After our amazing experience in Orvieto, we ventured 45 mins up the road to Viterbo. For Jess, our stay in Viterbo was extra special because she had previously spent a semester there in 2008 "studying". I say "studying" because her assignments were basically colouring in activity books and partying with fellow international "students". Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.
Jess had deliberately timed our stay in Viterbo to coincide with the Santa Rosa Festival - a celebration of the city's patron saint culminating in the procession of the "macchina" (a 30m high, 500 tonne tower) carried by 100 of the city's bravest men (known as the "I Facchini di Santa Rosa). To add to the fun, there was going to be a mini reunion with some of the old Viterbo class of '08. Sarah (a kiwi who currently lives in England) flew in with her fella, Marc. And Nicole and Morgan (remember them from a few blogs back?) decided to come down for the weekend. And if that wasn't enough, Marco and Daniele (the brothers from Orvieto) were coming down for a dinner and night out on the town. And just to throw one more lolly into the mixed bag, I struck up a conversation with the old fella in the apartment next door and invited him over for a drink one night!
The old fella's name was Orlando. When I first spoke to him he seemed like your standard cute old man - he walked slowly and with a hunched frame, shared stories of his late wife and his experiences in WWII, and had a wallet full of pics from yesteryear. He also mentioned that he'd seen many people stay in our apartment over the years but we were the first to stop and say hello to him. I couldn't help but feel for this poor bloke, living on his own in a world where the manners and friendly faces of yesteryear were a rarity. I thought he'd really appreciate the opportunity to be in a room full of people (many of whom spoke Italian) and have a few drinks and laughs. Plus, both Jess and Nicole have a major soft spot for cute old people and I knew I'd be in the good books with them if I brought Orlando around.
When Orlando first walked in with a tray of Italian cakes for us, Nicole looked very smitten. Then as he tearfully spoke of his wife, Nicole was about to leap over the table and hug the life out of this sweet little old man. But then something happened. Slowly, slowly Orlando's stories took a turn for the worse, or better depending on your perspective. First he mentioned there was a street nearby where he used to go to make love in his days as a single lad. Then he mentioned how he had a new "friend" these days and how she had boasted to him the other day of seeing "two macchinas" during the Santa Rosa Festival. Eww. Nicole suddenly didn't feel like hugging Orlando anymore. And Jess kept turning to Nicole, asking her to translate what he was saying. This was turning into one hilariously shambolic evening.
Being egged on by Daniele and Marco (ok, and Morgan and I), Orlando continued to unload with one dirty story after another - telling us about the Viagra he takes and how his equipment malfunctions when eats too much cheese. We were in hysterics as this little old man, who we thought was as sweet as Allens' Lollies, turned out to be the one bedroom Italian apartment version of Hugh Hefner.
Those nights in Viterbo - with Nicole, Morgan, Sarah, Marc, Daniele, Marco and Orlando - turned out to be some of the best times we've had on this trip. After all our travels, we keep being taught the same lesson over and again - the best things in life are the simple pleasures to be derived from eating, drinking and laughing with friends. To Jess' cousins in England, to my family in Malta, and our mixed bag of friends old and new (and sleazy) in Viterbo, we want to express our sincere thanks for making our times together some of the most memorable of our trip, and our lives.
Next stop: Zurich, Switzerland