The world is covered with wonderful vacation destinations. When asked, “What was your favorite vacation?” —the answer changes depending on the wind. Two that stand out are China and Italy—countries that have little in common, but each has a wealth of outstanding attractions. The depth of their unique cultures is revealed in the architecture, art, customs, traditions, and people. Today, Italy gets the vote.
Italy has many famous locations and attractions: Milan, The Last Supper, Venice, Florence, David, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rome, Coliseum, Sistine Chapel, Raphael, Pantheon, Saint Peters Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, to name a few. (left: The Transfiguration by Raphael)
Enjoying an attraction is a simple matter of being there. Letting it become part of your soul requires reflecting on the age, construction methods, brush strokes, patient determination to build over several decades, or the technology available at the time.
Every travel adventure has surprises that can diminish the experience. Being aware of these surprises can enhance the trip and provide entertaining stories told over the years. Here are a few surprises that can be encountered in Italy:
Within an hour of landing, we witness a traditional Italian argument. The first nine taxis waiting are sub-compacts. Taxi number ten is a minivan. There are four of us with eight total pieces of luggage and four carry-ons. We target the minivan, stow the bags, show the driver our destination, and pull away from the curb. As we drive by, nine taxi drivers provide feedback while oscillating their hands about ear level.
Driving in Italy is not for the faint of heart. The taxi crossed four lanes to take the off-ramp. Expected feedback voiced by car horns—not a single beep. And, I recommend looking out the side windows—watching the driver can be hazardous to your psyche. They are wildly safe.
Cafes and ristorante bills include a charge for napkins and use of utensils. It’s always there. Sometimes it is itemized; other times it is in the meal price.
Expect to pay for grocery bags.
Cathedrals and churches have dress codes. How the rules are enforced varies. Uncovered shoulders and legs are the focus of security. Some locations have vending machines with paper shirts and skirts. Others recycle cloth shawls and wrap-around dresses.
A few of the cathedrals have peddlers. For donations, they tie string around the wrist or put corn in your palm to attract the pigeons for photographs. They are aggressive and grab a hand, or wrist, before the first “no” is spoken. A frustrated young lady tired of saying “no, go away” finally solved the problem when she slapped the peddler.
Be specific when saying, “Let’s meet back at the church.” There are hundreds of churches within a few square kilometers.
Some hotels have a key fob that slides into a receptacle. The fob turns on the room electricity. Which means, batteries cannot recharge, and the air conditioning/heating is off if the fob is missing from the receptacle.
Have a readable address for your destination that can be handed to cab drivers.
In Italy it’s a major crime to sell or be-in-possession-of illegal goods (knock-offs, items sold without vending permit, etc.). Be very careful about buying anything from a street vendor that displays his wares for a speedy getaway.
Keep some small change available. There are clerks that avoid counting change over 20 euros. There will be feedback for holding up a line.
The Romans’ preferred mode of transportation is a motorcycle. Drivers are businessmen in three-piece suits, women in business attire, shop owners, people in formal evening wear, students, construction workers, you get the idea. They go very fast. Be careful crossing a street.
For the big attractions, buy tickets on-line to go right to the entrance, and avoid the long, slow ticket lines.
The last item is don’t try to see everything. Make choices and take your time enjoying the quality of the art, sculpture, meals, culture, and people. Let Italy give you something to bring home.
Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.
We call Utah and Wyoming home.
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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!