Tuesday, November 12, 2019

November 2109 Update

Well, now it's been 3 years since our last trip to Italy after going 4 times between 2011 and 2016. We spent 9 weeks there during those 4 trips. We haven't felt comfortable leaving our 13 year old English Setter, Sandie, in a kennel for extended periods now that she has some health issues. Still, we may have yet another Italian adventure in us in the future.

While I was looking through my posts here recently, I realized that some of the train travel illustrations may be outdated, but that most of the commentary still applied. Websites may look different, but you can still navigate them easily to set your itinerary, reserve lodging and buy some train tickets.

Hopefully, in the near future, we will be up for another trip to the country we love the most to visit - Italy! There is so much we have yet to see.  Both of us can still imagine traveling to the towns where our grandparents and/or our great grandparents emigrated from in the early 1900s. Mine came to the US from Pedavena (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g776154-Pedavena_Province_of_Belluno_Veneto-Vacations.html) in northern Italy in 1904. My wife's traveled from Atena Lucana ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atena_Lucana ). So, you see, we still travel imagining.

There is a lot of interesting and useful information for you here. Remember, "Italy Is Waiting For You - Get Going!"


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

US Government Issues Travel Advisory for Italy - Be Aware

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/italy-travel-advisory.html

We were in Florence on the day of the Paris terror attack on November 19, 2015. Immediately, we noticed the presence of heavily armed police and soldiers in all of the most tourist frequented areas of the city. It was somewhat unnerving for us, but we spent the last 4 days of our two week trip doing/seeing everything we planned. We traveled back to Milan by train to see Michelangelo's Last Supper and to catch out flight back to Boston. We saw many more heavily armed soldiers in Milan, but thankfully there were no incidents.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Benvenuto in Italia! Welcome to Italy! Such an exciting greeting! It's one I've missed for the past two years. We have taken a break from what was becoming a yearly pilgrimage to Italy. Having  sold our home and bought another, our time has been taken up moving and making improvements. Also, our English Setter, Sandie, dislocated her hip which has required a long rehabilitation. We haven't been comfortable leaving her at the kennel.

Of course, I still receive all of the email alerts with plane fares from Boston to Florence or Milan. At first glance, the prices this year seem to be the lowest in the last four years! That seems to be at odds with the stories of higher fares across the board. A closer look tells us that choosing our own seats now comes at a price. On Swiss and Lufthansa it's $35 each both directions ($140). Say the alert or advertised price is $550 RT, we'll have to add $140 to that so two of us can sit together. Still, the total ticket price of $690 each is not bad. We like travelling to Italy in the "shoulder" period of late October-November because airfare and lodging are much less expensive. We have paid as much as $1400 RT (2014) each travelling in September, and $1252 (2011) in June/July, but when we went to Italy in November 2015 & 2016 we paid about $650 RT each. All of these flights took place before airlines starting to charge for the "privilege" of picking your seats.

Debbie and I are talking a bit about a shorter 8 or 9 day trip to Italy in the future, but we are still worried about our dog, so it's not on the front burner yet. Still, it's good to keep the dream alive. We're looking at visiting a few places we have yet to see and maybe a return to the Sorrento/Amalfi Coast area which we liked. Puglia might be another region for us to see. And, I have yet to visit the town where my grandparents emigrated from - Pedavena which is north of Venice. And, the area where Debbie's grandparents were from down near Naples.

Planning is half the fun, so even if you're not ready to go this year, take a few minutes every day to do some research. Familiarize yourself with the Trenitalia train site, TripAdvisor forums, Hotel.com and any other helpful site you can find. It's all within your grasp. And, it's fairly easy to do.

Be sure to check out all of my posts here for tips on trains, apartments, city buses, museums, taxis and more. Just the photos are worth a look. Have fun! Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No Trip in 2017; Revisiting Our Italy Trips Plus Great November 2017 Airfare!

British Airways November 2017 fare: $453.99 round trip from Boston to Milan (Linate Airport)!!!

For the first time in four years, we are not going to Italy in the Fall. Upon our return last November, we closed on our "new" house and put our "old" house on the market. So here we were loading U-Haul trucks throughout December for our move, right after we received an almost immediate offer on our house. With improvements also to be made on the new place, we knew we would have little time or inclination to travel too far this year.

That leaves me with no travel planning this summer which has left kind of a void in my favorite pastime - booking plane tickets, reserving fast train seats and renting self-catering apartments or a hotel room in Florence, Bologna, Sorrento, Milan or Cinque Terre. Suffering some withdrawal pains here suddenly, I decided to share some more photos from our four Italy adventures in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

I hope you find something to whet your appetite and to urge you on to Italy. I know there are still places we'd like to visit. We would also like to spend a week in a couple of places that we have already gone to like Riomaggiore and Sorrento. Of course, we love Florence still, and I have really been excited about Bologna after visiting on two trips and would love to spend more time there, too. So many places, so little time...

One surprising development today, is that airfares for November 2017 are even lower than we have ever paid. Yesterday, I was alerted to a British Airways round trip fare to Milan's Linate Airport for $453.99 each! And, the flight times and durations were also very good (no long layovers). Since we traveled last November on Aer Lingus for $667.00 RT each with only two carry-on bags, the British Airways fare represents considerable savings of $$426 (for 2 RT tickets) even if we have to pay extra for our carry-ons (which I have yet to research).

Still, we won't plan a trip for this year, but you still could! Now would be the time to start your search for a great airfare, lodging, train tickets, individual tours or car rentals. Please see past posts here for great worthwhile information on making plans and reservations. Italy IS waiting for you - get going!

Now, here on some photos from our four trips to whet your appetite:

2011 Cinque Terre

2011 Lucca

2011 Cinque Terre

2011 Greve in Chianti

2011 Venice

2011  Venice

2011 Florence

2011 Florence

2011 Florence

2015 Siena

2015 Siena at Cane e Gatto

2015 Milan at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

2015 Milan Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

2015 Milan

2015 Milan

2015 Milan

2015 Varenna, Lake Como

2015  Lake Como

2015 Varenna, Lake Como

2015 Florence

2015 Florence Sasso di Dante

2015 Florence Palazzo Pitti

2015 Florence Palazzo Pitti

2016 Bologna

2016 Bologna

2016 Sorrento

2016 Sorrento View of Vesuvius from Sorrento

2016 Modena

2016 Modena Lunch

2016 Almafi

2016 Almafi

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Traveling to Italy? Don't be an Ugly American!





   You've probably heard stories about Americans being loud and obnoxious while traveling abroad. We've witnessed that type of behavior first hand more than once while traveling in Italy. Debbie and I are fairly quiet people, so this is not a problem for us, but we do try to be excellent ambassadors for the US while we travel. While our Italian skills are very limited, we rarely start our conversations in an osteria or a shop with "Do you speak English?" We've taken a couple of night school courses like "Italian For Tourists" and have language apps on our phones which really come in handy. It's always fun to make an effort to speak the language, and most of the time it is appreciated. Don't be surprised if the server corrects your Italian a bit, usually with a laugh or a smile. How else will you learn?

   A few other quick notes on how not to be an Ugly American: Don't ask everyone for the price in dollars; know the exchange rate and try to figure it out yourself. Try to be respectful in the way you dress. Saying things like "That's not how we do it in the States," gets fairly tiresome to hear.  Most of what happens in Italy won't be how you do it at home, so the best thing to do is get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the wonderful culture. And, there are so many great coffee bars in Italy, that there is no reason to go to McDonald's or Starbucks. Come on, you're in Italy, after all.

Photos below are mostly places you'll miss if you only seek out familiar restaurants...

If you get a chance, check out Smarter Travel's blog for a lot of useful advice and information.


La Stella Ristorante in San Gimignano.

Lucca dining al fresco.

On the Rialto Bridge in Venice.

At the Duomo in Florence.

Off the beaten path in Florence.

Off the beaten path in Florence 2.

Having snacks and a glass of wine in Cinque Terre.

Lucca lunch.

At Cane e Gatto for lunch in Siena.

Aperitivi and cocktails in Milan.

Lunch in Bergamo.

Wine and snacks in Bergamo waiting for the funicolare.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Opening Doors in Modena!



    Not only is traveling an adventure, a vacation and a respite from everyday routine, it can also be an enjoyable learning experience. On each of our four recent trips to Italy, we had lessons that were humorous, painful and/or valuable. The first lesson (which we knew before we left home): Italy is not the United States. For some, that’s a tough one to grasp, but for us it is a big reason why we travel. While people around the world do have a lot in common, it is often the differences that provide the biggest gift.
    On our most recent visit in November, more than once, we were the unwitting students to the lessons of everyday Italian life. Here we were on a misty, dismal day getting off the train in Modena for the first time after a short trip from Bologna. It was a while before we realized that we were not walking towards the center of the city where we wanted to be. We had looked at the map posted outside of the train station, but still tried to rely on our directional instincts to find what we were looking for. Those instincts had us following a crowd from the station for a while, until we were certainly a little lost. But, alas, we did get to see the Maserati headquarters building as we wandered down the wrong streets.


     We finally decided to find a bar for coffee and directions. We were off the beaten tourist track, but we were lucky to find a small neighborhood bar. Unfortunately, even though it seemed fairly busy inside, the door was not opening when we tried it. The young woman behind the counter inside appeared to laugh, along with some of her customers, as they all signaled to us “to push" the door open.  As we entered, she was saying “spingere” which happens to mean “push” in English. The sticker with those instructions was on the door! Of course, we were trying to pull (tirare) the door open.


     For us, luckily, laughing in Italian is the same as in English. We all had a quick laugh as we ordered our Caffe Americano and brioche. And, we were actually not too far from the city center and easily followed the directions (the pointing helped) to our destination. Even though it was now kind of a drizzling day, we still found a very nice restaurant for an excellent lunch, where we were able to have another laugh at ourselves. Beyond learning the meaning of "spingere" and "tirare," we once again discovered the treasure of spontaneity  and its rewards of laughter and learning. We have found that by visiting places with the anticipation of wonder and discovery, we are rarely disappointed. By minimizing our expectations we often receive a surprising gift. Our advice would be to enjoy the little things as well as the fantastic art, architecture, history and sights. Most of the time, just being there is enough. Even on a rainy day. Italy is waiting for you!
Modena shop.

Debbie having lunch in Modena at Ristorante Uva D' Oro.

Lunch in Modena at Ristorante Uva D' Oro..