I’m current riding the simultaneous waves of post-vacation euphoria, jet lag stupor, and grapefruit gelato withdrawal. In a word, our trip to Italy was dreamy.
Caffe, espresso, americano, cappucino, latte, and caffe granita con panna. We tried them all.
Chocolate, strawberry, lemon, nutella, melon, grapefruit, mandarin, passion fruit, hazelnut, chocolate orange, raspberry, caramel, caffe… gelato that is. We tried all those too.
Friends, there was much rejoicing to be had in Italia. I’m not sure if I can yet articulate how much I enjoyed this vacation.
There was art in glorious abundance.
The lands were in full bloom and the weather was beautiful – Italy in May is quite the showstopper.
We split our trip between the big cities (Rome and Florence):
And the bucolic countryside (Cinque Terre and Chianti, Tuscany).
I’m quite convinced the only reason my clothes still fit is that we walked at least 10 miles a day.
We even managed to squeeze in a Mediterranean evening swim.
In the weeks to come I will further detail our days in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Tuscany. I also plan to share my packing strategy for those of you looking to backpack for your next vacation – I have received a number of requests for that information!
Overall, a few things I learned about traveling in Italy:
On eating in restaurants: You have to pay for drinking water in restaurants (about 2 euro per person). Yes, I’m used to free water and it feels lame. The sooner you get over it, the more you’ll enjoy your meals.
Nearly every restaurant has a “coperto”, or cover charge for sitting. Check it out before you sit down. But Italians don’t really tip, so consider this the 20% extra you’re already accustomed to putting down and it will seem less annoying.
Make a dinner reservation in the afternoon. Most places don’t serve dinner before 7pm at all and are closed between 5pm and 7pm. If you don’t make a reservation, try to show up as close to 7pm as possible.
And some of the best meals are from the market. : )
On the language barrier (or lack there of)
I don’t know any Italian. I learned a few key words (“thank you”, “two, please”, “how much?” etc.) and got by just fine. The cities are full of people who speak perfectly good English. The countryside is less so, but we managed to do just fine getting by!
Fellow Bostonians can fly direct to Roma through Alitalia. Or, like us, you can save $1000 by flying AerLingus and taking a measly 2 hour layover in Dublin. Totally worth it.
On what to wear
If you’re touring through one of the many hundreds of beautiful Italian churches, dress with respect. Typically tourists with exposed shoulders or knees are asked to cover up. (Although I did see a few of those mulling around).
I came across a lot of traveling tips that said don’t wear baseball caps or sneakers. I’m not sure why, because I saw loads of men wearing both. Maybe it’s to look less like a tourist, which was pointless for us. We’re as American-looking as Apple Pie, and were easy identified as Americans everywhere we went.
If you are in the vicinity of a restroom, use it. They are few and far between.
The only part of me that didn’t love Italy was my hair. I have naturally poufy/messy hair as it is, but the water there had my hair in tangles. I was already traveling without hairdryer or a real brush, and the water there didn’t do me any favors.
It’s good to be back! Ciao!