I’ve enjoyed reliving the Italy trip and am not quite ready to let go yet. So before we leave, I’m going back one more time, to do a highlight reel.
My favorite historic site: the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum
The Palatine Hill was an oasis of flowers and calm in the center of hardscaped, dynamic Rome. The Roman Forum was the opposite: crowded, stone and marble. But both sites surged with the ghosts of Caesars and centurions. And that made them a history tourist’s dream.
My favorite church: St. Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.
There was a seasonal color palette theory of dressing, popular many years ago, in which physical coloring classified a person as a winter, a spring, a summer or a fall, for the purpose of choosing clothing colors that would best suit that person. Winters were associated with rich, vivid jewel tones, and that’s what Italian Catholic churches tend to be — winters. To me, their color choices scream: “We are the great and powerful
Oz Church of Rome.” St. Apollinare was the exception. It was spring: strong but softer, bright but fresher. Aesthetically, it was clean and naive. Spiritually, it was less medieval inquisition and more rebirth and renewal. And sheep. We mustn’t forget the sheep.
My favorite city: Venice
I’ve heard it described as a “decaying beauty,” which I think fits it well. Gothic, elegant, and decadent, it reminds me of another favorite city: New Orleans. It’s also where I had the best luck shopping for small, reasonably priced, locally made gifts.
My favorite smaller town: Assisi
As an animal person (Opera Guy used to call me a puppy-slut, because I couldn’t keep my hands off any random dog who happened by), I admit that I romanticize St. Francis of Assisi. To see where he lived and worked was meaningful to me. But I think that even for those who aren’t into saints and churches, Assisi exudes enough Roman, medieval and renaissance history and hill town charm to satisfy.
My favorite tourist activity: cocktails in Venice’s Piazza San Marco
I loved sitting at one of the restaurants — it probably wouldn’t matter which one — in the piazza, sipping a glass of wine and soaking up the beauty and history. Next time, I plan to do it more than once. Food and drink at the piazza are only slightly more expensive than elsewhere, and worth the surcharge for the hours of entertainment a seat at one of the tables provides.
My favorite restaurant: Restaurante al Carugio, Monterosso al Mare
Patricia and I didn’t eat in many restaurants. We were provided the most amazing buffet breakfasts at our hotels every morning and we tended to just grab a sandwich or salad from a carry out (which absolutely doesn’t mean a fast food place) if we wanted food otherwise. I can only remember three proper restaurants we patonized – the Restaurante al Carugio in Monterosso, Gusto Leo in Florence and somewhere in Venice with a name I don’t even remember (I know – bad blogger!). The pizza at Gusto Leo and the pasta and pesto at Unmemorable in Venice were fine. But the pasta and pesto at Carugo was the only one that made an impression. You can see, though, based on the photo I’m sharing, that the hotel breakfasts were the real highlight. There were also several dinners included in the tour, of which the one at the Castle Verrazano was the only one worth mentioning.
The winner of the gelato contest: Gelateria dei Gracchi, Rome
We should have done more pre-trip research, but we didn’t. We simply stopped at the most convenient gelateria and ended up with some pretty good and one truly awful experiences. In the end, our first gelateria was my most enduring love.
So with the most blurry photo of gelato ever, our Italy trip ends. It’s back to the States until — I hope — next year when friend Kathie (who had to drop out of the Italy trip) is able to travel abroad and we’re back to Europe.