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Rome Diary IV: Il Mio Ritorno a Roma! Easter Sunday: April 1, 2018 Thunderstorms 62°F/17°C in Roma EUR, Italia Cloudy 80°F/27°C in Cedar Park, Texas Buona giornata amici miei!         A chorus of Buon Viaggio’s sent me on my way.  I bid my friends Arrivederci.  Ci vediamo miei amici! See you, my friends! Sergio, Laura’s dad replied, Ci vediamo PRESTO, Mike! See you SOON, Goin' Home! Mike! Then Michael drove me back to my rented apartment on Viale Cesare Pavese, to finish my packing and get a good night’s sleep before my departure. The flight back was tedious, but uneventful. On my stopover in Atlanta I went through a final passport check and answered a few perfunctory questions from the U.S. Customs officer. Then, I boarded my flight for the final two-hour flight back to Austin.       Dana and my grandson Jacob were waiting for me at the curb outside baggage claim for the drive to the apartment I had not seen in two months. Before she headed to the airport, my daughter had gone to the market and restocked my fridge, so I could make myself a snack before I went to bed.  Unlike Rome, where most people don’t eat their evening meal until after 8 o’clock, restaurants in Cedar Park tend to close by ten p.m. My two-month journey was over. La mia cara maestra Patrizia,        Prima di tutto, vorrei ringraziarla per aver concesso la mia richiesta di essere assente dalla classe italiana così che potessi viaggiare in Italia per due mesi. Il tuo studente, Mike (My Dear Teacher Patrizia,       First of all, I would like to thank you for granting my request to be absent from Italian Class, so I could travel to Italy for two months. Your student, Mike) My Italian teacher, Patrizia is from Puglia, Italy. I’ve been taking her class at Austin Community College ever since I arrived in Texas two years ago. According to my online course with Duo Lingo, I am now 49 % fluent in Italian. But, I am still at a loss without the Google Translator App on my IPhone. This trip was supposed to be a sort of final exam for me – putting my newly acquired language skills into a real-life situation while living in Rome. Candidly, after two months of actually living in Italy I would have to give myself a grade of “D!”  In other words, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Cara Patrizia,        Sono tornata nello stesso appartamento in euro che avevo affittato l'anno scorso. Ho shopped allo stesso supermercato Elite come l'ultima volta, ha incontrato i miei amici per aperitivo, cenato in ristoranti a Roma e Milano, e viaggiato in metropolitana. Ho incontrato la mia amica Monica dallo scambio di lingua. Ma, quando sono tornato in Texas, ho ancora sentito che le mie competenze in lingua italiana erano ancora molto inadeguata. Il tuo studente,  Mike (Dear Patrizia,       I returned to the same apartment in EUR that I had rented last year. I shopped at the same Elite supermarket as last time, met my friends for aperitivo, dined in restaurants in Rome and Milan, and traveled by Metro. I met my friend Monica from the language exchange. But, when I returned to Texas, I still felt that my skills in the Italian language were still very inadequate. Your student, Mike) We should have an interesting chat when I attend class on Thursday.          On this trip I arrived in Rome on a Monday morning in January. As usual, Michael was waiting for me right outside Customs. We drove quickly to my apartment on Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico, and quickly got me moved in for the next month. Normally, I take a few days off after a long flight like that, but my son had other ideas. We leave for Milan early tomorrow morning. You can get over your jet lag there, dad, my son informed me. Laura, his wife, is now working in Milan. She commutes from Rome to Milan via high-speed train on Mondays and returns home on Thursday or Friday. My son had planned a surprise birthday present for me in Milan. That’s the real reason I had Michael and Mike Botula, L'Ultima Cena no respite between my transatlantic flight and our train trip from Rome to Milano. Wednesday was my birthday, and Michael and Laura had something special in mind as a gift for me. That morning, Michael and I boarded a tram for the short trip to the Milan Cathedral. We were about to embark on a walking tour of the city. Where we wound up was the surprise birthday gift. The photo that accompanies my blog on this Easter Sunday is especially meaningful to me.  My birthday gift from Michael and Laura was a visit to the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milano, so I could visit Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece, L’Ultima Cena, the world-renowned The Last Supper. It was the high point, for me, of my entire two-month stay in Italy.        Our trip to Milan is recounted in my January 24th blog: Sopresa! Siamo a Milano!  You can read it on my blog or my website: www.mikebotula.com. In fact, my entire series of Rome Diaries is available on my website. I liken the series to Gulliver’s Travels, in Italian!         As I approached the end of my scheduled one-month sojourn in Rome, I began to regard my departure date with a sense of dread. One night over dinner, Laura asked, So, is there any real reason why you must leave?  Within a few minutes, Dana had agreed to keep Lola for another month, my doctors’ appointments were re-scheduled, and I had re-booked my return ticket. The deal was done.        The only snag in our plan to extend my stay came when I told my landlady, Amina, about my change of plan. Expecting me to vacate my little aerie in mid-February, she had rented the apartment to another person. A couple from Los Angeles, as it turned out. So, Laura, who is the unofficial international travel agent for the clan found another apartment a short distance away on Viale Cesare Pavese in the same neighborhood. Without missing a beat, I packed my bags and the three of us got me moved into my new digs. My new landlord was a retired Tunisian diplomat Neve in Roma! named Mohamed, who travels between his estate in Tunis and his apartment in Rome. Like many other Italians, when Mohamed goes on holiday or travels on extended business trips, he sublets his apartment through Airbnb or Home Finder. That’s how our paths crossed. When I told Mohamed that I was a writer and a retired journalist, naturally our conversation turned to European politics, and within a short time, we became fast friends. Italy’s general election was just a few weeks in the future, and Germany had just had an election, so we had a lot to talk about.       I was in that apartment when it snowed in Rome for the first time in years. The city was paralyzed. Buses and the metro stopped running. Schools and businesses shut down. It was magic. And next to seeing the Last Supper, the snowfall in the Eternal City was the high point of my holiday. I walked out on to my balcony and just savored the view. It was magic! Ciao, MikeBo [Mike Botula is the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! He is a retired broadcast journalist, government spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble Books. You can visit Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]

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