Ciao, Bella!

We have arrived in Italia.  Yesterday (today?) was such a whirlwind of last-minute stuff (why is the last minute never enough time to do all the things that need done at the last minute?) that I didn’t have time to post.  We are now physically here, and just waiting for our brains to handle the jet lag and join us in lovely Saronno.

My FIL showed up early Tuesday morning and drove us to the airport at PIT.  We breezed through security, made slightly less egregious by the introduction of the “kids under 12 need not remove their shoes” rule.  Yay.  Us and our eight bags had a little breakfast in the food court- me, a fabulous (for on the go) cup of Umpqua Oats; the kids enjoyed cups of cold cereal and orange juice; and DH had a burger with fries.  For breakfast.

Our flight to JFK was super quick – just over an hour.  Wewere on one of those little puddle jumpers that isn’t a prop plane, but is barely a jet.  One seat on the port side and two on starboard.  We had a very nice flight attendant named Ana who was excited to hear we were headed to Italy.  She suggested we check out the Cinqueterra area if we had an extra day.  Apparently there was severe flooding and mudslides there last year, but she had heard they cleaned much, if not all, of it up.

Two slight mistakes we made in planning:  one, we ended up with bulkhead row seats on the PIT – JFK flight.  That’s not a big deal unless you are travelling with the maximum carryon baggage allowance.  The bulkhead seats do not have seats in front of them, which means no place to stuff your second small bag.  We had to shove the kids’ backpacks into another overhead bin, but it was tight.

Two: we did not contemplate the immense size of JFK and the herculean efforts involved in making a cross-carrier connection there.  JFK has no fewer than 8 terminals, all connected by a tram that goes round and round all day long, joining the terminals like hours on a clock.  We flew in on American Eagle, which dumped us off at a [very remote corner of] terminal 7.  Terminal 7 is owned and operated by the Kingdom of American Airlines.  Only AA arrivals and departures are displayed there.  No other airline information is available from within the Kingdom of American Airlines.  You must exit the Kingdom to find out where your connecting flight is supposed to be- presumably another terminal, but which one?  There was no wifi available, my cell phone didn’t work, and we couldn’t figure out where on earth we could learn just which one of our other seven choices was the right one.  This wouldn’t have been so bad if there was a hub-and-spoke sort of arrangement, with some centralized information available to assist a person in choosing the correct terminal.  But no, the center is just a lot of concrete and bridges and angry taxicabs and people rushing to go wherever they are going.  So you are on your own.

Finally I got Delta’s webpage to load and deducted that our gate was in the second of FOUR Delta terminals.  While American Airlines has a kingdom at JFK, DL has a freaking empire.

We followed the tram around to terminal 2/3.  We went in to the terminal, swallowed our pride, and asked an official-looking person for help.  She was incredibly kind and sympathetic and said that our gate information should be on our boarding passes.  I explained that this key bit of information had been omitted from both the paper passes I printed at home and the more recent ones we got in PIT when we checked in.  So she kindly went to the computer and looked up our flights, then thoughtfully wrote the gate number and terminal number on the boarding pass for us (so we wouldn’t forget), told us which security line to get through so we would come out  closest to our gate, and spelled out the directions slowly and clearly so we could understand them.  I wish I knew her name, because I would totally send her flowers.

After a hike – uphill, just inches away from a lot of snarly traffic with kids in tow- we made it to the correct terminal and got into the security line.  Finally we were through, with about 2 hours to kill.  We decided to get some dinner and relax until boarding at 4:20.  The kids wanted to go to cha-cha-cha-Chili’s, and since it was pretty much the only choice for food served with metal flatware (instead of plastic utensils), I conceded.  I had an uninspired but not overly indulgent grilled chicken salad and water.  Since it was “vacation”, I let the kids pick whatever they wanted.  Predictably, both had lemonade to drink and ordered mac & cheese, O6’s with fries and S8’s with mandarin oranges.  DH had a burger and fries.  I hope this is not a trend.

We headed over to our gate area, and DH sat with the luggage while I took the kids to the restroom.  We sat a little longer and then I decided to get coffee.  S8 tagged along and we stopped at a newsstand on the way.  I got the kids two paperback books to read on the plane.  S8 immediately buried her nose in one and read even while walking over to the Starbucks around the corner.

We waited in line behind a group of German motorcyclists.  Really, they were a German motorcycle gang.  They all had leathers on with bold patches on the back proclaiming them to be members of a Spanish-sounding group (fortunately not Los Bandidos, but one never knows).  It appeared that they had been visiting Miami on holiday and were just getting a quick cappuccino before boarding to fly home.  The shortest one of the group, shorter than me, wore a black cap with the word CAPITANO embroidered boldly in white letters.   Half the group did not speak German so they were all talking in English.  S8 and I had fun watching them and listening to them talk about America.

Meanwhile, DH tried to get our seats changed so that we were together, but it was a full flight so no luck there.  We had two seats in row 21 and another pair in row 25, which really wasn’t a big deal.  Each of us took a kid and settled in for the evening.  We boarded quickly and smoothly and by about 5:15 PM we were in the air, headed to Milano.

The flight was nice in that they had video screens on the seatbacks in front of us, so we could enjoy a surprisingly large selection of complimentary media, music and games.  Of course, I brought knitting, and made good progress on a sock while monitoring the “flight tracker map” feature of my screen.  S8 sat with me for the first half of the flight, then the kids switched places and I sat with a very energetic O6 for the duration.  Neither of them slept until we were nearly landing, unfortunately.

At MXP we deplaned, tired but happy to be on the ground, and hunted down our rental car office.  The woman who helped us was efficient and helpful. Within minutes we had a key and directions to the parking garage.  Whee.  We have a cute little four-door with a surprising amount of trunk space.  It’s a six-speed diesel, and my brain is completely blanking on the make and model.

DH was a little rusty with his navigation but things came back as we headed towards Milano from Malpensa.  We followed the signposts to Saronno just fine.  There was a little trouble orienteering in the town but we eventually located the Cyrano.  DH checked us in and they kindly said we could check in early, even though it was only about 10AM.  He showered and went into the office for a bit, while the girls and I passed out.  Around 2pm they sent him back here to sleep, and here we still are.

O6 woke up a bit ago and wanted a snack, so she went into my stash of “granilla” bars and ate one while reading the Italian phrasebook I brought along.  Now she’s restless, and S8 is stirring, so I should probably figure out where we want to go for dinner tonight.  Pizza, anyone?



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