Ah yes Italy E-mail

Coloseum“Was it a holiday, she thinks it could have been….ah yes, Italy” (borrowed from Chris Rea, from the album Espresso Logic)

We were all set, a week in Italy, what could that mean if not an abundance of good wine, good food, good sun and good times. Oh, and the occasional photographic opportunity of course. We had 10 days, and they were neatly planned so that we would see Rome, Florence and Venice, the tri-state tour as it were.

 

 

We landed in Rome in the afternCleopatras Needleoon and were immediately knocked out by the heat. Even late in the evening you’ll sweat while just sitting still during the month of July. We took a stroll through the obligatory tourist route along to the Fontane di Trevi and onwards to the river. A crowded experience as you may expect, I suspect photo-enthusiasts should stick to the very early mornings to capture these sights. Rome is a huge city with so many historic buildings, statues, fountains and stairways that you could easily spend your whole memory card right there, but unless you’re looking to capture the life of tourists, you will be annoyed at the number of tourists that just pop up around every corner. While the sights are there, I personally found the city-heat a bit too much, and was quite happy to limit my picture taking to a couple of tried and tested locations, the Colosseum and the Cleopatra Needle.

We would visit Rome again on our way back, so we decided to make a quick escape from the city by hopping on to the high-speed train to Florence. It takes just around 2 hours, and is by far the most civilized form of Il Duomotransportation available. No checking in luggage and showing up hours early to be sure you get onboard your flight, no ill-functioning air-condition that doesn’t work, no cramped spaces…indeed the high-speed trains of Italy are the pride and joy of the country, and other than riding on a Vespa or bicycle there just isn’t a more comfortable way to get around.

The trains stop right in the center of Rome, Florence and Venice, so on arrival you can just walk to any of the many nearby hotels, hostels, B&B’s or whatever accommodation fits your taste. In Florence we stayed at a B&B just in front of the Duomo, that huge cathedral dome in the center of Florence that dominates any postcard from the city. The “piazza” in front of it is where people hang out, especially during the night, enjoying Ice-creams and intimate conversations with loved ones.

Florence is a much more relaxed environment than Rome, and even in high-season can be worth the visit. Just buy a bottle of wine, some bread and cheese and head up to the Boboli Gardens on the southern side of the river to enjoy a pristine afternoon overlooking the beautiful city. That’s exactly what we did, but once there the gates were closed for the day, so we ended up visiting a modern art exhibition at a nearby castle….there’s always a nearby castle in Italy. As it happens they served good wine and a view there too, so we weren’t disappointed.

 


Florence from the south

Florence Fiume Arno river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our adventure, however, did not comprise the city center of Florence. We would immerse ourselves in the real Italy, hiring a Vespa and driving to nearby Greve di Chianti, a small town surrounded by wineries and vineyards. For the record I have never ridden a motorbike of any kind, and I do not have a license to drive one, but that was no impediment to renting a 125 CC Vespa, which is the second-most civilized way of travelling around Italy. After an initial trial run around the block where I just barely escaped crashing head-first into a van, I felt confident that the 60 km trip there and back again would be no trouble at all. Robin did not look as confident.

Robin, the vespa and me

We made our way slowly out of town. The road we were following suddently turned into a pathway, but we continued on, confident that our navigational skills were top-notch. When the pathway turned into a staircase, that was nothing for our proud little Vespa, it just rolled down then like it was meant for just that. Once we reached the SR222 it was a breeze, going from 10km/hour to 30 km/hour and finally peaking at 70 km/hour. I was one with the Vespa…and Robin was clinging to be like his life depended on it, which it probably did.

A friend of ours was training as a sommelier at one of the local farms, so after a brief lunch of rabbit in Greve we headed up to the Swedish owned Fattoria Terreno. Here we were introduced to the ways of the vine and after some argument I too was allowed to taste some of the wine sampling, without spitting. After all, if you can’t ride it when drunk, it ain’t a Vespa, we were in Italy after all.

 

 

 

An Italian country houseGetting the lay of the land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venice is but another two hours by high-speed train, and again you land right in the middle of the action. Just 5 minutes walking from the station we found our little kanalfront hotel, the Best Western Olimpia. And how to start a day in Venice if not eating pasta on one of the canalfront restaurants while watching time, tourists and the vaporetto bus-boats float by.

A window in VeniceI admit I fell in love with Venice. Like Istanbul many years ago, it hit a high-note with me and I would gladly go back time and time again. Strolling A gondola floating byaround the narrow streets, crossing the small bridges over the canals, using the vaporetto boat-busses to travel longer distances and sitting in a restaurant at a piazza or canal-front restaurant sipping wine while waiting for lunch or dinner as the cooling sea breeze washes over you is quite simply an irreplaceable experience. Museums, churches and shopping you say? Didn’t do any of that, and didn’t miss a single one.

Tourists abound in Venice, but like everywhere else on earth they congregate on a very small area of the city, and are easily avoided. Say you want to have a quiet evening stroll with not a tourist in sight – head for the Dorsoduro area, and if you really want a non-commercial restaurant experience with locals, why not try out the Hostaria Barbarigo for some pasta with shark or so, freshly made and some of the most succulent I’ve tried.


A quiet canal in Venice

As for all trips, sooner or later you get tired and just need to get away from it all. When in Venice, take the Vaporetto to Lido, the island famous for the Lido Film Festival. Hop on to the bus that will lead to you to the very sudden point of the island. There you will hop on to the ferry that leads you to the next island where you can hop on to the next bus. Once you feel you’ve gone far enough, press the stop button, jump out of the bus and walk down to the mile-long beach, dump your carcass in the sun and gaze upon the blue expanse of the Adriatic and remember that heaven truly is on earth.

The adriatic sea

 

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