I hope you are as excited to hear about our Italian adventures as I am to tell them. It’s certainly been a strange, jet lagged last couple of days attempting to remember who I am and what I do. I have no idea where I’m going next. But this trip reminded me that the unknown is only as scary or adventurous as you decide it is.
Thank you for being here with me.
First things first!
Congratulations going out to Melinda, our Forgetful Files Give-Away winner!
Your gift was purchased with real euros from the Firenze Musei (secret code for Florence Museum) gift shop in the Galleria dell Accedemia and carried all over Italy and then back to America. So it’s already got a history. This Fine Art Colouring Book contains full colour photos of…fine art and pulls excerpts out for you to…colour. Shipped in it’s original plastic sales bag, it comes with extra “u”s and includes a bookmark of my main man David.
The man is fine. Suitable for framing.
Before we launch into the stories, I will give you the nuts and bolts of our trip planning, in case you are going to Italy sometime soon.
(If the thought of planning a trip to Italy – or anywhere for that matter- seems overwhelming, I am happy to refer you to my girlfriend, Kim, who is a travel agent. She can hook you up!)
Airline tickets, airport transfers, four of the hotels, travel insurance, and tickets for Pompeii/Vesuvius tours and an opera performance were planned and purchased through tripmasters.com. They have a phone app that operates off line with your full itinerary and the map section worked very well for navigating new cities. You can download a city on googlemaps while on wifi and have it handy later, but this did not always cooperate.
The fifth hotel was secured directly (Cinque Terre).
Train tickets were purchased through trinitalia.com.
Ferry tickets (Naples to Sorrento and back) were purchased through traghettilines.it.
More tour tickets were secured through tripadvisor.com (Capri, Siena/Winery Tour, Vatican/Colosseum).
Vouchers for St Marks Basilica and the Campanile through venetoinside.com.
Tower of Pisa was booked directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All other tickets were bought on site as needed, like the Metro, museums, duomo, buses, vaporetto, hiking trails, bathrooms…
There is no Uber in Italy. The “Uber” they use is black Uber. Everyone uses the “mytaxi” app instead. You can rent cars or scooters but only if you’re a crazy person. We walked everywhere and loved it. But we might be crazy people, too.
While I purchased an international plan for my phone “just in case”, I only used it once. Our family uses the “whatsapp” app. Between the app and social media, we had plenty of communication. As a side note, although hotels and trains claim to have wifi, more than half the time it was completely inadequate for use. It’s a good reminder that you are on vacation and the kids are just fine and you should let it go already.
If you have any specific questions on my trip planning, I will try to answer them below in the comment box.
Meanwhile, if you have to know, I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed by the Italian landscape. It was gorgeous and felt, most of the time, like we were home. My hunch that we live in paradise is fairly well cemented after this trip. There were lantana, eucalyptus, oleander along freeways. Olive, lemon, and avocado trees. Morning glory covering fences along extensive grape vineyards. Hibiscus, succulents, and geraniums in pots. Cactus. The cypress and ash were the same trees from my neighborhood.
The one exotic thing (by Dr Seuss standards) we discovered in Italy was the Umbrella Pine. Instead of the triangular Christmas pine tree that I am used to, these pines grow up and out, creating a green canopy as the lower branches turn brown and die back. In the cities, they keep the dead stuff trimmed up and the result is an elegant lofty pine that shades the park without taking up path space. They very much resemble the interiors of basilicas: towering columns supporting curving domed ceilings.
I would love this for Christmas. Well. The decorated tree or the decorated ceiling. I’m flexible.
Now, on with the show!