For the next 4 weeks I will be sharing posts about a wonderful trip to Italy that Steve and I made almost two years ago with our great friends, Rick and Martine Sharp. Our hearts were broken when Rick died on July 20, 2015, after waging an 8-year battle with multiple myeloma. On this trip, though, he was doing well. We laughed a lot and shared an unforgettable adventure. Rick is in heaven now. These posts are dedicated to his memory, and I pray they will be a source of happy memories for his wife Martine. I love you, friend.
What do you get when four people in their sixties — one with a Ph.D in education who has been the principal of three schools and has published numerous books and articles, an engineer who has consulted all over the world, a retired veterinarian who practiced for forty years, and a retired music teacher who likes to blog and embarrass her children — decide it’s time to plan a trip to Italy that has been working its way to the top of their Bucket List long enough?? In my opinion, you get a trip that includes all of the major high points that you might find on anyone’s slide show but which also has a personality all its own.
Some might say that we did our trip the HARD way, and on several occasions (such as when I was dragging myself and my bag down the sidewalk to catch a city bus to the train station), I would probably have agreed. We looked at cruises, but none of them went to all of the places we were hoping to visit. We looked at group tours, and a few years from now, when we are older, those might be great options. A pivotal decision we made was to only take “one carry-on bag and a personal item per person” as specified by the airlines. That made our travel from place to place MUCH easier, but we had to look at the same clothes on each other repeatedly. Small price to pay. When we saw other travelers lugging their extra-large bags, we were smugly glad that we had made a different choice.
Some might say that we did our trip the CHEAP way. We could definitely have spent less money and most certainly, we could have spent a whole lot more. But, I think that our budget of $400 per day per couple, not per person, (after airfare) to cover hotels, in-country transportation, meals and sightseeing was reasonable. And, as I’ve figured it today, we actually came very close. $420 per day. Not bad.
Others might say that we just took off on a lark without any help or advice. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We were as informed as any travelers I’ve ever encountered. We studied guidebooks, websites, maps and blog posts. We asked recent travelers for their recommendations, and we took everything into account. We spent four hours one day about 6 weeks before our trip — everyone with their own computers — researching and booking hotels. We had 3 half-day tours in Rome, a cooking class, a rental car for driving through Tuscany for 3 days, and a tour in Milan booked in advance. But, other than the specified times for those plans, we hoped to have a fairly “loose” itinerary to allow flexibility and to take advantage of special circumstances.
We were gone for 16 days — well, 17 if you count the cancelled flight in Washington, D.C. on our return trip when the airline had to provide hotel rooms. During those days we visited Rome, Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Pisa, San Gimignano, Volterra, Cinque Terre, Siena, Milan, Lake Como, Varenna, Bellagio, Venice and Murano, and we ate gelato everyday (if we missed one day, we ate it twice the next).
Stay tuned over the coming days as I reveal more details about our trip than you probably ever wanted or needed to read. We had a GREAT time.
Pictured below: Rick and Martine Sharp, our fellow travelers, and Steve and I having our first tastes of gelato on our very first day in Rome.