Thursday, December 29, 2016

Italy 2016 - final (?) thoughts

I can't believe it took me nine years to get back to Italy.  I can't believe we started thinking about this trip in February.  And I really can't believe it's over.  Being able to travel at all is a joy.  Being able to travel with such dear friends is indescribable.  I just had the best time, and sharing so many wonderful things with people I love made the trip that much better.

People keep asking me what my favorite thing was - how can I answer that?  How can I choose between seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or hearing a Puccini recital in an ancient church, or learning how to make gnocchi, or riding a speedboat into Venice?  I can't quite choose just one thing, sorry.

The places we called home were both terrific.  Borgo alle Vigne is really gorgeous and it was so lovely to stay put for a week.  Everyone on the staff was kind and very helpful.  It was great they had little guides to most of the nearby towns - they came in handy. Staying there and renting a car to drive to all the towns was the way to go.  I'm glad I didn't have to drive, but I'm also glad my friends are brave enough to drive!  Thanks again to my generous, beautiful gal pal who shared her hotel points and allowed us all to travel with her.  Hotel Antica Panada was also lovely, very quaint and old-world, with a nice breakfast. It was annoying, though, that the wi-fi only really worked in the lobby, and it was hard to get any kind of signal, wireless or not, in our room.  It was probably because we were a bit far away from the main power source, but still.  Hearing beautiful church bells every morning, though, kind of made up for it...

I was looking over the reports from my previous trip to Italy and my post-travel thoughts. I think I did pretty well taking my own recommendations, if I do say so myself.  I definitely packed three extra pairs of socks and they DID come in handy, especially since we could not get the dryer to work in our villa.  We did, I think, three cycles in that dryer and everything was still soaking wet, so we tried putting them on radiators.  That didn't help too much, then we had to put things in plastic bags for our trip from the villa to Venice, then we hung things up on the towel warmer in that hotel (but the towel warmer never worked).  I don't think the things were dry until the day before we left...

I was glad I got euros before leaving - I heard from one of our party that he got a little rooked by the airport money changing place.  I didn't plan well enough, though, and I came home with too many euros.  I lost a bit of money exchanging them back to dollars, but oh well.  I'm also glad I bought an extra bag to take with me.  It came in very handy when we were leaving and looking for space for all the souvenirs (and shoes).  This one is even better than the last one I used because it has its own attached pouch, so I can keep making it smaller or larger, as I need.

I love souvenirs.  Last trip, I bought things for everyone in my family, but not a lot for myself.  Not that I really need anything, but I do enjoy tangible reminders of happiness.  I got myself a few more little treats this time and I'm enjoying them immensely.  Of course, I CAN say what my favorite souvenir is: the stunning handbag my beautiful gal pals got for me!  I love it beyond measure and I get compliments on it nearly every day!  I'm a terrible friend, however, and didn't return the gesture. I feel guilty and have been trying to find a way to make up for it...

The resistance band I took with me was probably even more important this trip than it was the last.  I may have still been out of shape, but at least my feet and legs didn't ache so much that I couldn't sleep at night (that happened to me one night in Dublin because I didn't take it with me).  I'm also glad I bought some new hiking sneakers, they were definitely a good choice with all the slippery marble, bridges and cobblestone.  Next time, though, more vigorous workouts, starting earlier.

Ginger = always a good idea.  It helped me out during all the time in the car and also on the several boats we traveled in.  I'm glad I tried some of the regional specialties at different restaurants and I'm glad I tried so much red wine.  It just tastes SO much better over there. Antonella and Monsterrat both explained why that is - I'm looking forward to receiving our case of wine from Casato Prime Donne and experiencing that delicious wine again.  But, as last time, we didn't have nearly enough gelato.  I think that's the one drawback to visiting Italy in the winter.  We had delightful weather the entire trip, except for some random sprinklings of rain and the chill of the last night, but for some reason, the 'eat gelato every day' thing just never worked out.  Obviously, yet another reason to go back.  Must.Eat.Gelato.

And, again, I'm glad I did so much research, but was able to let it all go once we were there.  I had prepared walking tours for all of the towns we visited, but I don't think we did any of them.  And that's ok.  I like driving the travel based on what we feel like instead of what other people tell us to feel like.  The guidebooks, tips and recommendations came in handy, but we found so much wonderful stuff on our own, it was great.  Maybe WE should write a guidebook.  Oh, by the way, did you wonder about all those Pinocchios?  During my research, I found that the author of the original story, Collodi, lived in the area and there's even a Pinocchio theme park!  I would've gone if anyone else had ANY interest, which was no one.  Like I thought anyone else would be interested, ha ha.  So I just satisfied myself with photos of Pinocchios wherever I found them.  And with one tiny ornament.  : )

I do need to get a new camera, though.  I broke my camera in Dublin, darn it, and I've been using a friend's camera ever since. But it doesn't have a strap, so it was a pain to get keep getting it out and trying to juggle it with my phone.  It's on my list of things to get next time I have some unexpected extra cash.  Though, if I had had a real camera, I probably would've had 10,000 pictures to choose from instead of only 2,000!  I'm having a hard enough time deciding which to choose for my album!  For the rest of this post, though, I'm only going to post some more Pinocchios, the photos that were kind of an 'oops' (because they make me laugh), group photos I think I forgot to post, and the ones Google randomly decided to enhance for me (I don't know why most of them are black and white, but ok). Thank you, Google.  And thank you, dear friends, for making the trip so amazing.  And thank you, Italy, for being there and for being so incredible.  I can't wait to go back.  I just hope it doesn't take another nine years to get there.

photo credit: Gregg Moore

(all group photos below, photo credit: Gregg Moore)

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