Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Background Italy

My wife and I love Europe but have differing levels of exposure to different countries.  One place we wanted to visit 'extensively' was Italy.  We started talking about spending a month there last fall.  The idea was that April 2016 would be Italy.  Then I figured out that my neck was making me miserable and that took over.  So we aimed for September 2016 and what a month it was!

We left Las Vegas on August 30 and returned on September 27 flying in and out of Venice.  We visited Rome together in 2000 (not exactly last week but we were looking at the Roman Forum so....).  I had visited some of the hill towns like Florence back in the 1970's but let's face it that was a while ago.  My wife had been in Milan on business but that too is 'a different experience'.  The bottom line is that we wanted to see most of central Italy.

So the first thing we did when we landed in Venice is to find a bus to the train station where we hopped a train to Naples.  Why Naples?  Well, it is close to Pompeii.  That was the draw for us.  Our style of travel is still evolving.  When we are in our rv, it's easy, we are always home.  Traveling without the rv is a whole new business especially in a tourist-centric place like Italy.  If you go to Chicago, travelers are probably 80% business and 20% vacationers.  In Italy it's almost certainly reversed.  In this day of Trip Advisor and the like if you want to stay in a nice place for a reasonable amount you find yourself on the internet more than you might like.  In the end we usually stayed two or three nights in each of the cities we visited.  After the first 10 days we rented a car and visited less traveled parts of the country.  Finally, after two weeks of car travel, we settled in Venice for four days to see that amazing city.

We bought a tablet computer for our trip to Ireland and it has served us well.  It did the same in Italy as most hotels had wifi and it actually worked, usually.  In Ireland the hotels were smaller, it was a couple years ago and things just weren't as good.  In Italy we had a couple of places where we would get dropped from the network then 5 seconds later re-attached.  I've got no idea what was going on but it did happen in more than one hotel.  The tablet enabled us to make hotel reservations a couple days in advance.  It also allows us to make notes easily so that 1) we can remember where we were on a given day and 2) we can update Trip Advisor with reviews of hotels, restaurants, etc.

Our smartphones were important as well.  We didn't know what would happen if we swapped our SIM card for an Italian one so my phone was nominated to be the experiment.  For 35 euro we got a new SIM card and a month's usage with a special deal that gave us international calling as well.  It was way worth it!  We didn't make many phone calls but having the data available via the phone was exceptional.  I'm sure we used it multiple times a day and probably used less than 1 gig of the 4 gig of data we were allowed.  In addition, the international call plan allowed my wife to call her mother weekly as she has been doing for several years.  The calls were as clear as they are here and I don't believe there was any discernable lag.

The other 'inovation' is GPS, we won't be there without it.  In Europe, when not on a motorway, one does not follow a road, one goes to a place.  You don't follow the A22 you go to Maranello.  This is fine but it does require a certain ablility to adapt to change.  Maranello might not be on the road sign, it might say Carpi so you need to know that Carpi is on the way towards Maranello or not.  Back in the good old days you might have to go around the roundabout two or three times while your navigator (wife) searched the map for where the hell Carpi might lead us.  With GPS all you need to know is that the second turn on the roundabout is the one you want.  Trust me, it makes life much easier.  That's true even if, like me, you end up with TWO women telling you where to go:  my wife and the voice from the GPS.  It was actually kind of funny.  My wife would see that there was a roundabout coming up and we would want the 9 o'clock exit.  She would tell me that then the GPS would wake up and say 'There is a roundabout in 800 meters, take the third exit".   Between the three of us we only got off track two or three times in the almost 1200 km we drove on some of the many back roads of Italy.  It was also a lifesaver in towns.  If your hotel or whatever isn't on the main road you definitely need direction.

Well, that is the overview of our trip.   I'll be resizing photos to share over the next few posts.  There are only about 700 of them to choose from but trust me, I'll keep it to a reasonable number.

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