Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Countdown to Italy

In a little less than a month we'll be on our way to Italy. Well, we'll be in Ottawa, doing a little resupply first. I need a new backpack before heading over. We've decided that rather than trying to drag luggage all over the place, we'll just stick to our backpacks. Since mine is now more than 10 years old and starting to fall apart, it's time for a trip to one of Cathy's favourite stores in Ottawa (right up there with IKEA), MEC. I could order the backpack and get it delivered up here now, but I'm going to be wearing this all over Italy, not to mention Australia next year. It would be nice to put it on and see how it feels first.

We have, however, ordered and received some travel clothing. We got some lightweight, wash and wear clothes. We're travelling as light as possible. So if we can take only a few outfits, wash them and keep reusing them throughout Italy, that will be fine. We won't be fashionable, but I can handle that. I've never been fashionable.

Everything else for Italy is in pretty good shape. We have the plane tickets bought. I thought they were ridiculously expensive when we bought them, but that was still before increases in fuel surcharges and when the airlines decided that luggage was one of those options we should have to pay for. It was expensive, but it could have been much, much worse.

We also have all of our accommodations taken care of. Several days of hitting dozens of websites managed to get us reasonably decent places to stay. Again, we're travelling to Italy during high season. We decided to not stay at hostels after hearing a few horror stories. We also didn't stay at monasteries, as tempting as that was. They were more expensive than a lot of the hotels and bed and breakfasts we were looking at. We're not staying in high end places, we're not staying at dives. I think the rooms could be be described as being perfectly serviceable.

Without checking the calendar, we're spending about 4 days in Rome, then 7 in Florence, then 4 days in Venice before ending things with 4 days in Cinque Terre. We'll probably do some day trips outside of Florence, maybe to Pisa or maybe around the Tuscan countryside. Hit a vineyard or something. Oh, and we also have a rail pass that's good for 5 days travel. So we're all good. We still have to decide a list of things we want to do when we're in some of these places, but we still have time for that.

We're excited, but not too excited yet. It's still a month away. If you get too wound up about these things too soon, time will just seem to crawl. If nothing else, I learned that about the New York trip. March and the first part of April just seemed to crawl.

I also get some amusement that we're not the only northern bloggers going to be in Europe this summer. Darcy is on his way to Hungary for the better part of the month, which is pretty cool. I don't think eastern Europe is our immediate travel plans, but I'll certainly be reading his posts and be looking forward to his photos. I think I could persuade Cathy to go there one day. Maybe in 2014. I think that's the next open travel year we have....

Last Five
1. Down to London - Joe Jackson*
2. The Complex - Blue Man Group
3. Precious angel - Bob Dylan
4. Stop bringing me down - Ian Foster Band
5. The house is haunted by the echo of you - Holly Cole


Way Way Up said...

LOL...thanks for the mention in the post Craig. I was going to say I used my MEC backpack last year and it worked wonderfully. I'm actually going to be just over the border in Switzerland before heading off from there. I'm taking a train TO Hungary but not AROUND Hungary since their trains ain't exactly known for their comfort. Looks like the good old Hungarian bus line for this traveller.

Anyhow, looks like you'll be hitting a few places in Italy I hope to drop into as well eventually. I'll be following up on your blog as much as I can over the summer.

Enjoy the trip!

Stephanie said...

A woman at work just returned from a similar trip and said Cinque Terre was the highlight yet a proud Italian friend of mine from Naples had never heard of the place. Weirdness.

Mireille Sampson said...

Ice cream, best in the world. Fuck diets, they're for at home. I expect the pasta every day will agree with you. Have fun!

A travel tip you're likely to never need but will really wish you had if something goes wrong: keep a colour photocopy of your passports with family/ case the real one gets lost/stolen.

towniebastard said...

Stephanie, what's weirder still is that it's a United Nations World Heritage Site, or something like that. I had someone at work rave to me about the place, which is why we're going.

And while we were tempted by Naples (reportedly the best pizza in Italy, near Mount Vesuvius), the 3 month garbage strike put an end to that.

Mireile, we plan to enjoy the food a lot. Granted, a lot of places charge you extra just to sit down, which is retarded, but we'll figure something out.

And we plan on photocopying most of our documents several times. A copy for ourselves and for Cathy's parents, in case there's trouble. We also have to get something translated into Italian that we can show people letting them know about Cathy's allergies.

Anonymous said...

Having been to Italy a few times, on many budgets, please accept some advice:

1) Don't wear shorts unless you are doing something strenuous outside, like hiking. Italians dress nicer than we do, as a rule. Shorts' scream 'tourist', and service and friendliness tends to drop a few points.

2) Pizza is cheap, and ten times better than you can imagine it. Make it a priority and you will rarely be disappointed.

3) Book your tickets on-line now for the Uffizi in Florence and the Vatican museum in Rome. No matter what your tastes, both are a must. Unfortunately, walk-up lineups can stretch for kilometers, and take three-plus hours to get to the front. I scoffed at these predictions, and took my chances last summer. Par-boiling in a line-up for two hours was not smart, especially while watching smarter on-line bookers waltz up to their special window.

4) Pisa, apart from the leaning tower, (which takes five minutes), stinks. It is a not-very pretty factory town with the most souvenier -stand ridden mess around the tower you can imagine. Getting back to the train station is a very long hot walk or a very tedious wait for a taxi. Vacation time is precious. Avoid.

5) The best view of Florence is from the Piazzele Michaelangelo, on the south side of the river, up a set of stairs. It is well off the beaten path, good 20 minute walk from the center of town, but the most amazing view you will see in Italy.

have fun.

towniebastard said...

Anon, thanks for all the advice. That's all good stuff.

My concern about the shorts is that I need to keep cool. As Cathy will note, my IQ dips quickly the closer to 40C it gets. Once it goes above that temperature, well, it isn't a pretty sight.

We've taken steps to make sure I don't overheat, but I can't see wearing pants if the temp is well above 30C, which I suspect it will be.

Yes, the shorts might be a tip that I'm a tourist, but I suspect the horrific Italian we'll subject them to will tip them off quickly enough.

In Iqaluit said...

I went on a 'round the world trip with a backpack. In all of my pictures, I am wearing the same clothes and flat hair. I looked like I photoshopped myself in different places. But I loved to travel light (even though the pack was still heavy and my back seemed to always be sweaty).

I think shorts are fine. Maybe nice khaki ones.

And I would scan your documents and send it to youself on email too. That way you have it no matter what (including your credit card info).

Have fun! I LOVE Florence!

Karin said...

You do realize you are going during EuroCup.
Get ready for big, loud celebrations if they win but could turn violent if they lose. Italy is expected to do well so I wouldn't worry too much. Do be careful - Italian soccer fans don't have the best reputation.

However - they're my team so I'm jealous you'll be there.
Have a blast!

Stephanie said...

I mentioned Cinque Terre to my friend again . . . it turns out my prononunciation confused him. He spent time in the military there.

And yes, Naples has the best pizza. When he goes home, he just walks from pizza place to pizza place. He claims he never gains weight when he goes back home. Enjoy the food!

David Cochrane said...

Craig -- if you are going to Rome book tickets online for the Borghese gallery. I've posted the link below. Amy and I went there last year and that museum was so much fun. It has exclusive limited viewings and has a more intimate feeling than the larger tourist trap museums. I absolutely loved it.

We spent 8 or 9 days in Rome. We rented an apartment near the Piazza Navona. It was the best trip of my life. Rome is stunning. It makes Paris look like Mount Pearl :)

The people are beautiful too. Even the Nuns are sexy :) And the Roman are extremely friendly. Its a tourist economy and they don't resent your visit the way Parisians sometimes do.

The street Pizza and Gelato are superb. You can get the best espresso you have ever had for 70 euro cents if you drink it standing up (3 euros if you sit down -- there's a cash save for you ). I would go back to Rome in a second. I love London and New York. They are great, great cities. But Rome buries them in my humble opinion as a vacation spot. It is fantastic. I can't wait to see the rest of Italy.

Here is the link to the Borghese gallery. I highly recommend it.