We’re busy preparing explanations as to why we’ll be waddling off the plane in Sydney on June 26. There is an irresistible attraction in Italy to putting on weight. This is because the staple food is pasta and even when you’re sick to death of it, it is hard to avoid because you end up switching from spaghetti to macaroni to penne to pizza to calzone and return along the same route. Apart from some brief diversions into seafood salad or fine dining, pasta dominates. Actually, it is not quite so fatifying as I used to think, because when it is cooked its GI (glycaemic index) doesn’t even move the needle to the halfway mark. Dieticians add that pasta is less fattening when firm rather than flaccid. I’m tempted to extemporise on this notion, but I shall refrain.
One of my favourite dishes is calzone – but it can look daunting when it arrives on the plate. Although it is no more than a pizza folded in half, it presents as being too much to costume in one sitting. This one from the other night illustrates the confrontation.
There is a degree of mystery and excitement when you begin at the easterly point and work your way towards the middle. Initially, there is nothing but crust, then a quiet dawn of cheese, soon followed by a riot of rampant, runny cheese, ham, tomato and whatever else the chef threw in – but you can’t see it until you hoik it out. By the time you are at the westerly extremity, with most of the calzone having disappeared beneath the portcullis, a gentle sunset crust is quite welcome.
A FAB retrospective
During our travels we’ve connected with many people who, like us, are cruising through their savings, trying to spend the last dollar just as the grim reaper presses the doorbell. These people, many of them retirees, are delighted by cruise ships that are so enormous they can reproduce what the trippers left behind on land – which seems a bit pointless to me. There are go-kart tracks, climbing walls, forests and streets – all to make you feel as though you’re not at sea. I thought our FAB was a big bugger, with its 50,000 tonnes, crew of 828 and nearly 1900 guests, but it’s a tiddler compared to the biggest, Symphony of the Seas. That can swallow 6,680 guests plus 2,200 crew members for a total of nearly 9,000 people. It has 18 decks, 22 restaurants, 24 pools and 2759 cabins.
Symphony of the Seas – too much like home.
I must say I enjoyed the FAB (proper name: Holland America Line’sOosterdam) as an experience but do it again? I don’t think so. I like boats and I like the sea but moving along in a waterborne suburb is not for me – especially when contemplating going on something three times the size of the FAB. For the record, our 12 days covered 2647 miles at an average speed of 14 knots and guzzled up 180,000 gallons of fuel. Symphony of the Seas (below) statistics would be jaw-dropping.
Last day in Como
Wednesday 20 June 2018
Off to Rome tomorrow but today we said goodbye to Como with a trip to the beach followed by an alfresco pasta dinner. The dinner was up to expectations, but the beach was a surprise. First, I didn’t know Como had a beach. I’d only seen kids jumping off stone walls into the lake on our many ferry voyages, but when we went for a late afternoon walk in 30-degree heat, there it was: sand, modest waves, people swimming and sunbaking. The only problem is, if more than ten people wanted to have a day at the beach it would be overcrowded.
On the walk we also came across the famous statue of Felice Cavallotti also known as The Angry Accuser. He’s pointing at the sculptor who draped a dress on him instead of supplying him with legs.
“You bastard! Yes, I’m talking to you!”
The Smart Hotel in Rome
Wednesday 21 June 2018
Whoever designed the Smart Car also designed the hotel we moved into in Rome. With only five rooms shoehorned into a space that should have yielded no more than two, it is tucked away in a maze of cobbled streets in the delightful historic part of the city not far from the Trevi Fountain.
The hotel reception is so small that when you open the modest front door inwards it takes up nearly all the room in the foyer. The receptionist, an attractive girl who seems to see the funny side of the place, is wedged into a corner behind an encircling wooden desk. The bedrooms are all up a long flight of stairs with a punishing gradient that makes you wonder if you really need what’s in your suitcase. To her credit, the receptionist, only slightly built, comes to the rescue. She and her colleague, also slightly built, take the risk of a coronary as, in tandem, they groan their way up with our cases – based on the principle that dead guests don’t pay but you can always get another girl.
If our hotel room in Bologna was small, this one is like looking down the wrong end of a telescope. That is, until you come to the skinny wardrobe that is so tall I had to jump like a basketballer to hang up my clothes. There are no drawers and the one shelf is so high you could only use it with a step ladder. The tap over the basin is a mechanical mystery – maybe a masterpiece. It has a single handle and turns on and off a different way each time you use it. It’s randomness also applies to the hot and cold function. You’d never get bored with this tap. Maybe to make the room look bigger, the bed is virtually on the floor – which also prevents the mattress from excessive sagging. When you get up in the morning you must get up to get up. People with weak thighs may have to stay in bed until a block and tackle is called in.
Why are we staying here, you may ask? On the recommendation of friends who have stayed here and rate charm, position and economy over practicality. And maybe they’re right, because outside the anonymous front door is ancient history all laid out in 3D.