Announcing: Ciao Italy 2014!

Milestone birthdays should be special. After all, we’re getting older and, hopefully, wiser and that should be celebrated. For my 30th birthday Gareth and I went to Zanzibar, and I spent the day swimming with dolphins. We visited the Finnish arctic circle for Gareth’s 35th birthday, where we went husky sledding and snowmobiling, amongst other memorable adventures. My dad climbed Kilimanjaro for his 60th birthday! And this year I’m turning 35 and I chose to spend it in Italy, one of my favourite countries.

I’ve seen many of the touristy sights in Italy during four previous visits, but it will be almost completely new for Gareth. Although I am revisiting many of the places on our itinerary, I hope that instead of spending an afternoon somewhere and moving on, we can take some time to really get to know a place, to see what life is like for Italians, to stop and taste the gelato.

So we are doing things a little differently this year. My first visit to Italy was with my parents, many years ago, touring Europe in a camper car, the holiday that started it all. We came back another year to stay for a week in Assisi, and twice again to ski in the little town of Corvara in the Italian Alps.

This time, Gareth and I are making use of the popular accommodation site, Airbnb, for the first time. We will be staying in the homes of Italian people, living like locals in the suburbs, buying groceries at the neighbourhood market and speaking (broken) Italian with people on the bus. It will be a completely new experience.

Three weeks is a long time, but not nearly long enough for everything I wanted to see and do. Our planned itinerary is therefore limited to the northern half of the country.

We fly into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport where we will pick up a car and drive straight to the town of Montegabbione in Umbria. We will stay there for two nights, exploring the countryside and visiting Orvieto and perhaps Montepulciano.

Image seen at The Amazing Pics














I wanted to spend the next week in Florence, but the city is apparently not very car-friendly and the apartments we could afford did not meet my picky standards, so we will be staying in a lovely little house just outside Lucca for five days. From here we plan to visit the Cinque Terre (something I’ve long wanted to do), Siena, Pisa and, of course, Florence.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons













We head north again, stopping in Modena to visit the Ferrari museum, to Castion Veronese, a little town close to the shores of Lake Garda, part of the Italian Lake District. While there, we may head out to Verona, to pay our respects to Shakespeare’s two fictional lovers.

Image seen at St Clement













We drop the car off in Mestre, as close to Venice as we could afford without actually staying in the island city. I searched and searched for something inexpensive inside Venice itself, but our price class seemed to allow only for dark, dingy and musty-looking hovels. I’m very pleased with our apartment on the mainland, which our host promises is only a 15 minute train ride away from that iconic city. A week in which to thoroughly explore every nook and cranny, every island, every church and every casa, is something that I’ve dreamed about for years.

Image seen at AUP













The high-speed train zips us back to Rome for the last week. We will be staying in an apartment just outside the main tourist district, but close enough to explore all the historical sites of this ancient city on foot. The Vatican City and St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Coliseum and Roman Forum, Villa Borghese and everything on the “Angels and Demons” tour are in our sights. If we have time, I’d also love a day-trip to Herculaneum and Sorrento or Positano.

Image courtesy of Shed Expedition












Spectacular enough? I think it will be! If you have any advice or tips, or just want to reminisce about your own memories of Italy, please feel free to leave a comment below.

For more posts in the Ciao Italy 2014 series, click here.

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