Roman Holiday

To: Umberto Paolucci, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Ente Nazionale Italiano per il Turismo

 


Dear Mr. Paolucci:

Summer is the time for extended family vacations. I would like to offer a perspective from one family who recently visited your country for the first time.

Most people from our region who visit Italy fly on Minnesota-based Northwest Airlines. We were curious what our experience would be like three days after Northwest emerged from bankruptcy. We flew on an A330 with impeccable service, which was efficiently and cheerfully provided. The people at Northwest have been through some difficult times, but they know how to give service as true professionals. Our connecting flight to Rome was also enjoyable, although none of us had ever been offered eel compote before.

Nothing could have prepared us for the extent to which ancient Rome intermingled with modern Rome. The one-piece cast dome of the Pantheon is a technological wonder that by itself is worth the trip. To see the continued, daily use of structures that were built more than 2,000 years ago is jarring, because in Minnesota we don’t have buildings that are thousands or even hundreds of years old. In fact, a stadium that survives 50 years would be our equivalent of a national monument.

And then there is the Colosseum: larger, grander, better designed than one could possibly have imagined without first experiencing it. We will never enter a large sports facility again without feeling that it’s second rate. After visiting the Coliseum, I wonder why no modern stadium has been built with 76 arches providing congestion-free entrances and exits. To get ideas for the new stadia that are being built in the Twin Cities, the architects visited other American cities; I wish instead they had gone to Rome.

Modern Rome packs an awful lot (tourists included) into small spaces. To get around in these small spaces, Romans drive Mercedes 130s, BMW 1 Series, and Smart  Fourtwos. In our state, we practice parallel parking. In Rome, they have perpendicular parking. Please send these cars to us soon.

Minnesota is often called the land of sky-blue waters, but the deep azure of the waters around Capri are beyond compare. We knew Capri was a special place, but we did not realize how special until we came to the Grand Hotel Quisisana.

The Quisisana sets a standard for service, accommodations, and friendliness that I have never seen equaled. We had reason to test this service because of a last-minute change in travel plans. The concierge service (you can rely on Antonio and Francisco) was, on few hours notice, able to extend accommodations and arrange for a private boat, and land and air transportation with efficiency and friendliness. Their service, like the Colosseum in Rome, is worth the trip. As a result, Capri now has a special place in all of our hearts.

Then there is the food. Perhaps because we come from a dairy state (the home of Land O’Lakes) and live next door to a people who often appear to have cheese for heads, we were surprised by the absence of butter (and beef and pork) in Italy. Fresh walleye is great, but the variety of seafood available in Capri is a joy to experience. I never understood what people liked about pasta. (In fact, I thought a lot of it came in a can). We understand now.

Thank you for the most memorable vacation our group—ages 13 to 82—has ever had. And we would like to invite you to visit us in Minnesota. We can’t match the Grand Hotel Quisisana, but we have great family resorts in the northern part of our state, and we can take you to a number of great hockey games. In Minnesota, you will see people who are actually blond, but who smoke less than people in Italy. We do share one thing in common: Our people are just as friendly and welcoming as yours.

And who knows? We may be able to arrange a unique experience for you—a stadium tearing-down ceremony.

Buon Giorno!

Vance K. Opperman
In-law to Many Italians

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