How Was Your Trip?

Fabulous. Amazing. Wonderful. I’m not given to sports analogies, but Martin knocked it out of the park. And then some. I won’t give you a day by day description, but will offer somewhat ordered stream-of-conscious impressions and memories. In the Bookshelf, Martin mentioned Firebird Tours who provided the tour.  They get huge shouts out from me as well. This was our third attempt to take a trip that had been in the planning since early 2019.  They went above and beyond; every staff member responded to our concerns patiently and with good information. I cannot recommend Firebird highly enough.

Traveling during a pandemic
What was planned for a spring 2020 40th anniversary celebration finally happened in the fall of 2021.  There was a lull in Covid cases. Italy’s vax stats were much better than those in the U.S. We set off with some trepidation and yet once we arrived we felt more at ease than in the States. Entry into the country required proof of two vaccinations and negative Covid test results no more than 72 hours before arrival. Proof of vaccinations were requested in restaurants, shops, and museums. In addition to verifying our vax status, the hotels also took a quick temp check before we could register. Mask compliance inside any building  was universal.

The Vibe
Everywhere we went, we were thanked for coming to Italy. The country was hit hard, fast, and early in the pandemic. Tourism evaporated. During our three weeks, we encountered no other Americans save for those on our trip and two couples in Como.  As I write today, the overseas travel situation has changed. We hit a sweet spot for which we are eternally grateful.

Language was no barrier. Everyone spoke English and with my French and Spanish I was able to decode what was written.  I could understand directions, order in restaurants and even make out bits and pieces of conversations. My attempts at speaking Italian were appreciated even when I guessed at a cognate from French or Spanish. One of our guides complemented my Italian accent, saying that most Americans she encountered couldn’t manage it. Made me feel like a million Euros.

The Weather
All I can say is that is was flawless. Sunny nearly every day. Two hours of rain one day. Warm to cool needing only a sweater. Perfetto!

The People
Italians are delightful. When they speak it sounds like champagne bubbles. They are warm, welcoming, and their  joie de vivre is contagious. We clicked nearly immediately with one couple on the tour. Randy and Katrina, who were close to our ages, were on their honeymoon. They were as enthusiastic about walking and exploring as we were. Enjoyment is always multiplied when shared with others and the two of them added so very much to our experience.

The Trains
Like the hotels, the trains were first class. Never crowded, complimentary treats (sweet, savory, and wine if you like), and fast! My ears popped a time or two. If only we could do this in America.

 

Quiet time on the train.

What a delightful way to travel!

 

Read on — How Was the Food?

Photos courtesy of Martin Darvick

 

 

What About Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast?

Forget about San Fran.  I left my heart in Sorrento. It was lush. We could see the Bay of Naples from our hotel room. Below us were lemon trees and olive trees, a beautiful pool and a pink-blooming tree I couldn’t identify.

We wove in and out of the the narrow cobblestoned streets, enjoying    a gelato here, some limoncello there. We walked to the waterfront to watch the fishing boats come in filled with the day’s catch.

The day of our Amalfi Coast drive was our one day of rain, but even that was a light drizzle that lasted only two hours. Unfortunately, the drizzle was falling on Positano, so we drove on to spend more time in Amalfi. Though we were in a van with six others, riding on a narrow road high above the sapphire sea, I felt like Audrey Hepburn. All              I needed was a white chiffon scarf wrapped around my hair, casually tied beneath my chin.

 

Beads and glass and amulets.

Before reaching Sorrento, we spent a half-day in Pompeii. So many thoughts ran through my mind. What a tragedy. What terror to have lived in the shadow of a mountain only to have it explode and kill you. As fascination as Pompeii was, it was also horrifying to see ash-preserved beds, bodies and the mere stuff of daily life in such good condition that it could have been plucked from glass cabinets and put to use once again. What a tragic twist – the ash that destroyed Pompeii preserved it to be discovered generations later.

Pots of colored powder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Rosie on an early morning walk down to the beach. She belongs to the proprietor of the little seaside cafe and bar  near our hotel. When we returned in early evening for drinks before dinner, Rosie was nowhere to be found. It seems that she is only there in the morning. Things get too hectic by lunchtime and so she goes home for some peace and quiet.

Well, that about wraps up our Italian adventure. It was indeed the trip of a lifetime. Just this evening   I learned that Italy has been placed on a do not travel list due to Covid-19. This saddens me a great deal. Doubtless many of the Italians we met – our guides, the restaurant owners, those working in the hotels, shops and museums – have not only suffered financially due to the lack of tourism, but may well have lost relatives in the first wave of cases in 2020. My heart goes out to them. Martin and I were so fortunate to have been able to travel during this narrow window.      I hope that you’ve enjoyed traveling with us.

Until next time,

Debra

 

Photos courtesy of Debra Darvick