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..