Arriving at Rome after 28 hours travel from Sydney, we armed ourselves to pass immigation. Elena joined a busy queue of perhaps twenty EU passport holders, Dino joined a queue of two for Non-EU.
Arriving at the counter and presenting his passport Dino said: "In vacanza fino a 5 Marzo." The officer looked at Dino with a look which said silently, "yes you speak Italian but why would you want to tell me that?" struck the passport with a stamp and handed it back. We proceeded forthwith to customs, with two sides of a rail, one for Something to Declare, the other side for Nothing to Declare. Attracting the attention of the Customs Officer immersed in conversation with several women, we said "Nothing to Declare" and with a puzzled grin and arm swinging, finger pointing to the door, he said silently "then surely you have nothing to declare, get going." We did.
Our rental car was a red diesel Kia. We discovered that even in the middle of a working day the autostrada seemed near empty. Heading north in rural country, an experience utterly different from freeway from Sydney airport. We exited the autostrada at the first opportunity. Noting that the truck driver in front of us at the toll booth had an extended conversation with the toll collector, we embarked upon an amiable conversation too, including: "Dov'e un buon caffe?" [where's a good coffee?]. Easy answer: straight ahead, Maccarese.
We found ourselves in the village square in tiny Maccarese, stopped and bought fruit for the road, went across the piazza to the Bar Centrale for pizza and coffee, and for Elena, a sambuca of magnificent size, utterly writing off her prospects of driving on day 1. And yes, the barista wore a shirt with a map of Australia and canguri, having relatives in Melbourne. Wonderful warm environment, with workers coming in for the beginning of the afternoon siesta. Che fortuna!
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