Saturday, October 7, 2023

Italy: Beginning of the Journey

This blog is mostly for myself.  I had such a good time I want to remember all the details.  If you are interested to visit Italy you might be curious, but if you have already visited Italy a lot will be repetitious.  If you have no interest in visiting Italy you may find most of it boring.  The country itself is very interesting.

All of us on the tour were over 50, most over 70, except for two adult daughters.  The advantage of staying at one resort is you get to know the staff and its routines--minor trips at your expense.  On the tour you do get to know your fellow travelers--in this case from coast to coast.  Age is the most common denominators, retired as well--most but not all had children and grandchildren 

 As a bit of a punk when living in Haliburton my brother Marshall and I used to watch the cottagers driving back home and thinking how ignorant they were.  To some degree this juvenile attitude was picked up from our peers.  We didn't appreciate that the cottagers did get a lot of enjoyment from the country and they did contribute significantly to our welfare. We knew we were different and of course there had to be some superiority that came with it.  Perhaps we were defensive.  They loved the outdoors and being away from the city rush.

Taken to the Toronto Airport by Airways Transit.  From Toronto we connected to the Montreal Airport to complete our tour gang, 34 altogether some from western Canada, eastern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.  Lanyards with our name reminds of our school days, but help us get each other's names, and also identify us as a group.  Met tour manager, Chris.. 

Our tour manager Chris explained that she never should be addressed as a tour guide.  Tour guides are required to pass a test to get a license.  Chris had her own set of challenges and handled them well.

There was a routine.  We handled carry on baggage while the tour handles the heavier luggage.  Left the luggage outside our room in time for operator to put on bus.  Eat breakfast paid by tour and then as Sharon pointed out we "brush and flush".  We then drive to meet our tour guide and we walk.  To us an odd feature of hotels was that the ground floor was not the first floor, it was zero while what we call the second floor was considered the first floor.  Confusing, but I recall something from my French classes.

Covering Italy from top to bottom there were a few notable traffic differences from what we were used to.  Round abouts slow down traffic and annoy many.  Motorcycles are much more common than in Ontario and more aggressive. They are seen weaving between cars, truck and buses.  

In the early part of our trip we encountered pay for toilets.  With mostly seniors we spent a lot of time searching for public toilets.  At first we scrambled for coins. but were pleased there were some free toilets and buying food at a restaurant opened up another possibility. 

First day spent getting to Milano.  Had been told no meal and that we could not get an airplane meal, but we did and it was substantial.  Long lineups in Milano Airport and we learned far out of the city

For our first lunch we had been told we were expected to pay for our lunch, but in fact it was paid for including some Prosecco and wine.  The waitress afterwards told us that the meat had been cooked in such away that diners could have easy access to marrow that her grandmother assured was the tastiest and healthiest part'

One aspect that annoyed most of us was that dinners tended to be at 8:00 p.m.  We had a need to get up before 7 the next day and felt this minimized our sleep quality.  Perhaps this goes back to the idea of in hot weather workers required a siesta in the afternoon and the hotels adjusted.

Milan was considered very important to the point that Napoleon had himself crowned Emperor here.  The top church was built mostly with marble.  As a request I saw La Scala, the most important opera house in the world where some of my favorite operas saw their debut.  Fashion and financial capital city of Italy

Taken to Lake Garda  around Sermione and were told bigger than Lake Como.  Went for a boat ride and were entertained by the driver feeding a swan. Roman ruins, best seen from the lake were the first attraction, but the second attraction was gelato with several outlets.  We were told that  Maria Callas lived here for a time.  Very busy.  I bought a baseball cap with Lake Garda imprinted.

Roman ruins seen from Lake.

                                                        Swan looking for treats and got them.                                                       


Verona, the next day was famous for its Roman Arena that has become a concert venue including mine and the guide's favorite Eros Ramazotti and Michael Buble.  Giuletta's balcony was another attraction.

Verona Roman Arena used for concerts

                                                                        Giuletta's Balcony





Padova, later same day was an educational centre that had included Gallileo and  Dante.  A personal highlight for Sharon was a coffee that had been shown by Stanley Tucci on his television show.  The coffee drinkers in our gang all loved it.

Sharon and Mary drinking coffee while Calder watches




                                                     Sculpture from church




Venice, like all our locations was bigger than imagined.  On our gondola ride we can be appreciate the skill in building on next to water.   Gondalas, require balance.  We enjoyed a drink with Chris,  Also very crowded.

St. Mark's 




                                                 Chris our tour manager




Gondola Ride




 On our way to Pisa we went through lots of tunnels under the Appeninnes mountains.  There is more to Pisa than the famous leaning tower.  Guide took us in Baptistry and suggested go up to balcony 65 steps for an acoustics demonstration.  Andrea Bocelli had tested it.  She explained history of the leaning tower that had originally built on sand.  Heavy materials caused the lean.  Efforts to fix was interrupted by the 100 year war.  More recently around 1990 the tower was closed for 10 years while international experts made adjustments.  It is resistant to most earth quake shocks.  Our guide  had each person's photo taken appearing to hold up or pull tower.  It was well done and time consuming for her, but the results were special.









Florence (Firenze) was very crowded, even our guide felt it was too crowded.  We saw the fake David.  This was a very good lunch with fellow travelers 

The fake David.

A tomb inside a church.

                                                                            Bride and Groom








Sienna was still another site that offered.more than expected, but less crowded.  At the hotel Sharon was able to wade into the Adriatic Sea.

There were many very elaborate.churches.   I was stunned by the amount of money, tremendous artistry and lives that may have been lost (or shortened).  One church paid homage to Socrates.










Socrates in a Church





 In front of Olive Tree at Sienna Hotel

By the time we reached Assisi my expectations were heightened, but once again it was more than anticipated.  Le Cantina di Oddo offered gnocchi that was excellent.

                      At La Cantina di Oddo.





That was the northern half, and the southern proved to be just as interesting such as                                     

                                                               Check the link below.

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