Except for Janet being robbed by a motorcycle bandit in Rome, it’s been a wonderful trip this past week and I’d recommend Italy to anyone.
We had gotten lost in the dark walking back to our bed ’n breakfast, from a cozy, little restaurant recommended by our innkeeper. In daylight, that restaurant had seemed just around the corner.
Walking a few paces behind me, Janet heard someone running toward her. A young man yanked her purse from her grasp and hopped up on the back of a motorcycle driven by his partner in crime.
Janet yelled. I looked back to see the two young men speeding off.
"He has my purse!", Janet shouted. Three young men ahead of us looked up. Unfortunately, we did not speak Italian, but our gestures showed something was wrong.
We found our way back to our hotel as Janet mentally totaled the damages: a cell phone, a credit card and a relatively small amount of cash. I still had my cell phone so Janet used it to cancel her credit card.
"Visa must have a lot of cancellations," she said, "because I was talking to a machine."
Next, we worked on shutting down the phone. Verizon is not as easy as Visa so by the time we got through, an hour had passed, but we learned insurance would cover most of the loss.
"By now," I said, "your cell phone is probably in the Tiber River."
The small amount of cash was gone, but it could have been worse. No one was physically injured.
Our friendly innkeeper, Marco, and his pretty wife, Gianna, the next morning were mortified.
"It happens," Marco reflected. He told us about a motorcycle bandit who knocked his elderly mother over attempting to grab her purse.
Other than that, our two days in Rome were wonderful. We had spent the afternoon with probably a thousand tourists, audio devices in hand, all of us staring up at Michelangelo’s paintings in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We walked through a portion of the fabulous Vatican Museum. I read a complaint that Napoleon had carried off several outstanding pieces for the Louvre in Paris. Regardless, the Vatican Museum still looks fabulous and goes on, and on, and on. The day before we had been at the Borghese.
Some places in Europe make an American tourist feel like a hick. Not so in Italy, where the hard-working people we encountered were mostly friendly and welcoming, some mentioning relatives living in America.
Slowly heading south along the Italian peninsula to join a bus tour in Sicily, we stopped for two days in Sorrento. It stands at the northern end of the Amalfi Coast, Italy’s version of the Riviera, a fashionable place that once hosted celebrities like Sophia Loren, Rudolf Nureyev, and Gore Vidal and more recently Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Jordan, Beyoncé, Cameron Diaz and others.
A two-lane road hundreds of feet above the sea, carefully chiseled out of steep limestone cliffs, connects Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. They are lovely, flower bedecked seaside communities hundreds of years old. For $50 per person, we took a daylong SUV guided tour and saw breath-taking scenery, but no celebrities.
A day earlier, we had ridden the ferry to Capri, the touristy island of rugged limestone cliffs. Long an artist colony, late 19th and early 20th century, socially marginalized writers like Oscar Wilde and D.H. Lawrence, took refuge there. In Roman times, emperors relaxed on Capri.
Food and souvenir prices in Sorrento are similar to those of Ohio. A Youngstown native, Janet pronounced the spaghetti delicious. Our meals with wine were surprisingly inexpensive.
I have read that Italy is confronting a horrible refugee crisis as thousands flee the hell of northern and central Africa and risk crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats for the security and opportunity of Italy and Europe. We did not see that in Sorrento or along the Amalfi Coast. Tourism is booming. Shops and restaurants were full. Our ears picked up Italian, English, and German, some French, Polish, and Russian. The Chinese, enthusiastic travelers, have not yet found Sorrento.
David E. Dix is a former publisher of the Record-Courier.