Death by Taxi Driver

About the time most of you read this, we’ll be on a plane back for the United States.  Forgive any typos and misspelling because I’m in a hurry to make sure I get this posted!

Where did we leave off?  Oh, yeah, right before we pilgrimmed to Cascia.  St. Rita hums – that’s the best way I can put it – and in all the best ways.

Leaving Cascia, our GPS plotted us a course to Todi.  When it insisited I drive down what looked like stairs in Cascia, I knew we were in trouble. I dutifully followed the directions, bumping down the stairs, and then it gave us a left turn onto an almost single-lane sorta paved road going straight up a mountain, with a sheer drop-off on the right and no guardrail.  Um.. have we ever mentioned my vertigo and fear of heights?  I can deal if there’s a guardrail or if I’m driving on the inside lane, but driving on the road ahead of me had my heart racing and my little fists clutching the steering wheel like it was my grip on sanity. The boys kept offering to have me pull over (where?!?!?!) and they would drive, but I told them I couldn’t sit on the passenger side of a sheer dropoff either.  After about 10 kilometers of that, I finally was  breathing somewhat normally and dealing as best I could.   The mind has a way of starting to block out what is terrifying, which is handy.  This route took us through more windy, obscure mountain passes than I thought existed.  A couple of hours later, it dumped us out on the highway going into Todi.  But an excellent method to cure me of some of my fear of mountain driving.  By the time we drove into Orvieto to the train, I was passing cars on windy mountain passes.

And here we are in Rome. All my life I had heard of Rome cab drivers, that they are crazy, drive crazy, just close your eyes when you get in a cab.  My suggestion when our train got into Termini was to take the Metro to our hotel, which a metro stop was really close by, we had a map, it would have been perfect.  No, the boys wanted the “convenience” of a cab.  I had major doubts, but…. we hailed a cab.  Any of you ever play the Grand Theft Auto game?  The boys couldn’t figure out on the drive over whether to jump out at a stop light in terror or take notes on his driving technique for GTA4.  I was terrified, so I just blocked it out and didn’t look.  Now, we gave him the address of our hotel, but I guess he decided just taking us to the other side of the Tiber was good enough, and he basically dumped us out there, indicating Viale Vaticano and gesturing up the hill.  Well, hell, I had no idea where we were, and maybe it was around the corner, and then he just threw our bags out and sped off.

Where were we?  We had no idea.  Luckily we had the GPS, which we pulled out, only to find we were still about a kilometer from our hotel, So we walked there, dragging our bags and hot butts behind us.  

St. Peter’s Basilica (again, we don’t have pictures yet, no SD card adapter for this computer) is… hmmm, I don’t have words. It is a place you can see thousands of pictures of and still not get it.  It’s just a place you have to go inside of and see. I could have easily spent a couple of days just in there.  My not-so-little nontourists at least let me spend an hour before they jetted out.  

Wednesday, tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Sistine Chapel…. meh.  Kidding!!!!!!!  It is truly a work of art on a scale that you just have to see.  Paying for the tour was worth it, just the little asides on how it got done, the politics between artists, but seeing it is something you have to do if you are anywhere near it.   

Follow-up for the afternoon was the Coliseum.  Holy Emperor, McFly, I’m sorta moved that I was standing on some of the same spots that people stood almost 2k years ago.  Rome is full of that, excavations, bits of stone buildings.  Rome itself?  Yikes, it’s a dirty fright of a city, but I get its magic because I want to come back, but only for a day or two at a time.

These places are like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon, if you’ve never seen them, you take the “idea” of them for granted, but once you go in person and see how truly vast or rich or beautiful they are, your perception of those terms are changed forever and some of the significance of your life is both dwarfed and magnified. 

Now it’s a good night’s sleep and home.  How I long for home. My own bed, unlimited coffee in the morning, my dog, my books, my kitchen I never use.  It has been a wonderful adventure and one I would do again.  Taking a trip like this with your grown children is a treat – you learn about each other in ways you would have never done in just daily living.  By the end of three weeks, we are now picking apart how each other eats or clacks a fork on teeth.  It is both frazzling to nerves and endearing.  We’ve learned how to be more patient with each other because the world’s a big place out here and can be lonely and scary unless you have some people to laugh and share it with.

Thanks for sharing this with me.  Ciao until next week!

  • sylvia says:

    welcome home! i was in rome a million years ago (ok, it was in like ’96 and i was in 5th grade. i dont remember much except that at the coliseum there was a little orange cat prowling among the ruins. on the ancient side of the metal fence. i was completely enamored of that.

  • March says:

    I love how you drove down the stairs? Also, why did the taxi driver stop at the stop light? 😕 That sounds like a chicken crossing the road joke…

    I am happy you went, but I missed you and I’m happy you’re coming home.

  • sariah says:

    Hi Patty,

    I like your observation about how much you have learned about each other, in ways you wouldn’t at home. I spent a month traveling with my sister years ago in China, and it is so true. At home we barely saw each other between our seperate school, work and friends. Traveling together finally let me get to know her, and we ended up becoming friends, not just sisters. Two stubborn independent people finally had to rely on each other, and it was a blast. China was a difficult place to travel, probably still is, but I remember the challenges now and laugh – much like your cliff side highways and near-death cab experience.

  • Elle says:

    Wow! Am incredibly impressed that you drove those roads. I’d never have managed. I share your fear of heights and my space perception on the road is awkwardly near to nonexistent – I only drive tiny cars because only w/ them do I feel I have any chance of staying in my lane.
    Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful, magical trip! Hope you have a mini vacation scheduled for when you get home to give you time to decompress and recover.

  • Francesca says:

    I’ve so enjoyed reading your travel posts. As far as the guardrailless narrow winding mountain passes, I think I would have to get out of the car, get as far from the edge as possible, and crawl up on my stomach, with my eyes shut.

  • Erin T says:

    My father just got back from Thailand. He has nerves of steel – he’s been a steadying presence through *terrifying* rides we’ve taken all over the world – but he was shaken by a taxi trip with a work colleague about 30 mins outside of Bangkok. He is sure the guy was high. At one point, the guy looked over at my Dad, who had the seeing-death-coming seat, and said: “Here. You drive.” My dad said he needed to change money at a little store/station, the driver got out to do something and my dad and his work buddy ran away, “very quickly for old fellas”. As he says, “You just don’t want to die that way.” And I hear you on the mountain passes, too. We did the Gorges du Verdun last year and I actually cried a little, even though the Cheese drove really well.

  • Debbie says:

    How unbelievably bad regarding that taxi driver! Beyond words.

    We’ll be so glad to get you back here. 😡

  • Nava says:

    One of my Roman cab rides was absolutley the most terrifying of my life. And I’ve had a few pretty scary New York City cab rides!

    Patty, your trip sounded like it was amazing. These days, I am only willing to board an American airliner only if it will transport me to the places you visited. Truly heaven on earth. Except for maybe those mountain roads.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I don’t recall my life being in danger in Roman taxis, but I do remember taking my life into my hands trying to cross the streets. I lived there for a summer and loved it, the food, the ruins, the smells and sounds, but not the sweltering heat. I’m glad you are happy to be heading home!! Have a safe trip.

  • tmp00 says:

    No, thank you for sharing it with us and have a safe flight home!