When in Rome (or the outskirts)

So the flight to Rome was horrific. I was sat in the middle of a gaggle of teenagers who had clearly been to Ireland for a school tour. And as teenagers are wont to do they shrieked a lot and caused lots of brouhaha. I was on the window seat – my least favourite location on a plane – preferring the extra legroom that the aisle seat offers. Being someone of distinctly average height this is important.

The pair of adolescents beside me wanted to take pictures out of the window of the plane so spent the first hour of the flight leaning over me to get a proper view of the plane wing from my window. To stop this nonsense I started reading a book and positioned it to block their view. This may be cold and callous but I wanted some peace and quiet. Having thwarted their burgeoning photography careers they decided to play musical chairs with the teenagers in the seats in front of us. The buck-toothed lass departed and in her place came a sunglasses bedecked, pimply male youth with the angriest looking love-bite on his neck that I have seen in years. He clearly has not heard of the toothpaste concealer. I judged him harshly- the dirty stop-out.

Finally the flight attendants had enough and told all the teenagers to take their seats at once. Well someone had to – the teachers were asleep – their spirits clearly broken by the exuberance of youth.

We finally landed and made our way to the bowels of the airport to our orange jeep and followed the arrows to the exit.

Not being an avid believer in stereotypes as they are generally just exaggerations of a clichés, we were open-mindedly, minding our own business, following the arrows to the exit. Who should we meet but an Italian driver, coming in the opposite direction, chatting excitedly on his phone, who started shouting at us in annoyance when he had to reverse his car to let us pass. I guess there is some kernel of truth in stereotypes – the mad Italian driver being one of them.

It took about an hour to get to the hotel – and it involved a stopover in a petrol station rest stop. We had initially ignored all the drivers signalling to us. ‘Oh leave us alone – we are not as good at driving as you’ we innocently thought. When a woman passed us and honked her horn and started gesticulating wildly, we realised something more serious was amiss. Oh of course. We were driving along the autostrada without lights.

As you do.

We finally reached the palace. Oh yes – we may be working in an industrial park but the hotel is a 17th century palace built on a freshwater spring.

My bedroom involved a four poster bed, and a chandelier descending from a painted ceiling. The marble bathroom with its rainwater shower and ornate bidet was the finishing touch that nearly finished me off. I felt guilty about disturbing the beauty.

I overcame my reservations.

It is all so incredibly ornate and beautiful. If this was in Ireland it would be regarded as gaudy and tacky and way over the top. But because it is Italy it screams authenticity.

Make no mistake – it remains absolutely gaudy, and tacky and way over the top.

That’s always been my favoured decorating style.

And I love it. I am almost looking forward to the industrial park. I may start getting notions about myself otherwise.


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