September 25

The next thing I saw out the window was again the Sea -- the Mediterranean Sea, reflecting a wide sunsplash back up to the airplane, and some small islands. Beaches, beachfront condos, farms, highways. Nice way to see a new land for the first time, to see it from above so it looks pretty much the same as what you just left. We landed about ten minutes early, exactly as predicted by our pilot just minutes after takeoff from Philly last night. Or was it early this morning? Depends on what time zone I convince myself I'm in. Good thing I almost got some decent sleep.

When your airport is near Rome, you get to name it after some really cool artist -- in this case, Leonardo da Vinci. Seems fitting. Orville and Wilbur can have their airport too, but Leonardo gets first dibs here in l'Italia. Like a few other things in Rome, I'm to find out, no one really calls it by its official name. Instead, the airport's common moniker is geographic, a reference to the nearby town of Fiumicino.

With my UW "cheat sheet" in hand telling me the location of everything from customs to airport taxis to escalators and ramps, I feel downright charmed in walking through this strange new place while knowing exactly where to turn and how far to go. There's construction and remodeling everywhere, so I imagine that even the locals have a difficult time finding their usual markers, but I consult the oracle and find baggage claim, money exchange, even the bathroom without any difficulty. I get a train ticket into town, (15,000 Lire, about eight bucks) and put the heavy baggage down for the half-hour ride. My, these people dress quite nicely!

I show the conductor my paper ticket, purchased from a machine, while the stylish guy across from me flashes some sort of pass framed in its own oblong compact. My, these people look good riding the train!

There are a few other English-speaking passengers on the train, but I quietly look out the window to soak up the ambience of the new world I've discovered. The colors on the buildings are the first overwhelming sensory perception that can't be avoided. Bright yellows, faded oranges, deep reds, the buildings all look like autumn leaves that have begun decaying. The fact that the color itself seems to be falling off the buildings adds urgency to the sense of beauty. It's that powdery, fading-too-soon look that results when primer isn't used underneath the paint. But these are no ordinary-looking paints either. These are like pigments taken straight out of nature, essential hues that don't look like paint so much as just plain color, like they grew there as part of the building. Making it last doesn't seem to be a priority; maybe there's so much color to spare around here that another chalky layer can be added on later when the previous shade has faded to expose the stone behind it.

Most of the buildings seem to be around half a dozen stories tall -- no skyscrapers in these suburbs. Masking their facades, from the ground floor to the highest balcony, are bed sheets, socks, dresses, shirts, all strung on long lines in front of every window in sight. Some clothes are plain white and some are deeper shades and some are a wider variety of colors than the buildings they hang from.

Laundry Day. And you without a clothes dryer. Well, it's certainly warm enough outside to hang it all out to dry. Me, I feel like I could use a cool, refreshing shower, even in the air-conditioned train. How long have I been wearing these same clothes now?

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