My friend is a wizard at creative traveling! This lovely and exuberant lady shared her recent trip adventures with me. I am inspired by her carpe diem attitude to travel with her friend to Italy and enjoy the nuances of Italian life, culture and cuisine. Their cooking class and quest for good coffee makes me miss Italy! Even their transportation challenges and obstacles did not ruin their fun!
What inspired you to travel to Italy?
My friend and I started in NYC for 2 days, then we flew into Milan for 1 night, Florence for 4 nights, Venice for 1 night and 2 nights in London.
What excursions or museums do you recommend?
In Milan, I would recommend seeing the Duomo, a Gothic cathedral that took over 600 years to build.
Take a lift or walk up the stairs to the rooftop to see breathtaking views of the city. On a clear day, the view stretches to the Alps. Milan is also home to the Teato Alla Scalla, one of the oldest opera houses in Europe. I missed seeing the Leonardo’s Da Vinci’s Last Supper because the tours were sold out while we were there. I would highly recommend reserving that in advance of a trip. In Florence, I would recommend also seeing the Duomo Cathedral and seeing Michelango’s David. It was one of the most magnificent sculptures I have ever seen. No picture will compare to seeing in person.
We also took a tour of the Uffizi Gallery with a guide. I loved how passionate and knowledgable the guide was in describing the paintings and sculptures.
What hotels and restaurants do you recommend?
We stayed in some excellent hotels in all of our cities but our favorite was the Hotel David in Florence. It was a very homey atmosphere convenient to all areas with an evening cocktail area where all the guests congregate downstairs in the evening to visit and talk about their adventures.
How would you describe the perfect Italian meal?
Our perfect meal was in Florence. We had arranged a tour with Walkabout Florence. The guide picked us up and walked us through the indoor food market Mercado Centrale to pick out all of our ingredients. We then caught a bus to the Tuscan farmhouse kitchen where we had the opportunity to drink wine and cook with our fresh ingredients. The kitchen was state of the art with an outdoor pizza oven and had great views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. It was a day-long adventure with lots of laughter.
Milan is very industrial and is definitely the bustling center of finance for Italy. It was very crowded. The shopping was very glamorous and high end with shops such as Versace, Louis Vuitton, Armani and Prada. Florence was much more laid back and more my style. The shopping was more open market style with some excellent deals on jewelry, silks and leather. Bicycles rule the road in Florence. Everyone has one with a bell and a basket.
Describe a custom that you observed there. Did you incorporate any of their customs back home?
One of my favorite things about Italy was finding that perfect cup of coffee. Italy has a wonderful respect and love for coffee. Cappucinos are only for breakfast; no milk in the coffee after 11am. If you order a latte, you will probably get just a glass of milk. Drink it standing at the bar, on the go. Espresso is an after dinner drink. I bought me a Bialetti percolator to enjoy at home!
Were there any challenges in getting to your destination? What was the flight like?
Our biggest challenge was in NYC getting a replacement passport for my friend at the State Department. She had recently remarried and didn’t realize that she needed to have a passport with her new name. It actually delayed our trip to Italy by one day but Delta was nice enough to accommodate us. They even moved that $130 ticket forward one day with no fee. Our only other hiccup was getting off the train at the wrong stop in Bologna, Italy. We thought we were supposed to change trains but we actually had direct tickets from Milan to Florence. The ticket agent was very helpful in getting us back on track, not without some heavy teasing. She had a good laugh at our expense. I loved the trains from city to city. It was so easy to get around -and so comfortable and relaxing. I don’t think I would want to rent a car.
What did you learn about yourself from this trip?
I learned that I am ready to go back and take my husband but I would spend more time in one spot. We were too fast paced. I would spend more time in the Tuscan area, drinking Chianti, eating gelato and pasta and relaxing.