Italia, here we come! Trip preview

Well, it’s about that time – time to travel the world again!  This trip’s destination is Italy.  I’m leaving later today.  There’s a nice-sized crew of us going – seven people, converging from Chicago, Detroit, and DC! Although I already went there in 2006, you can usually count on Italy for great culture, food, and weather.

This trip will be another wild-and-crazy trek through Europe (see my Oktoberfest Euro-Trek articles).  Last time in Italy, I did a tour.  This time, we will be our own tour guides.  We will go roughly from south to north, visiting the following places:

  • Rome (3 days): Our entry point.  Once the center of the world.  All roads lead to Rome!
  • Amalfi Coast (1 day): Beautiful coastal resort area just south of Naples
  • Florence/Tuscany region (4 days): Home of the Italian Renaissance, with lovely hill towns and wine throughout the area
  • Venice (1 day): One of the most romantic places in the world, with its distinct canals
  • Milan (1 day): Big city.  Flying back to the State from there. 

Determining what time of year to visit Italy is always tough.  Americans usually like to travel in the summer.  But I think Italy is a little less crowded and not as hot in the spring or fall.  We figured that going in April, just after Easter (not during Easter!), would be good.  But there’s a wrinkle – they decided to throw a Beatification ceremony for the last Pope John Paul II while we’re visiting the Vatican.  Beatification is step 3 of 4 in becoming canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church.  Pope John Paul’s ceremony will be the fastest ever done – sometimes it takes a couple hundred years before you get your props.  I appreciate the Vatican’s desire to include us, but really, I would much prefer to see the empty seats in front of St. Peter’s Basilica (see photo above) than a horde of 1 million+ believers in the Square.  Never fear though – I watched the movie Angels and Demons last weekend, to prepare for the experience.

Europe is full of royalty events this upcoming weekend.  In the UK, we have the Royal Wedding.  In the Vatican, we have Pope John Paul II’s Beatification.  I honestly don’t care for either event, especially since I was not allowed to vote for either position.  But hey, when in Rome….

You may be wondering why I lumped the Pope in with monarchy.  Not only is he the leader of the Catholic Church, he is also the king of a country.  Yeah, the Vatican is a tiny country today.  But it was once a larger nation called the Papal States, with its own military and everything.

When you think of Italy, it’s hard not to think of all the history in that area.  U.S. history pales in comparison.  But what is ironic is that Italy the nation is actually 100 years younger than the United States.  What??  Yes indeed.  Since the downfall of Rome (about 1500 years ago), the Italy region became a bunch of different feuding city-states (Florence, Siena, Rome, Venice, etc.).  Later they consolidated into nations: Tuscany, Genoa, Venice, Papal States (see map above).  Italy didn’t become a single nation until 1896.  The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument in Rome (photo above) symbolizes this reunification.  You can definitely see the regional differences as you travel around Italy.

But enough of history and politics.  We’re on vacation, and it’s time to relax.  Our first spot for peace and relaxation will be a day trip to the Amalfi Coast.  It’s a little south of Naples, which is south of Rome.  I haven’t been the Amalfi Coast yet, but it’s supposed to be beautiful coastal region with pretty towns, cliffs, and coastline.  The photo above is from Lerici, near Cinque Terre, which is a completely different region in Italy, but should be somewhat similar in scenery.  The bus and ferry rides to the coast are supposed to be amazing.  We’ll also stroll through some of the towns there: Amalfi, Positano (seen in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley), and Sorrento (you know the song “Return to Sorrento”?).

Our next stop, Tuscany, is perhaps one of the most beautiful and interesting regions to live in the world.  It’s full of rolling hills, vineyards, medieval towns, and sun.  Not to mention, the region is anchored by Florence, the capital of Italian Renaissance art and culture.  We are renting a cute apartment in Florence plus a rental car, which will allow us to meander about.

We plan to visit a few places in Tuscany.  Siena is a must – an medieval town with a beautiful city square (above).  We’ll also visit Lucca, which I haven’t been to.  We’ll probably stop by Pisa for a quick “Kodak Moment” too. 

Did I mention food and wine??  Yes!!!  We’ll visit a winery in the Chianti region for some Tuscan goodness.  Oh yeah, last time I was there, I wasn’t much of a foodie yet.  This time, look for some food photos! 🙂  I may have to dump all my clothes and just bring wine back in the suitcase…

I haven’t been to Venice yet.  I’m very excited to see it.  But I’ve stayed at the Venetian in Las Vegas many times.  I can’t imagine the real Venice to be much different, no? 🙂  Unfortunately, we will only have a day to spend in Venice, so our experience will be short.  I’ve watched the movie The Italian Job a few times though, so I think I know what to do…

Our final stop and return flight is in Milan.  Milan is a big city, Italy’s business capital.  I don’t think it’s well-known for landmarks or anything.  But I hope to meet a supermodel there and marry her.  Maybe buy some clothes I can’t afford.  The highlight will be catching a football match featuring Inter-Milan, the 5-year reigning Italian League champions.  I have never seen a football match in Italy before – should be super exciting!  Though I hope not to get trampled by hooligans…

Stay tuned on my blog and on Facebook for more photos and commentary! 🙂

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