Viale Somalia, 96, Il Gelato di Lanzallotto, a tiny place with line-ups all day long. Gelato is a personal thing, descriptions don't make it. Just find your way there and you be the judge. Later in this narrative, I'll tell you about our other gelato discoveries.

One evening, at Laurie and Peter's place our lively internet friend, Flavio, dropped by to say hello and have a beer with us. Later, Laurie and Peter prepared a delightful dinner. Laurie tossed cold rigatoni with tuna, tomato, bocconcini, oil and herbs while Peter grilled luscious sausages outside on their spacious terrace. Accompanied by green beans with tomatoes and Hungarian red wine, it was a super meal.

But the evening also brought the unwelcome news that Stefano and Nicoletta would be unable to attend the get-together nor continue on to Perugia with Linda and me for our planned three day visit to Umbria. Nicoletta's obstetrician had decided that the long drive from Genova would not be appropriate at that time. We took comfort in the fact that our itinerary included two days in Genova, when we'd spend time together.

We gave thought to going to Umbria on our own, but found that without a car we'd be missing too much. Flexibility is the name of the game and the decision was made to spend the three days after the Chiusi get-together in Firenze and do a bit of honeymoon shopping while there. Giorgio helped us choose a hotel and gladly made the reservations for us.
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to next pageto Chiusi or choose a city below

(1) Rome
(2) Chiusi
(3) Firenze
(4) Camogli
(5) Genova
(6) Bellagio
(7) Valle d'Aosta
(8) Torino
(9) Piemonte
(10) Pavia & Stresa

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