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Report 424: A Non-Slow Trip to Italy

By Tom Spillman from Texas, Spring 2001

Trip Description: Our first trip to Italy and what we learned, which is that we prefer independent travel to tours!

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Amalfi Coast, Campania, Florence, Other Italy Region, Umbria, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Sightseeing; Package Tour; 2 People

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Page 1 of 5: First Musings and Background

During March of 2001, my wife, JoAnn, and I went to Italy on a tour, ďThe Magic of ItalyĒ from GoAhead Tours from Cambridge, Mass. We met a lot of good people and the tour was well done and professionally managed. None the less, taking a tour is unusual for us. Since we lived in Europe for almost five years, we feel quite comfortable traveling about Europe on our own. While we lived in the Netherlands, we traveled to much of Western Europe. However, one country we never had an opportunity to visit was Italy. All three of our children had been to Italy but we had not. In fact, I remember one of our daughterís comments about Italian food: The pasta was great but the Italians hadnít a clue about how to make pizza!

This tour was a good way for us to cover a lot of ground in a short time, but next time, weíll revert to our normal procedure and be our own tour directors for reasons I hope will become apparent. I guess we were ďSlow TravelersĒ before we ever heard the term!

During this trip report, Iíll refer from time to time to some pictures I took. Some are at my web site, and some are in my photo album on the Slow Travel site. Both are listed in the Web Resources and are accessible at any time. I reduced the resolution of the images somewhat to keep the size more reasonable and to make the access faster at the cost of some sharpness and clarity. Youíll note that the approach is more journalistic than artistic. My goal was to make the trip real to others, so youíll find no creative color, no motion blurring, no unusual compositions, no unusual angles, etc., etc.

As is often the case, when I reviewed these images when I got home I thought of many others I should have taken, but didnít. In some cases, I was limited by the subject matter. For example, in many of the churches, no pictures of any sort were allowed, or if pictures were allowed, no flash was allowed. Since the light levels were usually very low, this effectively limited what I could do. In other cases, we were limited by trying to keep up with the group. The most common reason was I was too busy enjoying the sights to remember to take pictures. Our tour was lead by a young man named Paolo. He was a recent university graduate and was using tour leading as a way to augment his income. His English was quite good and he had a good sense of humor. In our experience, most of the younger people we met speak English, while many of our generation do not. I imagine popular culture has something to do with it.

We used a large tour bus for transportation on this tour and our driver was very quiet and very professional. He was always neatly dressed, quiet spoken, and did an excellent job of guiding his huge bus through many of the narrow streets and along the Autostrada as well as getting our luggage loaded and unloaded every night and morning.

Most of the tour members were middle aged, probably because they seem to have more time to travel. On the other hand. There were some younger adults with us, as well. On the whole, it was an intelligent, friendly group.

It had to be. After all, we were going to be together for the next sixteen days!

To provide a little perspective, I was 71 years old at the time of the tour and my wife, JoAnn, was 68. We are both cancer survivors. She was diagnosed in October, 1999 and had a mastectomy shortly afterwards, followed by chemo therapy which cost her all of her hair. She bought a wig that was very close in color and styling to her own hair and few of her acquaintances noticed when she visited her home town to see her father. When her hair grew back in, it came in curlier and darker than it was before. She had curly hair for the first time in her life and she loved it! It has now reverted to its natural color and texture.

I was diagnosed in December, 1999 with colon cancer. At the time, I was teaching as an Assistant Professor in the MBA program at a small, local university. I had retired in 1995, after over 35 years as a Consultant Systems Engineer and I was offered a position teaching to try and pass on a little of what I had learned. I had chemo therapy for the next few months via continuous infusion from a pump I wore at my waist. I then had extensive radiation therapy, and this was followed by surgery which removed the tumor, about a foot and a half of large intestine and left me with a colostomy. There was some more chemo and a few more surgeries, so by March of the following year I was recovering, but I didnít really feel up to driving in unfamiliar territory and finding a place to stay each night hence the tour.

For what itís worth, we are both considered cancer free at this time, although I still have the colostomy! We are talking about another trip to Italy and, hopefully, it will be even more enjoyable than our last one.

But thatís enough about us. On to the tour! This report will follow the sequence that the tour took. Iíll provide comments about the cities we saw, the good parts and the bad parts, some recommendations and some of the things that happened to us.

Hopefully, these comments will be interesting and, perhaps, a little enjoyable.

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