At three weeks, the Italian section of our travels was very much the kind of thing you might do as a stand-alone holiday. Frankly, we could have quite easily spent three weeks at each of our stops (maybe only two in Venice), taking more side trips, having more days feeling like we could just chill without rushing to yet another must-see sight. Of course, Schengen rules being what they are, that kind of leisurely pace would have meant visiting Italy and only Italy. Even so, we found the itinerary aggressive, and would have wished to somehow carve out a few
Unlike Germany and Austria, everyone expects to eat sumptuously in Italy, and it didn't disappoint. The cuisine is deeply regional — whatever foodstuffs we adored in one place would be entirely unavailable in the next. Each town had its own slightly different ragù, and its own twist on pastry. There was rather more seafood than we expected, rather fewer vegetables, and we got quite addicted to the €1.40 cappuccini. The commitment to quality in ingredients was heartening. A shop in Rome wouldn't sell us fresh ricotta until the heard that we were planning to eat it that day, and the guanciale
Carnival in Venice is a really big deal. People flock to the city in serious costumes and serious masks to attend serious balls. By some reports, 3 million visitors come to Venice for the festivities, representing something like 15% of the total annual tourist traffic in just two weeks. In past days as an independent republic, Venice was known as "La Serenissima", the "most serene". Well, not during Carnival it isn't. Costumes and masks on display in a Venice shop. I'd like to say it was careful planning on our part that had us arriving in Venice at the absolute
One way to escape the crowds Venice is to head out to the islands. We set our sights for Murano, famed for its glass making. Firing glass in the kiln Shaping hot glass into a glass. While we were there, we were blessed with our first properly sunny day in Venice. The canals came alive in a whole new way with the sunshine dancing off the water. And, of course, the thrill of an extra-long boat ride out into the lagoon. Leaving Murano on the Water Bus
Venice was our last stop on the Italian leg of the trip. We arrived by train, and emerged from the station straight onto the banks of the Grand Canal. Fully embracing the nature of the city, we hopped on a waterbus to our (super) apartment in the Dosoduro, south of the main centre. We arrived in the peak of Carnival so things were especially busy. To try to skip the worst of that, we tended to hustle out of the door pretty early, fortified by pastries and coffee from the bakery under our apartment. Thus, while St. Mark's Square is
We debated whether or not to even come to Naples. We definitely wanted to visit Pompeii, but perhaps that was better handled as a sidetrip from Rome? In the end, we spent five days in and around Naples, and we're ever so glad we did. The city is grittier than our other stops, which sometimes seem almost to exist mainly for the benefit of tourists. There are plenty of sights to see in Naples, but it feels lived-in. It's a city that built right on top of ancient Roman structures, integrating them into the walls and foundations of buildings even
Capri is the most famous island in the Bay of Naples, but we opted instead to take a day trip to the island of Ischia. It takes about an hour on a fast catamaran (definitely a feature for the small boys in the party) Watching the ferry pull out of the port. We picked a perfect day for a trip to the island — clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and the warmest day of the trip thus far, with temperatures climbing up over 15 degrees. That is still not quite swimming weather, and we didn't think to bring togs. Foolish parents.
Just a regular port town in ancient times, but a wonder for the modern world, Pompeii is immediately captivating, and especially photogenic on a crisp, clear day. The Theatre We spent the first couple of hours in a guided tour given by an archeologist, which gave good sense of the history of the town and excavations. It also ensured that Susan and the boys didn't have to suffer through my pontificating attempts to dredge up facts from 25 (!!) years ago when I was here for a Latin class trip (benefits of a classical education, etc., etc.) Temple of Isis It turns out