Surprises from Italy

I didn't expect Rome to be so charming. Someone said that spending three nights there was too long.

Roma

 

I was told Venice would be impossible to navigate, and smelly too.

People said Pisa wasn't worth more than a drive-by.

And so on.

What a joy it was to be surprised by all I experienced in Italy, and to come away with my own experiences and recommendations.


Let's back up for a moment. Mom and I were supposed to go to Italy in 2016. About a month before we were supposed to depart, the tumor was discovered.

My doctor said I could travel before my surgery, but Mom was reluctant.

"I'm not traveling with you--you're a ticking time bomb!" Mom said.

(She is probably going to be mad at me for sharing this so please keep in mind that I am sharing this for comic effect. Mostly.)

We postponed the trip, lost money* and I had surgery. There was a two month-ish acute recovery period. I survived. We agreed to figure out a new trip for 2017 once I was in the clear health-wise. And I more or less am. Yay.

But when we looked at the Abercrombie & Kent offering for 2017, the Italy tour dates weren't ideal. Mom wanted to stick with a Fall trip so she could continue her quest to make the LPGA tour... I mean, win her golf club's ladies' league.

(Sidebar: she and her golf partner actually did win the league so the sacrifice was apparently worthwhile.)

We bickered for a while. Mom put restrictions on places she would go. She vetoed Croatia.

"But it's like undiscovered Italy, kinda!" I said, but she was unswayed.

I feel confident that within the next two or three years. all of her friends will be going to Croatia and she'll ask me why we haven't yet gone there.

I advocated for France - wine! cheese! - but Mom still holds a grudge against the country for not supporting George Bush (I KNOW). Meanwhile she still drinks only Grey Goose vodka which is very much French.

Mom in Florence

 

(It's possible she may make me remove this paragraph and photo so please enjoy them while you can.)

Time passed. At the very last minute, we ended up going to Italy on the 2017 version of this A&K itinerary.


You don't need me to recap the trip day by day - that would be boring - so here are a few bits that were special to me.

 

In Rome, we dined as a group in the apartment of Barbara Beni. The food and company were spectacular, and I loved seeing how a Roman lives her modern life in an ancient village. While our meal was arranged for our group, you can purchase seats at her wonderful dinners here. Visiting her neighborhood, charming Trastevere, was an added bonus.

Overall, I thought the food of Rome was the best of the trip--it's surely responsible for at least half of the pasta weight I gained. Now that I'm home, I'll be studying Katie Parla's Tasting Rome in an effort to revisit the wonderful pastas. Sadly a cold prevented me from meeting the author in person.

 

In Florence we dined at La Giostra one night and La Grotta Guelfa another; both were terrific in their own way. We also took a cooking class which was lots of fun. 

Oh, and the designer outlets outside Florence are absolutely worth the trip if you like to shop. I bought myself some presents at Gucci.

Visiting Siena for a few hours was a treat. I would love to go back. 

I spent part of my birthday climbing the stairs of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. If tickets are available when you visit, I recommend you go up the funhouse-like tower. It's good exercise and the view from the top is worthwhile. Somehow my mother and the mother of a friend I made on the tour spotted us on the top before we saw them on the ground.

Cinque Terre was spectacular. Like much of Italy, it's a photographer's dream. My favorite lunch of the trip took place in Manarola and I am still marveling over the story of Bormida, a village accessible only by a 1500 step staircase.

On our way to Venice, we stopped in Modena to learn about balsamic vinegar at Acetaia Paltrinieri. Our lunch there featured balsamico on everything from grana padano to risotto to gelato. I loved it. Also I met some goats.

Our tour ended in Venice, one of the most unique cities in the world. The key to navigating this beautiful place to know your hotel's position in relation to the Rialto Bridge. If you can keep track of that, it's more difficult to get lost. Plus my maps app was way more helpful than I had been told to expect.

And truly, there would be worse things than getting lost in Venice.

I can't wait to go back.

 

*To be honest, I'm still frustrated with Abercrombie & Kent for how they treated us when I shared my news. They put on terrific tours, but if you book with them, you NEED travel insurance in case anything like an incidentaloma shows up.