Thursday, July 22, 2010

Traveling in Italia

Notes on Travel in Italia Written
by Susan K. Earl author of Moon Dance ~ a novel

We've made it home, and we had a really wonderful time! Most everything was so beautiful. I've been quite the vegetable this week trying to recover from time changes and everything. We had a delay in Rome coming home, so we spent a total of 19 hours either in the plane or in the airport. This was more exhausting than the whole trip.
The tour kept us running from about 6:30 or 7:00 am until about 10:30 every night. We would never have seen or done everything we did if we went on our own.Our most favorite place on the trip was a little town in Tuscany called San Gimignano. It was what I wanted to see in Italy; the vineyards, olive groves, and sunflower fields. The movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" was partially filmed there.
Roma (Rome) was historically intriguing. There was so much to see it was overwhelming. We spent three days in Rome, with a day and a half of this spent at the Vatican. This is a totally amazing place because of the gorgeous artwork, sculpture, and its intriguing history. I think you could spend months there just trying to take in all of these works. The Sistine Chapel was beautiful. They didn't allow photography in the chapel, (although a few folks did anyway) but we could take pictures without the flash everywhere else. We also toured the Coloseum, the Pantheon, and the Monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II.
We did a night tour of the historic attractions as well. One evening, we also went to the Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain (made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday).
Our next stop was the Republic of San Marino. This is a tiny little independent country, smaller than New York City, right in the middle of Italy. Alex loved this spot. It was on a hilltop overlooking the Adriatic Sea,and very beautiful!
Then on to Venezia (Venice). Two non-stop-days in Venice. A night time boat tour of the main island, a tour of St. Mark's square, a tour of the Murano glass works, and a gondola ride through the canals. This was the only place in Venezia where we found any traffic jams!!
We ended the day with a boat trip to the island of Burano. This is where they make their handmade Venezian lace. It was gorgeous, but we'd already purchased a vino set at the glass works!! We had a relaxed lunch at a little cafe. All of the food was so light and healthy everywhere! They use very little salt or sugar. The wine was free-flowing and very good as well. The Italian food in the states is very heavy and Americanized, so I really enjoyed the food there. I'm getting off track, but one thing I noticed was their Coca Cola only contains 10 g of sugar, whereas the Coca Cola in the states contains 43 g of sugar! I liked the Italia version much better! O.K., back on track.
The next morning we went to visit Shakespear's Verona. We saw the ancient Roman Road (2000 years old), and Juliet's balcony. We also had an interesting experience at a little cafe here. It was early morning (our tour guide loved waking us up early!) and still a little chilly. One of our compadres said she thought the cafe had hot chocolate, so we thought this sounded wonderful. We all went in and ordered hot chocolate. Much to our surprise when they brought us the hot chocolate it was a cup of melted, bitter chocolate. It was thick like pudding and served with a spoon. We didn't quite know what to say, so we all just laughed. Alex ate his, I tried, but it was a little much! From Verona we were off to Firenzia (Florence), I like the Italian names better than the Anglicized names. Firenzia was a lot like Roma, very old and historically interesting.We toured a very impressive cathedral that the locals just call Duomo. It is actually named Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. It took 140 years to build and covers probably 4 city blocks. Construction began in 1296 and was completed in 1436. Several generations lived and died building this cattedrale. We also saw the Baptistry of John the Baptist, and several other ancient structures. Firenzia is also called the gold capital of Europe, or so they say. Alex purchased an impressive white-gold ring with an ancient Roman coin in it, the coin is from the reign of Constantine and has his face on it. I bought a beautiful 18 carot gold bracelet, (spent too much) so, now we're over budget, but oh well... when in Roma!
Our next day was spent driving into the beautiful Tuscan hills to San Gimignano. It was so charnming. The town is built on the site of a small Etruscan settlement dating from the 3rd to 2nd centuries B.C. The town of San Gimagnano was built in the 10th century, and the same buildings are in use today. The outer structures are the same, the insides have been renovated and modernized. To me, this area is the heart of Italy. Our last day was spent driving from Tuscany into Umbria to tour the monastery and memorial to St. Francesco (Francis) of Assisi. It was another wonderful glance back into history! From here we returned to Roma and had a fun dinner with our new friends, topped off by entertainment from 3 Italian tenors, and of course the very delectable Italian wines!! I can't wait to go back!
Ciao, Ciao!!

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