August 20, 2014

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Touring Italy with Holiday vacations

Six days go by so quickly when seeing so many wonderful sights in Italy. How do you pick which one is best?

I've finally got some time to sit calm in my hotel room in Rome and compose an entry for the blog.

One of the things I love best about Holiday Vacations is the pacing...a mix of scheduled sights, tours and free time, so you can relax or shop or go out and mingle as you see fit.

But this is the first time we've had a siesta, partially because we've walked St. Peter's Square, Sistine chapel and the Vatican this morning, just before a brief rain shower wet everything down.

The weather has been good here, with unexpected low 80s and sunshine every day until today. This has encouraged the population to get outside and make one more trip/excursion to see many of Italy's sights, just as we are doing.

Some interesting things we have learned:  If you order Peperoni on your pizza here, you will get the literal meaning of the word: Red peppers.  What you want to say is salami!

Not all Italians take a siesta, but frequently, churches and schools will close about 1 p.m. and you must plan for that.  Street vendors may start early, but could pack up earlier than you expect.

Tourist street side vendors appear about 8:30 a.m. and vanish about sunset, taking with them all the trinkets and knickknacks that you could possibly want.  And there are a lot of them that repeat between towns... the David, the Italian flag, figurines of the leaning town of Pisa, Colosseum, David, Venus de Milo, etc.

Leather products and cotton clothing is common and of high quality here. If you can't find a belt or wallet or purse, your eyes must be closed.

The Euro is the coin of the realm, so to speak, and you spend more of them than you planned here!

Some of the hotel rooms have queen sized beds, but everyone of my rooms has come with twin beds... possibly a function of my wife and I having separate last names... or maybe I needed to insist or request a queen sized bed for my 6 ft 2 in frame to sleep in!

Most Italians are shorter than I am.  Though they dress casually, they dress with style. Tourists do not stick out here, unless you dress gaudy or loudly, or where a name tag and follow a person who carries an umbrella, walking stick or similar high flag as a visual aide to " follow me" .

Though we don't speak Italian, simple words are enough to get by. Most vendors know a few simple English words, and vise versa.  "Gratzi" is thank you.  "Pre-go" is you're welcome. "Uno, duo, tres" is one, two, three.  It's not hard to get by here, but our guides speak Italian so fast, I am glad to have their assistance and guidance to accomplish things and to iron out bumps and adjust times, etc.

There is little evidence of World War II left today, though we are traveling in areas where the US/Ailed army passed. (We are only in northern Italy.)  And questions about WWII don't seem to resonate. It's not a current topic... not a tourist item, as far as I can tell.

Like Ireland, Italy's history has been built upon itself, and ruins dot the countryside, and currently form the foundation for current structures, built on top of the old.

Amanda Knox has been a hot topic here, much as Michael Jackson's doctor trial was followed in the US.  Not everyone loves her, but many kooks sent her marriage proposals. The coverage has been tainted with "tabloid" flavor.

This culture has a strong graphic design element present. While street signs  in the older classical Italian towns are simple and stenciled on old buildings in narrow streets, the signs along the expressways are frequent, modern and clear.  There are LOTS of graphic alert signs that are easily understood, like "tunnel ahead", "Speed limit 60", bridge over stream ahead, "road narrows", "turn here for Pisa", etc.

Almost every factory or business along the highways have a large, illuminated or designed logo or name very visible. (We may also do this in the US, but it is more evident to me here.) 

Everywhere you walk, an advertising billboard in a shop window features an Italian fashion model with a haughty look on it. I had to laugh, "They all look like they want nothing to do with you!"

There are virtually NO roadside billboard advertisements here.  Cars are small and narrow, and move pretty quickly to fill the gaps left when traffic slows.The 'Smart Car" is a hit here, being able to park in parallel parking spots both by driving in, or turning 90 degrees and backing in.  Even more fit this way!   Vespa scooters are almost a numerous as cars, and weave in and out of traffic like daredevils. It's almost like being in L.A. with the daredevil Ninja cycles zipping down the center-line!

Many business men wear DARK Italian suits while riding scooters in the towns.

Italians serve pasta as the first course, then meat as the second course, then salad, followed by desert, and then STRONG coffee.   The ice cream here is gilato, and varies between sherbet and rich creamy ice creams. The scoops don't have to be large to be filling.

And less than our United States cooperate in a Union, I'm told the sense of Independence runs very strong between the Italian city states, like Tuscany, Milan, Venice...so that the sense of national unity is quite weak, and secondary.

Must plan to go to dinner with our group of 30 tourists now, but I promise to try to send more photos and report more, now that we have the rhythm of life here in Italy.   I'm glad that I came, and feel welcomed and safe here.

You would too.

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