Viva Italia: Where the Pasta is Prologue

Having now fully recovered from last October’s sojourn to the bottom of the world, we are about to turn our attention to a (literally) more classical destination: Italy.

We depart on Wednesday, April 15, for a three week ramble through northern Italy. Most of the trip will be in four regions (see map): Veneto (since we are starting in Venice), Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, and northern Tuscany. We’ll only go about as far south as Florence and Pisa, which you can see on the map. A bit northwest of Pisa along the coast is the town of La Spezia, which is one of our major destinations since it is the jumping-off point for the famous Cinque Terre hiking region.

Why Italy? Since our travel proclivities seem to run along the lines of Botswana and Patagonia, you might ask, isn’t Italy a little….pedestrian? To which we can only reply: “C’mon, it’s Italy!” Both of us have been to the country a number of times — Alice spent ten weeks there as a visiting mathematics professor many years ago — but we have never explored these regions very much. And neither of us has ever been to Venice, an egregious oversight that we will now correct. Moreover, while we enjoyed eating warthog and pan-fried insect grubs well enough, generally speaking Italian cuisine carries just a tad more appeal than Zimbabwean. We did not much worry about gaining weight in Africa or South America; on this trip it’s pretty much a given.

2014-08-01 17_29_26-Italy Driving Trip 2

If the route were simple, it wouldn’t be our trip.

Our first five days will be in Venice, after which we pick up a rental car and follow the route shown in the second image. And now you know that this is really us making the trip, since the route is far too complicated for any rational travelers to undertake. In truth it is not quite as crazy as it looks; we will only be driving every few days, with few-day stays at “hubs” like Verona from which we will make driving and walking day trips.

We will not be alone on this trip, nor will we be in a 16-person group as we were in Africa and South America. Rather, we will be with another couple, our friends Jim and Elaine. Jim and I know each other from NASA, from which he retired a number of years ago, and we have all become quite good friends since discovering ten years ago that they lived only a few minutes from us. They are also one of the very few couples we know — my parents being about the only other one — that have traveled to even more places than we have.

As usual I will be posting my travel journal interspersed with some of my photos (Jim is also an avid photographer). So stay tuned and, as they say over there, “Ciao bella! Dolce Gabbana!” Which means, “Say goodbye to all your money if you buy this designer handbag.”



Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Viva Italia: Where the Pasta is Prologue

  1. Elaine Dodge

    Love it – I now know what we’re doing so I forwarded your post along to my friends and relatives so now they know too. Good intro to our trip. See you Tuesday!


  2. I just got back from a fantastic week in Pesaro on the east coast, you got so much great food ahead of you! I’m jealous! If you need inspiration on what to eat, check out my blog. Safe travels

  3. Leslie Sharp

    Hi Rich,

    You all are in for a wonderful time! I was in Lake Garda and Verona last October and one of my favorite places is the thermal spa at Aquardens. ( It is a large thermal spa with indoor and outdoor pools and it was one of the highlights of the trip. There’s a warm lazy river and one of the pools has a swim up bar.

    The only way to survive a road trip in Italy is to start driving like an Italian. I had a project in Naples a couple of years ago and spent the first 6 weeks terrified every time I had to get behind the wheel. Then one day I realized I was passing another car in the single lane on-ramp to the Autostrada and it occurred to me I had become immune to fear and was driving like an Italian. If you have passengers in the car, it helps to turn the music up super loud so you can’t hear their screams.

    Hope you have a ball! Leslie

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Richard Sikorski

    Ciao Venice! Home of the 21in-wide (narrow) calle, and lessons in voga alla veneta, Venetian stand-up rowing! Here’s a basic phrase in case you don’t speak Venetian yet: El me barchin el/’l xe pien de bisati! (My hovercraft is full of eels)

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