Darrell Vickers – My 72 Hour Italian Vacation


A Quick Note from the Author….

This giddily insouciant and hopefully risible treatise was penned as I was unknowingly perched on the very precipice of falling gravely ill and nearly being shipped home from Italy in a pine box (which is only slightly less comfortable than Economy). That will be the subject of my next bravely jocular but tear-inducing column. Stay tuned, but keep those hankies at the ready.

At this precise moment in tempo (notice they way I just blithely tossed in that impressively fluent Italian word), I am hunkered down, inscribing theoretically comedic word to electronic page while simultaneously dining on Chianti Classico and a banana (parlare di una cosa totalmente Italiana da fare!). I am bone-chillingly ensconced on a Lilliputian rooftop balcony that was just wondrously visited by undulating clouds of local birds on high (although I’m sure they’d prefer to be referred to as “uccelli on high”). Since none of the Etruscan citizenry below me suffered a wet, screaming shit-fit from this ominously Hitchcockian event, I can only surmise that it was not a once-in-a-millennium-type occurrence.

What the Birds Were Actually Doing

What I KNEW the Birds Were Going to Do

A native Florenzian meandering down the street without a cigarette in their hand would probably create more unbridled panic. Gosh, these descendants of Cicero do so idolize their Birra Pironis. They must have lung cancer wards the size of shopping malls in this ancient Tuscan capital.

No wonder 90 percent of the population rides around on scooters right out of Quadrophenia. They’ve long ago spent all their Alpha-Romeo-purchasing contanti on truckloads of Emphysema Lites. And I have to admit, you’d have to be a braver individual than myself to smoke a pack a day of “MS” cigarettes. MS?? Was the brand name “Spina Bifida 100s” already taken?

They even have special, swanky and hermetically sealed smoking booths in European airports. At LAX, sallow-skinned inhalers of the leaf are herded into roped-off-areas-of-the-damned next to the air-sick bag recycling plant. In Italy, if it weren’t for the 600 mile-an-hour winds blowing out their match, you’d have Enzo and Sophia sneaking onto the wing of the plane for a quick butt.

This is my first trip to “The Boot.” The anorexically shaped land of pasta, expensive sports cars and Topo Gigio. The horse’s wang of Europe. Populated by a proud and spiritual people that gifted the world with Catholicism, the Sistine Chapel and being found dead in a garbage dump with your balls sewn up inside your mouth.

Another citywide eccentricity you notice almost immediately in the land of Giuseppe Verdi and Ragu, especially between the hours of 1:30 and 4:30, is that establishments you might desperately need to buy something from (say, like a shop) are closed tighter than Larry Nassar’s sphincter. Every single fucking one of them. I can only assume that the staff is off somewhere having an extended cigarette break. In L.A., businesses don’t shut down if they’re on fire.

When a clerk is brutally throat-stabbed at the local a 7-Eleven for less-than-the-20-dollars-in-the-cash-register and a bottle of blue Gatorade, management immediately offers the assailant a job so they don’t have to turn away customers.

L.A – Still Open – Now With Stabby Manager

On our first full day in the city of Florence Nightingale, we had the unmitigated temerity to inquire whether we could be fed at a restaurant someone recommended to us. We were incredulously informed that it was 1:31 and they were no longer serving the public. My peckish family and I could either gnaw on the cobblestones out front or return when they deigned to reopen at around 7:30 that evening. When we dutifully and hungrily arrived back at said eatery around 8, the premises had an unwelcoming sheet-metal door pulled down over the window and entrance.

Florence – Open from 1:00 until 1:09 and 7:30 or so Until We See You Walking Toward Us

I can only assume that it was either still closed or they were only serving customers who had the forethought to bring an acetylene torch and hacksaw with them. Perhaps that’s why things are so eye-poppingly expensive over here. If you’re only open for business an equivalent of 3 days a year, anything you do sell needs to make you a fucking fortune.

The nights in Florence have been seasonally cool – meaning it’s so cold you could freeze the nuts of Lou Monte’s beloved donkey. I’m from Southern California. Winter to me means switching down to a less pasty sunblock. It’s the time of year when ladies switch to one-piece bathing suits at the beach and William Shatner secures his uber-realistic toupee with Ben Gay instead of Super Glue. You know it’s really getting brisk out when Paris Hilton installs a pet door on her crotchless panties.

After 30-plus years lounging around in sunny Cal, my blood is thinner than the treacherous Florentine sidewalks. Sure-footed Andean goat herders navigate wider pathways than the uninsurable pedestrians are provided with in this Death Race 2000 city on the Arno. To add to the Mario-Kart-type fun, speed-demon motorists rocket down these cobbly alleyways, like the driver just discovered there’s a big sale on Marlboros down at the Co-op.

And the streets are miniscule. On a picturesque avenue in Los Angeles, the trees on either side of the road touch. In Florence, the houses do. Thus, the vehicles here are somewhat diminutive by necessity. A clown car would be considered a luxury sedan. Unfortunately, the size of these combustible joyrides is in inverse proportion to the amount of noxious fumes they spew out. The massive herds of stentorian scooters buzzing about town turn the city’s tight thoroughfares into unbreathable tombs you could re-execute Harvey Glatman in.

On the upside, wine is thriftily priced. We purchased a half liter of tasty red last night for seven bucks – in a restaurant (one that was actually open)! Why, it’s a veritable paradise for hollow-legged imbibers of the vine. But, for us quaint American rounders, it does present a small challenge. Our beloved Cabs and Merlots (apart from the aforementioned Chianti) have been replaced by shit you’ve never heard of. Who the fuck knows what Borolo or Barbaresco or Gattinara taste like? Barbaresco sounds like a Sweathog on the old Welcome Back, Kotter show. Hardly an inducement to put it into your mouth, swirl it around and then swallow. Despite these mysterious Mediterranean monikers, I intend to do extensive, bordering on Herculean, research in this arena over the next three weeks and hope to provide infinitely more informed guzzle guidance at that future date.

The last topic of conversation in my initial and indispensible travel guide to da Vinci’s hometown, is the age-old-intrepid explorer’s need to drop an unexpected load while wandering around a tourist town’s picturesque money vacuums. Depending on the quality of the country’s fare, this can be more of an immediate imperative rather than a far-off dream. Italy, as a whole, doesn’t afford much in the form of public relief facilities and where they do – “in your own pants” – would probably be the preferable option. While it is true that California is no England when it comes to providing places of succor for impromptu pooping, in desperate digestive times, we do at least have any number of parked convertibles to choose from.

Well, that concludes my first impressions of this ancient, mythical land that hung up Il Duce like a butchered pig. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to sample a couple of liters of finely aged, room-temperature Sweathog.

Please join me next time for more of my fun frolicking in fabulous and oh-so-frolickable Firenze (there I go again, I’m practically bilingual!). I travel, so you don’t have to.


(Oh, if only I knew what the next 24 hours held for me as I was cheerily tip-tapping away on my trusty Lenovo!)


Darrell Vickers appears here whenever he damn well feels like it

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.co

DBAWIS_ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com 

5 Responses to “Darrell Vickers – My 72 Hour Italian Vacation”

  1. Bello, if only you knew…… Good read! Your descriptives entice me to hop on the next flight out (not). ….and your Italian….impeccable 😉 Ciao!

  2. Patricia Price Says:

    Hilarious. But, then, I expected nothing less.


    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Amusing and informative! Great job.

  4. […] I treated my family to a dream holiday in Italy. This column is the happier and way, way shorter part of it. My 72 Hour Italian Vacation […]

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