Dwight Peck's personal website

A return to Italy after too long away

November 2022

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We're not based in Europe anymore, and we've struggled through the covid-19 lockdowns like everyone else, so we haven't set foot in Italy since February 2019. We've been making up for lost time with mad sightseeing, but now it's time for our grand reunion with Melvin and Choupette again, O Frabjous Day.

Fregene, Italy, en route to Chicago, USA

We've had great fun traipsing about in Rome for two weeks, then poking round in hilltop villages for another ten days, but now it's time to go back home. By a very circuitous route, unfortunately; over the next week, in fact.

We've just come down from Subiaco, 26 November 2022, and we're passing hilltop Agosta on the way to join the A24/E80 autostrada.

Scenic views (except for the guard rail) all along the autostrada to pick up Rome's Tangenziale ring-road round the city down to Fregene, adjacent to the Fiumicino airport by the sea.


We're hosted in Fregene by good friends Ludovica and Javier in Fregene, and their amazing son Elier, and have successfully dumped off the Mitsibushi battle-tank at the airport, so we can now relax and catch up on things.

Kristin, too, lived in Fregene when she first moved to Rome, and we're out for a seaside walk to try to find wherever it was that she and her husband were living back then. Memories can be wonderful things, even fond sometimes, but not infallible.

Fregene is a seaside resort town near the mouth of the Tiber, with a population of about 6 or 7,000 Fregenini souls -- there was something Etrurian here back in the day, mentioned by Livy and what not, but the modern town came about as part of a coastal drainage project in 1928 to create a resort on the Tyrrhenian coast.

The first row facing the beach along the Lungomare di Ponente boulevard is occupied by restaurants, beachside resort facilities, and various government maritime authorities. It must be its own sort of nightmare in high summer, or, well, just an acquired taste.

Various clues have suggested the possibility that the target apartment might be back in this warren of structures, so we follow wherever semi-reliable memory might lead us.

It's clearly not here.

With tentative advice from a local gentleman who may or may have not known what we were talking about, we're back out on the main street and having another go at it somewhere farther along.

Very beach-resorty looking buildings, doubtless all for rent in season.

Many years ago, we (the singular we) spent some time in summers in the seaside towns of New Jersey, and the tourist architecture was astonishingly different from this sort of thing. On balance, we'd prefer that style to this . . . though not necessarily the state itself.

That could be us. Tomorrow it will be.

Back into the seaside warren of facilities for summer fun.

Like wading pools and rows of mini-cabanas for changing in or whatever else.

The views from the Tyrrhenian side might jostle some better memories out.

(The name 'Tyrrhenian', BTW, is Herodotus' name for the Etruscans, who occupied the coast of Latium and Tuscany, and at times, much farther east and north as well, until the Romans saw them off. The rest is history.)

Odd little things -- they look really funny from the air on Google Maps, where this place is translated as 'Love Beach' (!).

The Rescue Squad always on the alert. But not in November.
Our search through the seaside memories has been unsuccessful, but that's okay.

Here in the middle of the boulevard, where the Lungomare di Ponente becomes the Lungomare di Levante, this is the Statua di Chira centaura di Enea, the centaur Chiron of Aeneas, "wisest and justest of all the centaurs". (What's he doing here?)

It's pizza night, in the calm (and empty) Il Sorriso ('the smile'). Very good pizzas all round.

A 500m walk back on a fine night

The Smile

Javier and his 'marbles' table top

That's nothing; the counter top is made of corks.

The next day: Fiumicino airport -- we're a little reluctantly preparing to be ferried, via Copenhagen (which SAS airlines thought best, for some reason; coming here we came through Stockholm), back to Chicago to reconnect with our beloved little beasts.


We're visiting Clinton, Emily, and Hazel in Chicago, just for the overnight. They have very kindly cared for Melvin and Choupette in our long absence, and now we're gratefully being reunited.

-- Hey, Melvin, we're back! Jump up here, boy, say hello to Daddy!
[-- What?]

-- Oh come on, Mel. We haven't seen you for the past four weeks!
[-- What?]

At least he didn't say 'Who are you?' (Probably only because he's francophone).
It's time to start getting things sorted for the long drive home.

Melvin, we can tell, has missed us terribly, and has been miserable since early November, but as usual, he maintains his fabled dignity.

Choupette, on the other hand, hasn't noticed yet that we're here.

She has noticed, however, that Melvin's in range, so the Eternal Cat Dance can begin once again.

It always begins with Choupette 'invading Melvin's space', as it were, and we've never figured out whether she just wants to snuggle up affectionately and defeat him in battle.

In any case, it begins with Choupette licking Melvin, and then Melvin reciprocates. It's like their usual feline self-bathing ritual, but shared.

And then, again as always, Melvin locks on with a firm paw, either affectionately or vengefully, and the mutual cleaning acquires a more serious rhythm.

Then the back feet come up, and battle is joined.

Sometimes it continues, but more often they both decide that it's not worth the effort. Melvin, anyway, has conveyed his irritation once again, though it won't matter next time. Choupette looks sullen, but not sorry.

Every once in a long while, one of them acquires a little nip by tooth or nail and we need a quick trip to the vet, but the astonishing thing is that nearly all the time they can both pull the punches, so to speak, with no harm done.

A truce, as temporary as it may be. Whether this is all play or something less fun we've never been able to be sure about.

Both of them, though, are very good at finding places for their naps where they're unlikely to be spotted.

Choupette and one of her half-siblings, Pugsley, look like it's another faux-aggressive standoff, but in fact, in their month here these two formed a solid relationship, such that for days after we left both of them were wandering about in their respective apartments, looking for the other one and crying.

Here Pugsley and Choupette may be contemplating our forthcoming departure, perhaps.

And here are all three of them, Choupette, Pugsley, and Wednesday (photo by Emily) -- Melvin is always at least a little bit standoffish in crowds. That's the dignity gene.

Chicago -- it's not easy to go round it, so we need to go through it and hope for the best.

The traffic's not bad today; maybe it's a bank holiday or something.

But after a month back in Europe, it's fun to return to the land of patriotic flags the size of a football field.

That's a state capitol, or county courthouse, or something, but it's such an earnest and dedicated effort that we felt it was worth a photo.

Amazing. And lots and lots of 'columns' everywhere (like our lawn-ornament columns in Subiaco)

Here, in Lafayette (Indiana?), is Melvin meditating and Choupette missing Pugsley terribly.

Someone in Montpelier, Indiana, hasn't thought this through. This is the 21st century: even the Washington Redskins had to become the 'Commanders'.

Somewhere just north of Columbus, Ohio, in Polaris in fact, Choupette is looking for Pugsley. No luck.

Next up: After a month in Italy, it's way too early to be thinking about what's next. We just hope it will be fun. [Oh, it was the long drive home. Not that much fun.]

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 8 March 2023.

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