Our tour of Italy started out as a visit to see my step-daughter studying in Rome. I had taken my son down to my Mom’s and we were going to meet in Atlanta. Unfortunately, traveling as an employee may have it’s benefits but traveling standby between two large cities is always a chance for disaster. We missed the flight.
Standing there in the Hartsfield International Airport, staring blankly up at the screen, I ask if we should get a hotel and try again the next day, My more brilliant counterpart suggests going somewhere closer to Rome. As we scour the departures board, one flight immediately pops right out. Venice! “Ooh, Venice is closer. Right?” I had always wanted to go to Venice but it always seemed like someone so extravagant to me and therefore we never made it past Rome as if that’s not fabulous in it’s own rights.
The craziest part is that I could barely get from Florida to Georgia and yet we walked right onto a flight to Italy as if they had been specifically waiting for us the whole time. Ah, the life. Almost makes up for all of times that I was most expensively left behind in tears.
The flight alone was amazing and something that I recommend that everyone try at least once in their lives. At the time, I had hardly even heard of “lay flat” seating so the large roomy seats that reclined more than I could have imagines mixed with full size pillow and softly quilted blanket made for a comfortable sleep. But, not before indulging in a four course meal while watching a movie that certainly had not come out on Netflix quite yet. It’s hard to limit yourself to just one movie when I rarely get to see anything that resembles still in theaters however, our journey was just beginning and I needed to get some rest. One movie with your meal and a glass of wine, then force yourself to go to sleep because you will need to avoid going to sleep when you arrive if you want to avoid the dreadful symptoms associated with jetlag. After all, it’s morning when you arrive!
A little sunlight peeks through a cracked window as passengers begin to awake from their slumber. After quite a few hours of darkness, the light is blinding and quickly reminds me of where I am. It’s time to freshen up, have a little breakfast and prepare for the madness that awaits before the beauty also known as customs. Not to fear, with a little preparation and a positive attitude you can breeze right through the process. That and some very fast walking to beat every one else to the line of course! This is not the time to be slow. Have your forms filled out onboard the aircraft and designate one person, if you are traveling with your family, to be keeper of the passports and forms to save time.
Since Venice was a last minute decision, I wasn’t exactly prepared and there’s no wifi onboard International flights. So, my desire to know everything in advance had to change to fly by the seat of her pants and figure out how to actually get to Venice. The airport I learned is not in Venice, which is surrounded by water. There are a variety of ways to reach the city, including water taxi, train and bus, which drops you off on the outer part since there are no cars in Venice either.
Walking around the island of Venice was just as enchanting as I imagined and walking is something that you will do a lot of. Surrounded by water, Venice is often known as the floating city and there are times of the year where some waders would come in handy. Definitely one of the most romantic cities in the world, I enjoyed simply watching the gondolas pass in the calm waters while sitting at an outdoor cafe enjoying an espresso and stereotypical tiramasu. This time was a nice respite after walking the many bridges, such as the infamous Rialto Bridge crossing the Grand Canal and soaking in the beautiful Venetian Gothic architecture of squares and plazas like the Piazza San Marco.
The next day, we head back to the airport to pick up a rental car and head south. Driving along the Adriatic Sea, we enjoyed the calm blue water as we drove south toward Fano. Finding a parking space is just as much a adventure as ever and it appeared that everyone was there in the gorgeous resort town. Sidewalks lined with cafes and tourist shops lead to a pedestrian and bike only path and down to the white sand perfectly lined with beach chairs covered with blue umbrellas matching the sea. The water was warm and one could walk out quite far before losing foot.
The drive along the east coast of Italy offers more sparkling beachfront alternating with small charming villages. We then turn west toward Rome where we decided to spend the night in a town called L’Aguila. We found a little hotel with great hospitality and a cold supply of Peroni to enjoy in the cool night air. In the morning, off to Rome.
This was not our first visit to Rome although the first one by car and I have to admit that I don’t recommend it. Just as I know better to drive a car in Chicago, next time I would do what we finally did, which is to park it and use the public transportation. One of my favorite things thought that I’m not sure I would have noticed had I been on a bus or train was a customer in Tiffany’s with their dog! Yes, Europeans love there dogs perhaps more than the Americans. Maybe he was buying the dog a collar?
Our not so little girl chose a delightful wine bar for dinner that offered an hors d’oeuvres type buffet with a variety of wines from around the world that we had the opportunity to share with her new friends who were also studying Italian. As with any student, it was a quick visit a nice one so in the morning, we headed north toward Florence.
The one thing that I remember about this area is the fact that I had pre-booked a bed and breakfast in the city. I am not sure what you think about when you hear bed and breakfast but an apartment inside a locked building with no one attending it and a wrong number outside on the list is not what I had in mind. I learned however just how gracious the people are when I walked across the street to a small bar and was offered the waitress’s personal cell phone to call the corrected number that I was finally given. Even more humorous is the fact that I was speaking French in Italy! The woman behind the bar didn’t speak any English but she spoke French and Italian so we worked it out and aside from the fact that I also didn’t know that one needed to request air-conditioning, our visit was splendid.
My father’s family came from the northern region of Italy, so I was thrilled to find a little formaggio down a typical Italian alley way with a sign hanging the family name on it. Of course, I also found a restaurant with the name Baita in it even farther north in a little town named Castlerotto. Either way, it was thrilling to see and made the whole trip wonderful for me personally.
One of the most famous cities in Italy, Florence holds a deep appreciation for works of Italian artist like Michelangelo’s infamous sculpture of David standing proudly in Piazza della Signoria (Signoria Square). Other masterpieces such as the Fountain of Neptune and the Romanesque Palace that is used as a town hall grace the square. Filled with history and politics, this square is one of the most popular in Italy as is apparent by the cost of a gelato and cafe. Overlooking such works of art evident in everything surrounding us, the price was worth it!
With time running out, we chose to head to Bologna and the Lamborghini factory located in Sant’Agata Bolognese. Bologna has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years including Celtic from it’s inception which dates back to pre Christ although the architecture that I enjoyed was mostly Italian Renaissance and Gothic. As always beautiful.
The drive to the factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese wrapped around through farmland and typical rural Italian residential apartments far from the glamourous history of the bigger cities. Boring block buildings and narrow roads with the real treat at the end. Along the way we found another delight in a restaurant that stood alone off the side of the street, it’s menu all in Italian and a friendly waiter with wine in hand. This time we tried an Italian white that left me tipsy despite the light fruity flavor and lack of age. A meal of decadent sauced pork and fresh vine ripened tomato gratin filled out appetite before heading off to see some of the most wonderful Italian cars that awaited us.
For those of you like me, the ones that simply want to see the beautifully finished product and how it evolved over the years, take in the museum that spans over two floors. Those more mechanical like my husband will purely appreciate the behind the scenes tour of the actual plant that builds these amazing machines. Anyone care to have their interior features the color of their girlfriends eyes? Non problema! And as for the fear of the Polizia during a test drive? Non problema!….
Although it was time to head back to Venice, there was no need to take the straight road, right? Instead, we continued up past Modena and toward the southern Alps. If you are afraid of heights and your driver loves to travel at fast speeds around winding cliff top roads then you may want to avoid the same path. Secretly I’ll admit that it was a complete rush now that I am safe and much lower to the ground.
At the time, the steep drops below the narrow roads that quickly snake around what appears to be the only passage that could be made through the majestic peaks of the Alps terrified me. Once we came into small towns dotted with vineyards, I found my place in the world. Incredibly the ferocious mountain sides turned to lovely hills straight from a movie. I am pretty sure that one of the towns that we stopped for a snack in was actually called Dulce (sweet)! And, sweet it was with freshly made wines that rolled off of the tongue. Two bottles to go with some samples for the visit only cost a few Euro.
Back to the airport in Venice and on the plane, I sank into my seat with a sigh of disappointment because we had to leave and yet a feeling of peace at the most lovely and delicious trip of my life thus far.