Take rich cultural experience, add seaside relaxation and great food. Make it completely offline and in good company of friends and locals. Add to this low total cost and you’ll have what I call perfect vacation. Two weeks in Italy were wonderful and left us refreshed and energized, hopefully for the whole year, until the next one.
As usual, it all started more then six month ago when we hunted down bargain $250 round-trip tickets to Rome. Later it turned out that our newly wed friends were going to visit their relatives in Tuscany and they invited us along.
We began with two days in Rome. The eternal city met us with an unusually good weather: mildly warm during days and refreshing during nights. In the first day we covered most important attractions including Coliseum, Roman Forum, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and others. Probably the most impressive of all was the Pantheon with its surreal oculus. There is indeed something magical and unforgettable about being inside and touching the walls of a building erected two thousand years ago.
On the second morning we ventured to Vatican museums. Those we were told are very difficult to get in because of the huge number of tourists. When we were approaching our destination in a few blocks from Vatican City we saw a Ukrainian flag hanging on one of the buildings. As we stopped by we were greeted by a Russian-speaking lady. She kindly advised us on some shortcuts in getting inside the museums. Extra €10 per person and 15 minutes later we were inside ahead of the endless line of people.
The galleries of the museums were indeed impressive and would surely deliver the promise to the connoisseurs of Roman art and Christian tradition. For us 3—4 hours were more than plenty and we felt we got year’s worth of art exposure by the time we got to the culmination of all exhibitions — the famous Sistine Chapel. After that we went to the St. Peter’s square and got inside of the St. Peter’s Basilica, the biggest Catholic church in the world. We ended the day with some fine Italian food and wine in a crowded restaurant nearby Piazza di Spagna.
On the third day we took out a rental car, thanked Lazio province, and headed towards Tuscany. On our way we made a few stops: one of them on our ladys’ request in a big outlet shopping center, and another one at the famous Orbetello beach. By late night we arrived to our main vacation base — a small provincial town Piombino.
Next few days were pure relaxation: just beautiful sea and delicious food, nothing else. Each day we went to a different beach, every one beautiful in its own way. The part that I personally liked was that this particular town is mostly popular among Italians as a vacation destination, so that there were almost no foreign tourists except us, only locals. This was a good immersion for me into the Italian language and gave me a chance to practice a little bit. I must say, though, that it didn’t come out too easily, and every time I stumbled to say something Spanish phrases were coming out of my mouth unintentionally. The locals were making funny looks at times, but in the end everyone understood what I wanted to say.
After several days of recharging our bodily and mental batteries at the beach we felt ready for the next round of architectural and cultural immersion so we headed to Florence for a day, passing Pisa on our way there, and Lucca on the way back. Florence proved to be a beautiful and cozy town that one would want to return to no matter how many times visited. Pisa, well you know everything about Pisa, they have that tower which is about to fall down. And yes, we took some must-have pictures in front of it. Lucca was a nice surprise for us. The old city surrounded by ancient walls from all sides turned out to be very pretty inside and for some reason full of British tourists.
This in short describes my impressions from this initial acquaintance with Italy. This small photo album will probably add a little more color to it. What is certain is that I want to be able to spend at least five more vacations in this wonderful country.
Grazie, Italia, e Arrivederci!