Around Northern Italy in a Fiat Panda

— or —

The Contessa and the Commendatore Visit the Home Country

by Keith and Alice


We had a marvelous time. The trip exceeded all possible expectations. We wanted to write an account of it that would convey some real flavor of the richness and joy of those two weeks in October 1990.

We put this chronicle together from a journal that we kept during the trip, with copious notes added in recollection. We both contributed to this added material, but edited it to read with a single voice (Keith’s). The material from the journal is reproduced more-or-less as set down. It is formatted in a dashed box to stand out from the later additions, and is marked with K or A according to whether it was penned by Keith or by Alice. We travelled in northern Italy in the fall of 1990; here is the route we travelled over the course of two weeks in a rented Fiat Panda “Young 2.”

We made up most of the trip as we went along. We had one advance hotel reservation for the first night in Milano (Milan), and a prepaid arrangement to pick up the Fiat Panda on the second day. We both had far too many destinations in mind to do justice to them all. Alice’s revolved around art, architecture, and secular and church history. Mine involved wine, food, and the history of science. Sometimes these interests coincided, as at the Arena Chapel in Padova. We plotted various routes and a general plan emerged of making a large, rough circle counterclockwise from Milano. We knew we wanted to spend a period of time in Firenze (Florence).

Exactly when the Contessa and the Commendatore first appeared on the scene we don’t remember. The Contessa came first, probably inspired by a misremembered Calvin Trillin remark in Travels with Alice (i.e., his Alice, not this one). When travelling in Italy he found the service much better when he referred to his wife, in the hearing of waiters, bellboys, etc., as La Principessa. The Commendatore joined the trip somewhere around Torgiano.

The Trip, Chrnologically

Sunday    Oct.  7: Home ⇒ Milano
Monday    Oct.  8: Milano
Tuesday   Oct.  9: Milano ⇒ Gattinara ⇒ Alessandria
Wednesday Oct. 10: San Michele ⇒ Chiàvari ⇒ La Spezia
Thursday  Oct. 11: La Spezia ⇒ Cinque Terre ⇒ Lucca
Friday    Oct. 12: Lucca ⇒ Firenze
Saturday  Oct. 13: Firenze
Sunday    Oct. 14: Firenze
Monday    Oct. 15: Firenze ⇒ San Gimignano
Tuesday   Oct. 16: Firenze ⇒ Purugia ⇒ Torgiano
Wednesday Oct. 17: Torgiano ⇒ Padova
Thursday  Oct. 18: Padova (Venezia)
Friday    Oct. 19: Padova ⇒ Bergamo ⇒ Como
Saturday  Oct. 20: Como (Milano)
Sunday    Oct. 21: Milano ⇒ Home

Some Other Paths Through the Trip