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.
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.
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!
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.
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