Jay Beeler

The 2007 movie “The Bucket List,” starring Jack Nichelson and Morgan Freeman, served as my motivation to visit Italy. Thanks to some international clients in the 1980s and 1990s, I’ve enjoyed numerous trips to major world destinations – but not this Southern Europe nation-state.

The Beelers West (son Jeff and daughter Mindy) and the Beelers East (sister Margie, niece Susan and great-niece Becca) wanted to participate in my octogenarian excursion, so off to Rome we flew on ITA Airways 12 days ago.

We stayed in the downtown Fellini Hotel, which must be the Italian way of spelling “tiny.” The elevator accommodated two tightly squeezed passengers or only one person and a piece of luggage. The beds were two singles within inches of each other and the clothing storage was sufficient for two nudists. This was in stark contrast to the 5-star hotels I’ve enjoyed in years past.

With a population of 4.4 million, many of the cobblestone streets in central Rome are the same. They are about 12 feet wide with one way traffic, hordes of people, bikes, scooters, tiny cars and tiny trucks competing with one another, constantly cautioning others with their horns. Every 15 minutes or so a couple of police cars would speed by and contribute to the madness with ear-piercing, HE-HAW sirens.

We visited the Sistine Chapel (Michaelangelo was a very good ceiling painter), the Trevi Fountain and a few of the many attractions the city has to offer. A couple of golf carts whisked us within inches of the craziest drivers on earth to provide an overview of Rome, even though a horse-drawn carriage was in the initial planning.

And they have fantastic food – lots of it with gobs of wine to wash it down – but no linguini with clam sauce on the menus that I saw.


The second half of the trip took us to the laid-back town of Orvieto, about 75 minutes north of the big city with bigger rooms and elevators. Perched on a rock cliff, it has a population of 20,468. The Grand Italia Hotel even has a lobby with much more seating than the Fellini Hotel’s two chairs.

And they have more fantastic food and wine, but no linguini.

Orvieto’s cobblestone streets were wide enough to have a large, Saturday farmers market with food, clothing and lots of other stuff that we did not need to bring home. Late Sunday afternoon, in that same town square area, we were treated to music played by a half dozen local high school bands with colorful flags being skillfully tossed in the air. Apparently, they do this once per year and we lucked out by being there at that special time.

We enjoyed wine-tasting sessions with food at two nearby wineries. This is one way you can share Italy with your friends and neighbors at Christmas time.


Thanks to a torn meniscus in my right knee in mid-May, Italy’s numerous stairs and uneven streets were a challenge, despite physical therapy and injections to make things better during the summer months. Drugs, a cane and an occasional airport wheelchair ride made long walks tolerable.

Italy gets an “F” for being ADA compliant – mostly in the areas dating back to the Medieval Period. Handicapped parking, ramps and wheelchair accessibility do not exist, based on the places we visited. Only the Sistine Chapel in Rome offered provisions for those with disabilities.

The highlight of our trip was a Saturday evening visit to La Chiave dei Sapori in Giove Terni, a restaurant owned by our North Carolina-based travel agent. Daughter Mindy arranged for a young, female Italian opera star to serenade us toward the end of our meal, followed by a much-appreciated rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.” Indeed, it was very happy, with many fond memories not soon forgotten.

This was another vacation that reminded me that “There’s no place like home.” Despite its uniqueness, Italy does not offer the wide variety of amenities we enjoy in Long Beach. Simple things like zero sugar Coffee-Mate to use in the morning cup of coffee and multiple menu items (with English translations) go a long way toward appreciating what we have every day.


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