How to Plan a Trip to Italy: Part One

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Siena: Neighborhood flag guarding its territory

Siena: Neighborhood flag guarding its territory

Congratulations!  A trip to Italy is a wonderful and memorable time.  It’s something you’ll never forget and it will forever change you even after you return.  That sounds like a tall order, but it’s absolutely true.  You won’t know until you go.

Planning is an essential part of Your Tour of Italy.  While you can sign up with one of the many tours that are offered, the internet makes it so easy to design your own trip and go on your own.  You may find that there are places and things you would like to see that an organized tour just doesn’t offer.

There are lots of things to consider.

  • Are you traveling with children?
  • Are you going for a specific holiday?
  • What landmarks and cities do you most want to see?
  • How long do you plan to stay?
  • How much money do you have to spend?

When you think of Italy, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?  That’s what you should see.  For some people, it may be “The David” in Florence, or Lake Como at the base of the Alps.  Some people are going to find  their long lost relatives and retrace their own family history.  Some people want to eat and drink their way through the landscape.  Others plan to see museums.  Some people just want to travel to one city and “get the feel of it.”  All of these are honorable and excellent choices.

Be warned.  It can be  overwhelming and very confusing planning a trip to a place you’ve never been.  Once you tell people you’re going, they immediately offer their advice.  You’ll feel your brain spinning with so much unsolicited information. Stay focused!

Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti

There is a reason that Rome is called The Eternal City.  My dear cousin, Laura, spoke volumes about it when she stated that, “I have lived here all of my life, and still, there are things I have not seen.”

Keep that in mind when you begin to plan.  I’m sorry.  You can’t see everything.  However, you can prioritize and plan.  No matter what you do, from seeing famous works of art to standing in line for a gelato,  YOU ARE IN ITALY.

 

Here’s a very preliminary step by step to get you started.  Consider this the first of many ways to spend winter evenings as you conspire with your traveling companions.

  1. Put on some classic Italian music and open a bottle of wine.  (Why not start enjoying Italy now?)
  2. Make a list of all the things you want to see.  No cities, no itinerary, just name what’s important to you.
  3. Get out a map of Italy.  Use one that you can write on. (Barnes and Noble has them.)
  4. Mark off where those landmarks are located.
  5. Get a travel journal.  Begin to write down facts, times, and dates.
  6. Look at the map and decide which cities you want to see the most.  (I won’t even tell you what you SHOULD see, only you can answer that.)
  7. Draw lines from the cities that you’ve chosen to see if there are reasonable modes of transportation to get from one to the other.  The Italian train system is vast and efficient, so don’t be afraid.
  8. Use the internet.  Travel websites, blogs, on line magazines and newspapers offer a plethora of information.
  9. Use your basic skeletal map to flesh out where you will actually go.  For example, if you have decided you want to see the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, begin to  research Assisi.  Trip Advisor offers a lot of honest and solid information.
  10. You may find that your trip will change.  Logistics, distance, time and money are all factors that can’t be ignored.  (Mi dispiace.)

    The Cat Sanctuary, Rome

    The Cat Sanctuary, Rome

If you’ve noticed, there IS a lot of planning and research.  This is really not a chore.  It’s exciting to sit and plan your trip.  The more information you have, the better decisions you can make.  Going to Italy the first time is not a trip that you just hop onto a flight and hope for the best.  You want to be informed and aware.  You’re entering another culture and you’re leaving American soil.  It pays to plan.

So now, go get that map and notebook and start thinking about What Italy Means to You.

Questions?

 

 

Travel Journals

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One of the nicest things about going on a trip is remembering it after you have returned home.  The sensuous aspects of travel, touch, smell, taste, and sound can evaporate from our memories.  Our photographs serve to help us remember what we have seen, but a travel journal is an excellent way to flesh out the rest of the memory.

I know you’re thinking that you’ll remember, but trust me, nothing will haunt you like not being able to remember the greatest restaurant you ate at, or the best bottle of wine you had.  Keeping a journal while you travel helps create a souvenir you’ll keep forever.

Children love this idea as well.  Even small children can be given post cards and crayons to fill in a journal.  Ticket stubs, train tickets, business cards, all of these things help to make up a memory.  It will become a family treasure as you laugh again over the anecdotes included inside.

Before you leave on your trip, choose a journal.  Get a pretty one that you’ll be proud to put on your bookshelf.  It’s an autobiography of sorts, so make it something special.  Make sure you can fit it into your day bag or pockets to keep with you as you journey along.  Be sure you have a pen.

Don’t create this into a monstrous “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” burden, but rather, think of it as an observer’s notes.  Simple things will strike you as you’re waiting for the train to arrive.  You’ll want to record some memories of your people-watching.  Write about the sounds.  Fountains gurgling and music playing don’t transfer into photographs.  Tell what you’re feeling.  Did you have a blister?  Was the heat unbearable?  How was the jet lag?  Include the different scents and the fragrances, both good and distasteful, to remember.  (Some of the most picturesque cities in the world smell of pollution.)  How did the food smell?  Your hotel soaps?   You get the idea.

Journal pages....

Journal pages…

While you are on the plane, the train, the boat or the car (provided you aren’t the driver) you can jot down memories.  It doesn’t have to be flowing and flowery.  Write down the name of the restaurant you’re eating at, tell what you ordered, something funny that happened during the meal. Most restaurants have menus and business cards at the exits.  Take a picture of the restaurant and add it to your book later.  Take the label off your wine.  Save the price tag off the souvenir you bought.

Tuck these mementoes inside the journal.   These little eclectic talismans become tangible memories when you return home.  You’ll be amazed how a $2.99 cloth journal can suddenly becomes one of your most treasured possessions.