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Report 1395: My First Italy Adventure

By MsATravlin from Texas, Fall 2007

Trip Description: We (spouse and I) took our first trip to Europe and we chose Italy 9/20 - 10/3/2007.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Rome, Tuscany

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Day Tours; Shopping; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 15: The Planning: Excruciating Yet Exciting!

photo by Another tourist

Standing in front of the Fortress at Montalcino

My spouse ("MS") and I recently returned from Europe, more specifically Italy. It was our first trip across the Atlantic and my installment into the "world traveler" club. I've been to various U.S. cities (including Hawaii, Las Vegas & New York), Mexico, Jamaica and Bahamas but being able to say that I've been to Europe is quite a feeling.

My desires to go to Europe became really strong shortly after my return from Hawaii. By the way I got married in Hawaii August 15, 2005. Come to think of it, I'll have to publish that trip report here as well. See, I like to plan my next vacation as soon as I return from the current one. So I thought I'd like to go to Spain. I was drawn to either Madrid or Barcelona so I started doing the research. Believe me, when you have no concept of your location, trip planning can be quite painful. Oh sure the idea of going to new and faraway places is quite euphoric but bringing the idea to reality is quite a puzzle.

But then the 2006 Winter Olympics were held in Turin, Italy and The Today Show did an on-location show in Florence and that became my desired location. To further seal this decision a co-worker brought up the idea of a group of us renting a villa in Italy. The "group" dwindled down to "two." Nevertheless, that was it. My next vacation would be somewhere in Italy, thus begins a new phase of research. I'm a beach person so I originally was looking at beach locations, then I thought Venice, then Florence, then the Amalfi Coast. I was going to do a week but that was impossible so the week stretched to two.

With much help from the Slow Travel website and some help from other resources I had my trip finalized by November, 2006 including flight tickets and reserved places to stay: Rome to Florence to Tuscany back to Florence and back to Rome. Once I realized the flaw in this plan, all my hotel/B&B confirmations were set. However, in the initial stages of my planning I thought Tuscany was north of Florence. In other words, from Rome I thought I would get to Florence before Tuscany, hence the two separate one-night stay-overs in Florence. In reality it's Rome, Tuscany then Florence. In retrospect I should have planned to stay two back-to-back days in Florence then on to Tuscany.

Nevertheless, I was going to Italy and the big portion of the planning (where, when & how) was DONE!!! Now, I could concentrate on the little details and educating myself on the culture of Italy. I purchased books, guides, movies, travel CDs, Italian language resources, maps, etc. I immersed myself in all things Italy and an ever present research mode up to the day of departure.

Also came the arduous task (read fun, fun, fun) of shopping for such a trip with the emphasis on packing light. Now I am a person who normally packs a separate suitcase for shoes alone so this would not be easy. I bought the Rick Steve's 24" Roll About luggage. In retrospect, and after struggling to lift that thing from the ground to the train, not to mention the aid of MS's strength to get it in the overhead bins, I really didn't pack light at all. Yes, I packed much lighter than I USUALLY do but NOT light enough for European travel.

Some other purchases worth mentioning: Panasonic Lumix camera, "travel" wardrobe from Chico's & Boston Proper, a "travel" raincoat from Travelsmith and most importantly various walking shoes to test for comfort and endurance. The camera was a wonderful, inexpensive investment. I, Ms. Novice Photographer, took fantastic pictures with it. The travel clothes were a gem. Light and easy to pack, no wrinkles, easy to wash and the ultimate in comfort (even after overeating). The raincoat was a must as we got pouring rain for three days in Tuscany plus the temps dropped.

Now, as for the shoes, this is the most important purchase as it will dictate you having a fun, pain-free trip or a trip in misery because the feet hurt ... and everybody knows when your dogs are barking you cannot enjoy yourself. You just want to get somewhere and sit down! Now, I'm also aware of the so-called "ugly American" syndrome disparaging against wearing white sneakers and socks so I packed my Italian Sesto Meucci leather loafers and sandals with no idea of packing my sneakers. I wanted to look as sophisticated as possible. My MS would pack nothing else but his favorite white sneakers and socks so taking a page from him I threw my sneakers in the luggage too "just in case."

Well I'm here to tell you that after a week of climbing steep, uneven hills and miles and miles of walking on cobblestone streets, not even my pricey Italian loafers could provide comfort. Thank God, I'd brought my tried and true sneakers and socks and I spent the remainder of the trip walking like a champ in utter comfort. I quickly dispelled my preoccupation of looking "cute" and was quite joyful walking around pain-free and callous-free.

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