Full Circle – Part 2: On to Italy!

Family visits happily concluded, it was time to move on to phase II of our springtime space a journey – three weeks in my favorite little city in all of Italy: Lucca! I had signed up at Lucca Italian School (www.luccaitalianschool.com) for language lessons beginning April 3, and rented an apartment from Air BnB with a check in date of April 2, so we had hard dates by which we needed to be in the city.

And so, March 28 found us setting out from our east coast base in Greensboro, NC (grandchildren!) for Norfolk with high hopes of catching the PE to Naples. Our plan was to spend a few days revisiting our old  Napoli stomping grounds (we were stationed there from 2005-08) before hopping on a train to Lucca. We had made reservations at NGIS at Capodichino so we would be a short bus ride up the hill from “downtown” Naples and train connections, and were looking forward to our first authentic pizza and vino in Italia!

Alas for us, plan A was a bust.  We waited dutifully in the terminal until all hope was lost, but we had not hit a good Cat 6 day for the PE.  On the plus side, we were able, after several snafus, to recover a piece of luggage that Whidbey had forgotten to send along with us to Oceana several weeks earlier! That bag had my Italian books in it, so I was particularly happy it arrived!  

Sponsor had made reservations at Ely Hall (really Ely Hall this time!), just in case, so we settled in to our room to regroup and move on to Plan B: Andrews to Ramstein, and Medevac Bus to Italy.

March 29, we headed north to Andrews for a C17 (my favorite!) flight to Ramstein. Instead of slogging up I-95, we opted for a more relaxed drive up Route 17. It was a great choice – beautiful countryside, beautiful day…

The space a gods were smiling upon us! We snagged a couple of seats on the returning Medevac run to Ramstein. Even the parking fairies were on our side, as the long term lot was being paved at the time, so we were able to leave our car at the far end of the short term lot, closer to the terminal. We even met a new friend, Nancy, who had come in from March ARB on the mission and was continuing to Germany! A couple hours later, we were on our way. When cruising altitude was reached, broke out our C17 kit, laid our pad out on the floor, then stretched out and settled in for the flight. The medical personnel had left the stanchions and stretchers set up from the outbound leg, and scrambled into their “bunks”, and since about half the passengers were children, the back of the plane resembled a kindergarten slumber party with the pads, mattresses and blankets scattered about on the floor.

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We had arranged lodging at KMCC, so while I waited for our bags, Sponsor headed to the check in desk to pick up our key.  After checking in, with a day and a night at our disposal before the next leg of the journey, we took a nice long nap, then wandered around the base.  The evening was capped off with a tasty dinner on the outdoor terrace of teh Deutsches Haus restaurant – by far the best dining option on base! The pork in apple/calvados sauce was scrumptious!

The next morning, March 31, we waited at the appointed pick up spot for the Medevac bus to Vicenza, Italy. All waiting  to ride space available  (about a dozen) were accommodated, though, for the first time in our many rides, the bus was fairly full with patients.  Perhaps because it was a Friday?  I did have a row to myself, so, no complaints :). Another lovely day, another spectacular ride through the Alps into Italia via the Brenner Pass.

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Our outbound space a travel now complete, we checked into our room at Vicenza lodging. The next morning, April 1, we met our new friend, Nancy, in the lobby, then proceeded to walk out the gate to get our taxi (lodging will call for one for you, but they are not allowed on base so need to be met outside the Chapel/Pedestrian gate) to the train station. All of us were heading for Verona – we, to visit with old space a friends Wes and Dina, and Nancy to embark upon the  first day of her planned tour of Nothern Italy. 

We had a wonderful overnight visit and tour of Verona before returning to the train station for the final leg of our journey to Lucca. Our host met us at the station and tok us to our lovely apartment near the school…and our Lucca adventure commenced!

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