Lessons from an apartment stay in Italy

For a trip to Italy a few years ago, for 17 days we rented an apartment in Ronciglione, an hour’s drive north of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. There were advantages and disadvantages to having a base and making day trips.

Advantages — Had we not been stationary, we never would have seen the nearby, tiny, off-the-beaten-track towns, let alone linger in them over coffee watching local life go by, or peered into hardware shops at vegetable seeds and pottery plant holders (which we purchased at a fraction of what a gift shop would have charged). We also wouldn’t have gotten to know a few people, appreciate their lifestyles, exchange ideas or be the recipients of such goodwill.

In short, we took advantage of what the area had to offer without having to go too far, appreciating it as a microcosm of tutto Italia and perhaps receiving more substance than a grand tour of the country would have offered us. Still, we are glad of having traveled much of Italy in previous trips.

Disadvantages — Sometimes we tried to go too far on a day trip, only to catch a cursory glimpse of our destination before it was time to turn around for home. On site is just that, and in depth is more meaningful than hit and run.

Not being very near a major highway, Ronciglione is out of the way for grand travel. One way we overcame that, to a degree, was to plan a visit to Assisi in Umbria and another visit to Monte Cassino south of Rome, starting early in the morning and getting home late that same night. We then lay low the following day. It was still too much driving, especially in November.

Lesson one — On outings more than 1_ to two hours away from home base, stay overnight. Although it was not the easiest thing to do, we managed to get into Rome for couple of trips, one day to see the ballet and on another, an opera.

Lesson two — Book into Rome before or after an apartment rental.

And remember, “off season” is just that. When it’s cold and gloomy in New England, it’s that way in much of Europe too. In late November in Italy, mornings came late, and night and chill came early. Most evenings, we were happy to stay home, make dinner and read and write in our warm spacious apartment, shuddering at the thought of being cooped up in a small pensione for so many hours.

Sheffield, MA