We loved this trip! We especially loved it combined with our Holland American transatlantic cruise. It was a great five weeks in April and May 2022.
This last (yes last!) post about our trip will mention some overall impressions, some random facts that didn’t go somewhere else, and some comparisons with how we live in the US.
In general, Italians seemed to dress better and smoke more than we see in the US. This seemed true across the southern part of Spain as well.
Italy can be very loud. The traffic is loud and the voices are loud. I don’t usually like anything loud but, since I didn’t understand most of it, I was usually able to tune it out.
Some eating and drinking comparisons… There are three types of water available in Italy and they are in glass bottles. There is sparkling, mineral and still water and you pay for whichever you choose in a restaurant. After a few mishaps we definitely learned to ask for still water. I don’t like carbonation and neither of us liked the mineral water. It was usually easier just to drink wine!
No ice!?!? There usually is no ice in your drink unless you ask for it and then there is a small amount. Our tour guide said “Forget the ice machines, we don’t know what they are. Only in the Sheraton (an American company).”
Dinner starts late and takes forever! That was hard for us as we prefer to eat our last meal early.
We found that food temperatures were rarely hot or cold. Everything was somewhere in the middle. The exception was pizza coming out of a 900 degree oven! Pizza was very hot.
Our breakfasts were interesting. We were usually served buffet style with eight or ten types of pastries or sweet bread available. There were eggs and breakfast meat although it seemed those were for foreigners and not typically eaten by Italians. We were usually offered canned fruit but rarely fresh. We were sometimes given canned peas and carrots. Someone in our group asked about the peas and carrots and were told that they knew Americans ate them for breakfast. Who knew? No one in our group has peas and carrots for breakfast.
Espresso was everywhere – for all meals and in-between meals.
Our tour guide even brought us a portable espresso on the bus one day.
In Tuscany we were served bread made without salt. It tastes even worse than it sounds. The reasons why they make bread without salt vary from the city-state of Pisa denying Tuscans salt in the 1100s to the pope in Rome putting a high tax on salt in the 1500s. Those reasons, and others, may all be true, but the end result is that the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy have, over centuries, made bread without salt. We thought it was really bad and mostly passed it aside.
We saw very little salt and pepper in restaurants across Italy.
There are other things we didn’t see. In hotel rooms there are no washcloths. Travel sites online recommend you take your own washcloths if they are important to you. The hotel rooms also have no clocks.
What they do have is an endless array of faucet configurations! I was always glad when Randy took a shower first so he could figure it out. He probably felt the same if I went first.
Now toilettes! Our tour guide always had comments about Americans and their “restrooms” – you don’t rest there!” He would say “Why do you want to see a man about a horse? There aren’t any horses in there” or “We are going to stop for a fast pee-pee – No sitting down!”
There are attitude differences about toilets way more than just words! There are few public toilets and you pay to use them. Usually that was 1-2 euros – approximately 1-2 dollars. Sometimes coins or bills were required and sometimes a credit card would work. They were always clean. You could buy something at a shop or restaurant and use their toilets but only if you were purchasing.
AND SOME WERE COED! Americans can have trauma and legal battles over who goes in which restroom (oops – sorry Fabrizio) the Italians just share space. Usually there were separate sections for men and women but a shared hand washing space. Occasionally there would actually be shared space for everything but those did not include open urinals.
One more toilet thing – there were almost no toilet seats in public restrooms. In hotels there were some with and some without.
Thoughts on our tour itself:
Italy has 58 UNESCO Heritage sites, more than any other country. We visited at least ten. China is second with 56 and Germany has 51 UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Our guided tour was with Trafalgar.
It was well done thanks to our driver Tonino (“little Toni”, on the left) and tour guide Fabrizio.
Our guided tour was advantageous getting to the front of the line, or to a different line because Fabrizio had reserved things ahead of time. We wouldn’t have seen half or a third of what we saw in the same amount of time if we’d been doing it on our own.
We had 27 people on our tour and we worked well together. However, 27 seems like the maximum number we would ever be interested in joining again.
As Trafalgar’s typical tour has about 50 people, we had extra space on the bus to stretch out if we wanted. As much as we would recommend Trafalgar in so many ways, we will look for smaller guided tours going forward.
We also learned that traveling in May was great. We had mild weather and things weren’t as crowded as they are in the summer. Fabrizio said he didn’t know why people come in the summer when it is hot and crowded. We’ll prioritize the shoulder seasons going forward as much as possible.
Thanks for coming along for our grand adventure!
As Fabrizio would say “Andiamo guys” (Let’s go, guys) – to where-ever we’re off to next!