The Boot Camp Part I: Before You Go

Tess writing Italy
When it comes to Italy, I belong in a 12 step program. I am powerless over Italy. I start getting a jones to go every January and it’s all I can think about until I’m actually there, at which point I’m already thinking about the next time I’m going to go. I have a problem.

However, my addiction has benefitted many others. After going to Italy 8 times in the last 8 years, we’ve become a resource for friends when they’re planning a vacation. Over the years we’ve just started putting the information in a doc for simplicity’s sake and over the years that doc has become 14 pages.


Finally a dear friend who asked to see the document for her mom’s upcoming trip suggested that I put everything online. What an even better idea! I could break apart each region into blog posts which would give me the sense of accomplishment of creating new content without actually writing anything new. This would leave plenty of time for a 2 hour lunch (very Italian!) and still allow me to feel I had been productive that day!

I always tell people to ask themselves before they go what is going to be meaningful to them and signify that they were somewhere else? What do they want to get out of this trip? To live like a local? See things that are 2,000 years old? Lay on a beach that’s like nothing they’ve ever seen? Taste local food? I think asking yourself about the philosophy of travel will help you make the decisions about where you want to go and what you want to do when you get there a lot easier.

Most people their first time in Italy like to do Rome, Florence and Venice . I did it, too. But I think a more ideal Italy trip is to do one major city, a smaller city or town, and then someplace really remote. I usually land in Rome, which is perfect because there are people around and it gives me the infrastructure I need if I land at 8 and need dinner at 10 or sleep until noon because of the jetlag and need to go immediately to lunch. (I also think Rome has the best food of the 3 major cities) I then head out to someplace outside the city: Tuscany, Amalfi, Bologna for some less crowded, less typical experiences, and then when I’m relaxed enough to truly enjoy it, I finally head to an island or someplace in the country to feel like I am the last person on Earth and no one can reach me.

A perfect example of this is Rome, Amalfi, Ischia

You cold also do Rome/orFlorence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre

Venice is going to be the most out of the way of the 3 major cities unless you wanted to do a Northern swing like Venice, Verona, Lake Como/or Lake Garda. If you’re into Barolo wine, Piedmont is also an excellent destination up north. Less American tourists (at least when I went) lots of Austrians and Germans. There’s hikes among the vines, great restaurants, and wine tasting.

The most important thing I can say about all of this is to not try to squeeze everything in. Take your time and tell yourself you will be back and can see things then. One of the best things about Italy is the leisurely pace: having a 2 hour lunch in the middle of the day; the little discoveries you make walking around a city instead of running from attraction to attraction. I find if you try to squeeze in 3 monuments by lunch or whatever you will appreciate and remember little of it. Also, you will be jetlagged so take it easy on yourself. I can usually catch up by the second day but that first one can be rough and I’ve found myself dizzy and nearly fainting trying to push myself. I actually started to topple over in the Vatican museum and was at about a 45 degree angle to the marble floor when some young guys asked if I was OK, The Husband being zero help as he was busy taking photos. I would be more upset about it, but he does take amazing photos including the one above which was taken at our hotel in Sienna.

Oh, and one last thing.

A word about toilets: While a good deal of the bathrooms in Italy are lovely or at least fine and certainly no different in quality from the rich potpourri of toilets one may find in America or any other country, occasionally you may find that, in an otherwise nice, even perhaps expensive restaurant, you may walk into the bathroom only to find the toilet bowl and no toilet seat. Your first instinct is to get out of the gents and into the ladies and then you realize this is the ladies. And on the very rarest of occasions (and I mean rare, like this has only happened to me twice in almost 20 years, rare) you find the toilet is a hole in the tile with two suggestive footprints on either side. Unlike the popular poem, that is not evidence that Jesus was carrying you. That’s where you’re supposed to pee. And that’s totally fine. Are you going to let a thing like a few questionable toilets prevent you from living La Dolce Vita!? Hell no! If you want pretty toilets, vacation at the Home & Garden Expo! Travel is about adventure. Just practice some squats before you go and pretend you’re peeing at an outdoor concert.


Boot Camp Part 2: Roman Holiday

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