Pulling back the curtains

Featured image
Sunset over Todi in Umbria, Italy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Snowless despite the storms visiting our neighbors and even distant states along the coast. The white that first landed on Sunday night was removed by rain within hours. There were some flurries late yesterday afternoon and otherwise it was in the high 30s and nothing took hold.

Broadway Babies: Tonight at 9 p.m. on PBS, Great Performances — Reopening: the Broadway Revival, hosted by three-time New York Emmy Award-winning journalist and host of “On Stage” Frank DiLella, pulls back the curtain on some of Broadway’s most popular shows and shows the monumental task the theatre industry took in getting these shows back on the stage with curtain going up.

Host of “Great Performances — Reopening: The Broadway Revival” Frank DiLella on stage. Photo courtesy of Frank DiLella.

DiLella takes us to behind the scenes access to shows including Wicked, Aladdin, Tina; the Tina Turner Musical, Jagged Little Pill, The Phantom of the Opera, and others. The DiLella doc takes you right into the thick of it, including the performers talking about their life in the theatre On Broadway. We’re so used to visuals that it is easy to forget that the ultimate experience in entertainment is always in the personal. Being in the same room is the ultimate story telling, the part we creatures cannot avoid. That’s the thrill of it all.

Michael James Scott, Michael Maliakel and the company of “Aladdin.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Charity Angel Dawson, Sara Bareilles, and Caitlin Houlahan in “Waitress.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Jeanna De Waal as Diana in “Diana: The Musical” with other cast members. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t resist; the story of now. The subject: “Italian Covid Calamity.”

This is a story of travel during the era of Covid, as told by Peggy Siegal. She titled her story, “Italian Covid Calamity … Stayin’ Alive, or Marooned.” Peggy is by profession a publicist so there will always be drama because how else can we get you to pay attention.

Edmondo and Maya di Robilant.

On December 23rd, Peg was a guest in Todi, Umbria, Italy, well taken care of  and looked after in a villa of an Italian count and countess, Maya and Edmondo di Robilant. The Count, who sells Old World Masters, has a gallery in London and in New York (Robilant & Voena).

Peggy arrived with a vast supply of new films — more than 100 — for her hosts to watch. She’d spent the entire week in the country house in Umbria. They ventured out to a restaurant only once, on Christmas Eve, followed by Midnight Mass masked in a ginormous modern stone cathedral with a chorus of 30 angelic voices singing all the favorites.

She’d left the US that Wednesday before — December 22 — with a sniffle that did not deter a negative PCR test to get on Delta 152 to Rome.

However, what started as a week in the country watching the best new films, sharing Maya’s gourmet dinners and dipping into Edmondo’s wine cellar, was to become an omicron immigration calamity.


The Todi pharmacy.

On December 29, my hosts took me to a local pharmacy for an Antigen swab allowing me to return to New York for New Year’s Eve to attend the opera with Mercedes Bass and her friends with a gala dinner on the Bass tier. I had had two Moderna shots, a booster, a sniffle and felt perfect. I was shocked that I tested positive. After a second Antigen and two PCRs that day, the labs sent FOUR positive tests accompanied with my passport number to the Italian government.  This is where the drama began.

The “authorities” immediately called my hosts at the villa issuing orders for me to quarantine there for 10 days and the di Robilants’ incarceration would be 7 days. A day later, in the local news, their sentence was revoked.

They obediently sent me back to my bedroom with killer views of the countryside as I became the infected nightmare houseguest. My life was reduced to, “A Room With A View.”

Maya’s gourmet meals were placed outside my shuttered door and Edmondo sweetly left glasses of his best wines … to make the isolation digestible. We communicated on WhatsApp.

The di Robilant’s villa near Todi in Umbria.
The house sleeps up to 10 people with two maids and a gardener included.
Besides having a swimming pool with a bar and changing room, the property has a croquet lawn, boules, badminton, gym, cinema, massage room with masseur available. None of which Peggy could access!

They even have a wood-fired oven for making delicious pizzas and roast meats!
The outside dining area.

My hosts — Maya and Edmondo — made herculean efforts to care for me for 10 days with five star medical, culinary and psychological support while pretending not to be horrified having a sick American in the house. The situation was bearable because I obediently stayed in the bedroom with the killer views. Many of their other friends shared similar covid nightmares reported from London, Gstaad, Aspen, Palm Beach and New York.

After five days we fiddled and diddled with the home testing kit and I was still slightly infected. I was fine in a day or two, but the 10-day edict is written in Italian marble.  (I had since tested negative two days in a row on the home test.)

My room with a view.

On January 8th I had an official appointment for a drive-thru PCR. The problem in Italy is that the government cannot handle the high demand for PCR testing, which they require for deportation … so it is impossible to even abide by their laws.

I was going nuts locked in a room for over a week … and eventually allowed downstairs but not off the grounds.

Walking the grounds of the villa.

You can hole up there, too. And you’ll never want to leave! Just visit http://www.patmosandtodi.com

On January 9th, the escape day arrived. I felt a huge sigh of relief as I successfully wormed my way past the Italian Passport Control in a wheelchair and VIP Greeter (which set me back 270 Euros).

As I was pushed through Checkpoint Charlie, the passport control lady announced that I was “in their system as positive.”

My Greeter … now worth every cent … showed my negative Antigen test on paper from the Todi pharmacy. The woman in police blue was a bit confused, but had enough empathy for an overdressed lady (me) covered in fur-trimmed clothing, in a wheelchair. She eventually waved me through. Although, the Italian government demanded PCR, Delta was fine with Antigen.

Delta 153 landed in New York at 5:05 p.m., and when my feet touched our sacred ground, the land of the free and the home of the brave, I was home at last, and grateful for all.

I am forever thankful to Maya and Edmondo for an unusually wonderful vacation we all will remember with humor.

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