Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Pisa to Nice to Monaco

September 22, 2015 - 8:50 am No Comments

At Rome’s Termini station, we got on our Trenitalia (rhymes with “genitalia”) train and chilled out for 4 hours. We all got to know each other a bit, and Nader pulled out his Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey to loosen things up a bit. My iPhone playlist was judged to be weird but good. Except by Maddy, who made some snarky comment about it but later quietly sung along with one of the songs. Outside, we were treated to the Italian countryside with the occasional glimpse of the Mediterranean.

Pisa is a charming little town with the the leaning tower, of course, as the main attraction. After quick pizza lunch, we walked over to the famous tower.

Sausage and Pesto Pizza (more…)

Rome Wasn’t Seen in a Day

September 19, 2015 - 9:31 pm 2 Comments

Got off the train and took to the streets in search of my B&B. It was cloudy and humid, and I was dripping with sweat before even getting to the place. It was a challenge finding it, with no signage on the outside and no address numbers for reference. But when I finally got inside, I was greeted by the flamboyant and friendly Laura. She seemed like a great host, but I didn’t stick around. Jet-lagged but buzzing on the adrenaline of being someplace new, I set off to explore Rome.

Rome is about how I imagined it, hubbub of commercial strips, duotone police sirens, giant billboards, graffiti, gummed up sidewalks, and scooters. One thing there’s a lot of is fountains. I don’t know if it’s something that goes back to the aqueduct days of the ancient Romans, but there seems to be a fountain of fresh, drinkable water every few hundred meters. Romans are never thirsty.

Italians have certain sense of style, with seemingly random combinations of clothes and colors that they wear with confidence. Everyone’s thin (so much for low-carb diets) and good-looking, but a bit part of that is their attitude. Everyone is flamboyant and confident and happy. There are also nuns everywhere.

Some pigeons and I visited the Spanish Steps. Kind of cool, I guess, but not much to it.

Spanish Steps (more…)

Off to Rome!

September 17, 2015 - 8:24 pm No Comments

So I’ve been scrimping and saving up my vacation time for a couple of years to go on another big adventure. After a decade of amazing New Year’s trips, I’m starting to run out of good places to go that time of year, so I decided to start looking at suitable trips to take in the fall.

I consulted my bucket list and cross-referenced it with tours offered by my two favorite small group travel companies, G Adventures and Intrepid, and came up with some great options. I briefly considered taking advantage of the economic struggles in Greece or taking a tour around Iceland, but in the end, I decided I could hit Italy, Barcelona, and Lisbon, all ranked quite highly on my bucket list, with the G Adventures Rome to Madrid on a Shoestring small group tour.

But who to go with? My usual travel partner, Doug, didn’t have the vacation time. My other friends are busy having babies and working. I looked into some of the “find a travel buddy” websites like and, but they all seemed a bit sketchy to me. Do people really commit to spending several days with strangers? Is it just a global hook-up network? I don’t know if I could ever take a chance like that.

So I decided to go solo. About six weeks ago, I sat at my desk at work and felt that familiar little buzz of adrenalin as I clicked the PURCHASE button on the G Adventures website.

My trip starts in Rome and skips along the Mediterranean coast to Pisa, Genoa, Monaco, Nice, Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Seville, Algarve, Lisbon, and finally Madrid. That’s 5 countries in 16 days. I haven’t been to any of these places before. Some of them, I’ve never heard of. I haven’t been this excited about a trip in a long time.

c2190985cebcb41d261d616cb702e96e (more…)

A Moment in St. Mark’s Square

August 28, 2011 - 5:42 pm No Comments

Frank and Alex are continuing on a tour through the rest of Italy with Intrepid, giving them another week in the country. For a while, I thought about changing my plane ticket and joining them, but a girlfriend and work commitments at home prevented me from doing so.

Do Not Get On or Get Off During the Closing (more…)

Venice: Canals and Crumbling Buildings

August 26, 2011 - 10:49 pm No Comments

Today is a big day for Frank, as he is of Italian descent, and this will be his first time in the motherland. He plans to trace the roots of his grandfather by going to the town he came from and talking with the locals. Pretty cool.

Leaving Bled, we met a group of English girls on our train who thought I look like Matt Damon. Not the first time I’ve gotten that. To thank them for what I perceived as a compliment, I taught them how to play a simple mind game played with three rows of crumpled up paper balls. When they pushed me to name the game, I told them to call it “Jeff’s Balls.”

While on the train, Tomi was supposed to let us know when we crossed the border into Italy. He didn’t, and when we got off to change trains in Gorizia, we found out that the reason Tomi has seemed a little nervous and timid lately was because this was the first time he’s done this itinerary. He’s familiar with all of the cities, but he’s never run this route before. In any case, the signs were in Italian and police sirens had a different sound. Just like that, we were in Italy.

Our train came stopped in Mestre, the urbanized mainland district of Venice. We parted ways to find our various hotels, dropped our bags, and then met up again at the station to catch a train to Venice. From Mestre, a short bridge connects the mainland to the islands of Venice. We arrived at the station in Venice and met up with Christian, Tomi’s boss, for a quick orientation walk.

The Train into Venice (more…)