Saturday, August 29, 2009

Italy Surprises and Beauty

We had the great fortune this year to take a 21 day tur through Europe.  We went with an American tour company "Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door" and I have to say it was fantastic.  The tour company takes the approach of not staying in the big chain hotels, but instead staying in family run hotels an pensions.  Not tiny little places necessarily, but still not the normal tourist accommodation.  We started in Haarlem, Amsterdam and travelled through Germany, Austria, Rome, Switzerland and into France.  Unfortunately we never made it to France as we left in Switzerland due to family emergencies, you can read about all that on my other blog, "Through the Valley of Life" 
But the countries and towns we did visit were incredible.  We spent 8 days in Italia, visiting Venezia (Venice), Firenze (Florence), Roma (Rome) and the Italian Riviera the beautiful Cinque Terre.  Italia you have stolen my heart.  The hair plugged head of the man above was spotted in a Piazza in Roma and I just had to snap this pic, I knew my kids would love it.
We ate as much Italian food as we could, I mean come on your in Italia and the food is amazing, the olives fresh and delicious, the cheese oh my goodness the cheese well, I love cheese anyway and the beautiful Gorgonzola we ate in the Cinque Terre was beyond description.  Soft and smooth, runny and pungent to the nose.  I adored every mouthful. The Seafood, fresh salty cooked unlike we have here in Australia, oh the food was such an important part of the tour. From the delicious Currywurst in Rothenburg Germany, the Pommes Frittes in Haarlem, the Snitzel in Switzerland, the real Italian pizzas, oh all of it was so mouthwatering.  Anyway back to Italia.  I think Venezia was probably my favourite.  We had two days to roam around and get lost in the winding laneways.  We had two days to find out of the way little nooks in which to eat.  We had two wonderful nights to stroll the streets in the twilight hours, listening to the duelling orchestras in San Marco Square and drink Spritzers, the current popular drink of the locals.  Not my cup of tea at all an certainly not a cup of tea.  Actually they are made from sparkling wine, mineral water, and depending on the type you choose some other alcohol and herbs sometimes, actually I really dislike them especially the black artichoke one.  Who ever heard of anything like it.  The gondola's being pushed along the canals, filled to overflowing with tourists, make for a laugh, we didn't venture on board, I like to walk and watch too much to be tucked away in a boat.  But they are a funny sight to see.  Some of the men steering them sing and some growl, but they are quite amazing at steering them through the narrow winding water streets.
But maybe I'm wrong and the Cinque Terre, the Italian Riviera was my favourite.  The smell of the salt air after the rush and busyness of Roma and Florence, was captivating.  I was like a school kid again all excited about going on a beach holiday.  And it was our holiday from touring for a few days.  We had so much fun here too.  We took the boat to the first town, Riomaggiore and then the Via DellÁmore walk to the next, Manarola.  Along the way we drank wine on the mountain edge, literally overhanging the cliff face.  We ate more seafood, drank Prosecco the local champagne, met a local waiter and some other Aussies also on holidays in Italy and sang some loud and out of tune songs in a square late at night.  What a hoiday.  We trekked up a vineyard walk, hundreds of feet up the steepest hill and saw all the families coming together for lunch.  And I wished we did that in Australia, I wanted to be Italian right then. I wanted the Trevi Fountain to be in the centre of my home town.  I wanted to be able to eat Gelato every day and eat my lunch sitting next to the statue of David even if it is a copy.  Oh the real David, I was breathless, what a magnificent sight..the marble actually looks like flesh, Michelangelo was a genius. 
So yes Mandy I too prefer Italy and when hopefully we go back next year to France we want to end our month in the Cinque Terre again.  Italia we love you......


  1. I enjoyed this travelogue..
    We never went to Cinque Terre..I hear it is just beautiful..I have seen photos of course..we did see many beautiful places..We drove 5000 kms..:)
    Our trip was a little different..We bought a car inMarseilles(Achat Rachat) and started our journey in France..Provence ..and La Côte d'Azur.It was magical..We then drove to Iatly and visited Umbria and Tuscany..Rome..Florence..Venice and Sienna of course,
    It was just the kind of trip that made me take a liking to adventure and seeing something new and beautiful every day.
    Actually something old and beautiful every day.It's been one year already almost..I am nestled back..and have vivid great memories..Still happy to live where I do though..It's home to me.
    Definitely very special places in my heart.
    I hope you do get to go back:)You love life~ You have an inner joie de vivre.

  2. Hello

    Popped over from Mandy's Old Dairy blog. We did Italy in 2006 and will return there next Oct 2010. Our daughter Kirby did a school exchange/trip for 3 weeks in '06 so we went too, but separate from her tour. Caught up with her in Milan and met her host family in Turin. Gorgeous people. Our daughter Bri will do the same type of thing next year so we are off again. We will take in Rome, Florence, Piza and more this time.
    Sorry to crap on. Will have a good read of your blog tomorrow.

    Cheers - Joolz

  3. I enjoyed reading this. Italy is one of my fave countries in Europe. Been there quite a number of times and always looked back to going back. You brought back many happy memories for me, thank you! Bella Italia :) I am so glad you enjoyed the sights, sounds and food.


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