Italy

Walkway to Bus
Egna, Italy

We spent more time in Italy than any other country. 

During our travel between cities, we stopped at Egna and Arezzo, two small Italian towns. Arezzo boasts an amazing Christmas market so we may have to return to see it.

Venice, Florence, and Rome were the three major cities we visited. The cities were crowded and alive with activity. Iconic landmarks can be found around almost every corner. Since all the hotels were centrally located, it was easy to walk to most destinations.

We did take a taxi in Rome during rush hour. We know people make comments about Texas drivers, but clearly, they haven’t met any Rome drivers. We just closed our eyes and took deep breaths.

Cinque Terre provided a relaxing vacation from our vacation.

In all the cities, we didn’t see any homeless. We were told this was because family is so important in Italian culture. People have support. One exception was at the Vatican. We did see some homeless people sleeping under the colonnades of St. Peter’s square. Catholic Church allows the homeless to stay there as an outreach to those in need.

 

Tuscan Countryside
Arezzo, Italy

Ask your guide or hotel about laundry services. We split our laundry between two locations, Florence (hotel service) and Cinque Terre (guide recommended service near hotel), to get everything cleaned.

St. Mark's Square
Venice, Italy
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence, Italy
Trevi Fountain
Rome, Italy
View from Hiking Trail
Vernazza, Italy

Planning is important, but don’t worry if you forget to pack something. You can find what you need in Europe. View it as a shopping adventure. 

Art is such an important part of the Italian culture. Art is everywhere – in museums and on the streets. Whether sculptures, paintings, or music, there are ample opportunities to experience art. We attended an orchestra concert and an Italian opera, but musicians performed on the streets as well. You never know what you will see or hear when you explore the city.

Group Highlights

Group Gondola Ride
Venice, Italy
Venetian Mask Making Lesson
Ca' del Sol, Venice
Michelangelo's David
Accademia Gallery, Florence
Uffizi Gallery Tour
Florence, Italy
St. Peter's Basilica
The Vatican, Italy
The Colosseum
Rome, Italy
Pantheon
Rome, Italy
Beach View
Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Personal Highlights

St. Mark's Basilica
Venice, Italy
Interpreti Veneziani Orchestra
San Vidal Church, Venice
View from Brunelleschi’s Dome
Florence, Italy
Ponte Vecchio Shops on Bridge
Florence, Italy
Spanish Steps
Rome, Italy
Rape of Proserpina by Bernini
Borghese Gallery, Rome
Nessun Dorma Pesta Experience
Manarola, Italy
Sunset Boat Cruise
Riomaggiore, Italy

Local Cuisine Spotlight

Italian Gelato

As we arrived in Italy, Lisa prepared us by sharing key Italian words and phrases. Among them was “coppa” which means “cup”. Why was this important? Because our group lunch in Egna included dessert. We walked up to the counter, said “coppa”, and pointed to two flavors we wanted. Pictured are dark chocolate and hazelnut gelato. So delicious!

 

In fairness to the time we spent in Italy, we have some additional regional Italian cuisine to spotlight.

Monterosso Anchovies – served all ways: fried, stuffed, or marinated.

Italian Florentina – large cut of meat from the Chianina cow, a special Tuscan breed. Most tender when served rare (actually, it should only be served rare – just try it).

 

Nightlife

While the days in the big cities were filled with hustle and bustle, the evenings were filled with a more relaxed energy.

Dinner is usually served much later in the evening. If the weather is nice, opt for a seat outdoors. Most of the restaurants have outdoor seating especially if they face towards a plaza. This provides the perfect setting for people-watching while you enjoy dinner and drinks.

It is common for Italian restaurants to charge a cover fee for the table. This seemed a little odd to us at first, but the table is yours for as long as you want. So, if you just want to have some drinks and sit and people-watch, you can. If you want to order a multi-course meal, you can. Unlike American restaurants, most Italian restaurants are not trying to turn over tables during dinner. It is a more laid-back atmosphere. 

Dinners can take hours. We really enjoyed this because during the day we would rush from one museum to another. It was refreshing to sit down and have nowhere to go. Take as long as you want. In most cases, the server won’t bring you the bill until you ask for it. They don’t want to rush you. It’s your table, so sit back and enjoy like the locals.

Cafe on Canal
Venice, Italy
View to Piazza della Repubblica
Florence, Italy
Dinner with Piazza Musicians
Rome, Italy
Moonlit Sea
Monterosso al Mare, Italy

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