I had an absolutely wonderful time on a recent two-week vacation in Italy in early October.
First stop, Venice
|Room with a view....Venice. Yes, that's laundry drying!|
What, no canal picture? Well, this was the view from our hotel room and I think it captures the homey feel of the Venice we fell in love with. Venice is a completely unique place--the canals, the gondolas, the palaces, the bridges all make this a water-based city that was fascinating. But, the calle, the narrow auto-free streets, in which you can get lost while discovering a little restaurant that delivers a memorable meal that blows your socks off, is what I loved about Venice and made it so charming to me.
We purposely didn't plan to do a lot of typical sightseeing in Venice as we just wanted to enjoy the city itself. So we didn't tour the Doge's Palace or St. Mark's Basillica. We did walk through St. Mark's Square and walked over the Rialto bridge, but my favorite activities were riding the vaporetto (water bus) up and down the Grand Canal and around the outer perimeter of the city and walking around Dorsodoru and popping into the tiny art galleries and artisan workshops.
We did tour the three synagogues in the Jewish Ghetto, which was about two blocks from our hotel, we walked through the art gallery in Ca' Rezzonica, and we visited the Naval History Museum. We found La Fenice opera house, which featured prominently in John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels, which I've now listened to three times!
And, we found some lovely little restaurants and my favorite new dish is Sarde in Saor (Sweet and Sour Sardines).
Next up is Florence
When I was in the early stages of planning this trip, Florence wasn't on the list. Then, I started reading Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo, and Florence went on the must-visit list, but with only about 36 hours in the city.
That turned out to be okay as Florence turned out to be my least favorite stop on the trip. It is a beautiful city, and I loved being able to visit the Duomo and I was thrilled to see Michelangelo's David in the Accademia and his Doni Tondo Holy Family in the Uffizi. However, the tourist crowds were almost overwhelming and I never felt that we ever really were able to get a feel for Florence as other than a tourist town. I didn't dislike visiting Florence, by any means. But, I'm not sure I would put it on the must-visit-again list.
|Florence from Fiesole|
Here is a view of Florence from Fiesole, an Etruscan town in the hills outside of Florence, where we went to dinner. It was a welcome escape from the tourist crowds and gave us an opportunity to gain some perspective...and have a delicious dinner!
On to Sorrento
We chose Sorrento because of its proximity to Pompeii, which after Venice, was my number 1 destination for this trip. I also wanted to enjoy a small town on the Mediterranean as opposed to the urban jungle that I've heard is Naples.
|Room with a view...Sorrento|
The day we traveled from Florence to Sorrento was a long day, involving a high-speed train to Naples and then a transfer to a slow, local train (35 stops) between Naples and Sorrento, which was very crowded and so we stood for 25 of the 35 stops. However, we wanted a feel for how locals live, and taking the local train definitely provided a bit more of that than did the tourist crowds in Florence.
|Lemon tree, very pretty|
|A glimpse of the Mediterranean|
First of all, I was totally blown away by how big the town is/was. We spent over four hours and saw about a quarter to a third of the town. Many buildings were closed, but we saw most of what we wanted to...the theaters, some villas, some shops, the Forum, some baths. It was crowded, it rained (for only about 30 minutes), the footing was tricky (made the cobblestones of Venice and Florence seem easy to navigate), but it was wonderful!
|Storm brewing over Vesuvius|
All Roads Lead to Rome
|Room with a view...in Rome.|
|Largo di Torre Argentina|
I loved the fountains of Rome...
And the unexpected...
Our last stop, after we spent the morning touring the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, was to take the subway to the Spanish Steps and visit the Keats-Shelley House Museum, which contains the house where John Keats died at age 25 in 1821.
|My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains my senses as though of hemlock I had drunk.|