We left Rome more than a week ago and the jetlag is behind us as we slowly resume our pre-Italian lives. But not entirely given that one of my tasks is to organize photos and finalize my travel journal. It's going to take a while to sort out the 1,800 images I brought home, but I can at least put this blog to bed.
But before I do, a few comments. One of the things I wanted to do was to add a couple of videos I recorded along the way, something I was unable to do while on the road. I have now gone through my original post (which appears next - one post for 24 travel days in Italy) and added links to these videos which live in my YouTube account because I still can't figure out how to imbed them into this blog. I have also incorporated some small edits and minor additions along the way, but resisted the temptation to change any of the photos.
I thought a good way to try and summarize this trip would be to do it through photos, so here goes:
First and foremost, a big 'Salute' to our travelling companions, Dave and Mary, Brian and Laurel. My readers will know these four well, given that this is not the first travel adventure we have taken with them. In the preceding photos, Dave and Mary take a rest during a long walk along the cliffs on the island of Capri while Brian and Laurel are caught in a reflection while riding Venice's Grand Canal on a Vaporetta. Julie and I rest after summiting Mt Vesuvius. Our sextet performed admirably, reaching climax after climax as we roamed through Italy thrusting ourselves upon as many local delights as possible. (I'm talking food and wine here folks!) We seldom seemed to disagree about anything, including which wines tasted good and which ones did not. With many cameras amongst us this trip is well chronicled.
Our days together seemed to play out in a repeating pattern. Each day would begin with breakfast. Sometimes grand, sometimes not, we all four believe that breakfast is an important start to the day. So is a good cup of coffee and I think one of the surprises, at least for me, was that, by and large the coffees served at breakfast in all but a very few locations essentially sucked. What? Italians not able to deliver a good cup of coffee? Good Italian coffee, it seems, is made one cup at a time. Any attempts to brew coffee in tourist-zone quantities and style failed miserably. I did grow attached to a double espresso in the morning but I was initially driven to them by despair over the sorry beverage dispensed from the coffee urns. Caffes were ubiquitous throughout Italy. A single espresso cost one euro providing you consumed it while standing at the bar and we grew to like the local habit of a quick stop at intervals during the day for a (another) small jolt of caffeine.
So where was I? Oh yes, breakfast.
After fueling up we would depart the hotel for that day's morning adventure - almost always involving a walk - to someplace scenic or historic in some way. We visited some awesome churches and basilicas everywhere we went. The religious art was always stunning and the age of everything helped produce a very spiritual feel to many of them knowing worshipers had been congregating at the same location, in some cases for thousands of years. While it is true that mankind inhabited the Pacific Northwest thousands of years ago too, not much remains of wooden dwellings and artwork. In Italy it seems there are physical reminders, not to mention the related stories, of ancient days around every corner.
By early afternoon we would be hungry and the hunt would be on for just the right restaurant. This was important given that we were loving the food and did not want to squander any opportunity to sample it by choosing the wrong restaurant. We always searched for a restaurant used by the local population, opting for a more authentic gastric experience than that offered by the more touristic establishments. We seldom seemed to go wrong. Pasta was always popular and we enjoyed many a lunch of either pasta or pizza and usually (at least for Laurel) something that contained a bit of the fresh bufalo mozzarella cheese. So often did we sample this delicious cheese in a caprese salad with tomatoes and basil that we all became pretty good at rating them.
The really good ones (this is one of them) were not only large, they had a nice creamy consistency in the interior. The milk from the bufalo which roamed the Sorrento Peninsula's Milky Mountains took first prize. The hunt is already on back in Canada to try and find an acceptable bufalo mozzarella.
Anyway, after lunch we would plunge into another activity, usually on foot although there were several days that included some form of mechanized travel, car, van, bus, train or plane, they were all interesting experiences. We all thought highly of the public transportation systems and also the Italian drivers. It did take a bit of getting used to and we were all glad to have made the decision not to rent and drive our own vehicle given the narrow streets and lane ways and the daily assault by all manner of motorized vehicle.
By late afternoon we usually found ourselves back at that night's hotel for a bit of downtime before evening commenced, that is to say, cocktail hour. Cocktail hour usually began six-ish, it's venue a rotating selection of hotel rooms, balconies, decks etc. and usually (that is to say, always) included something salty and something alcoholic.
We of course were anxious to sample as many local wines as possible and these happy hours were the perfect opportunity to try and calm these anxieties, which we did with great gusto I might add.
Usually by 8 pm, an early dinner time by Italian custom, we were hungry and ready to find that perfect little restaurant for that night's dinner.
Dinner was included for the first week of our trip during the walking tour in the Sorrento peninsula, but aft that, we were on our own. Except for one small misstep ending up in an overpriced restaurant we fared very well in our choices. Most nights we dined outdoors, a pleasure unthinkable for a Vancouver October. Most nights most of us opted for a pasta dish. We learned that different areas had different specialties, often reflecting that region's agricultural bounty. It seems every region has a superior olive oil and a superior grape varietal. We agree. There are dozens to choose from and they are all superior.
Anyway, after dinner, occasionally there would be enough collective energy to reconvene for a nightcap where we could close the day with a limoncello or perhaps a wee dram. Then off to bed, perhaps a bit of a read, but only a bit as there was no point fighting heavy eyelids, given that each next day promised to be the 'best day ever' and thus requiring at least some period of rest prior to its appearance.
And of course over the days and weeks of October we saw many amazing places and things in Italy. I realize now there is no point trying to summarize or highlight these events there are simply too many to list. Instead, I think I'll just scroll through my original postings and maybe relive them a bit. Maybe you could too? Not to relive them, but hopefully, to enjoy.
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