Ciao, it’s been awhile … but I have a great excuse … Italia! My man and I just returned from two amazing weeks in one of my favourite countries, Italy.  Although I lived and worked in Italy for over 10 years and speak the language fluently, it never ceases to amaze me!  This time I visited parts of Italy I had never seen, and honestly, I think it would take a lifetime to see everything in this incredibly beautiful country.

It’s pretty hard to sum up the entire two weeks of travel so I’ve decided to dedicate a post for each of the diverse areas we visited hoping that I can inspire you to visit both the well known areas as well as those off the beaten track.  We concentrated our travels in Tuscany, and except for a quick stop in Rome, stuck to the smaller towns and villages.  As boomers interested in food and wine, Tuscany was a no brainer … but then again … great food and wine can be found in absolutely every corner of Italy … so take a chance and just explore! Before I get started on places to see and things to do, here are a few travel tips and despite being an experienced traveller … well, yes … there’s always something to learn!

1. Read travel blogs before you go to get some inside info on places to see and things to do – they’ve been there.

2. Create an itinerary – don’t bother with a big guide book that will probably cover a large area, give you too much information and maps for places you might not want to go.  Simply plan your route – create a day by day schedule and print out google maps at home.  Even though I tend to be the spontaneous type, a general idea of where you’re going helps big time.  For example – my google maps took us from one piazza to another in Rome by foot and even told us how long it would take.  Just create a little folder to take with you and each day pull out what you need.

3. Book your stays on airbnb!  We found the most incredible apartments exactly where we wanted to be, booked and paid for them seamlessly on-line,  had absolutely no problems whatsoever with getting in and out and saved a lot of money!  Highly recommended!

4. Book your car in advance. (I’ll give you some tips on where to go if you are in Tuscany)

5. Take the train when you can.  The Italian rail system Trenitalia is an excellent and very cheap way to get around for longer distances.  You can purchase your tickets on your phone while travelling, with no need to print out anything.  As most tickets can only be sold 7 days in advance, it is hard to purchase everything before you leave home.

6. Very Important!  Pack lightly.  No joke … travelling in Italy means carrying your suitcases over cobblestones, dirt paths, up steep hills, up even steeper staircases, narrow passageways and up onto trains.  We had way too much luggage and my man paid for it … although he got a good workout and came back skinnier than when he left.  All that after eating pasta, pizza and drinking wine all day!  And speaking of packing – when it’s warm, Italians wear shorts, yoga pants, Nike’s, and dress very similar to us … so don’t go and buy Valentino before you leave … no need … it’s more fun to shop in Italy if you want some great fashion. (men do still wear speedos and tie their sweaters over their shoulders … some things never die).

7. Don’t bring too many Euros, credit and debit cards are light and easy to use everywhere and you can take cash advances if you need to.

8. Ask your mobile phone provider for a Europe Plan to use while you are there.  For example, I paid $45 for a 1 month plan with Bell that gave me 200 min. of local calling, 200 outgoing text messages and unlimited incoming text messages.  Of course there is no data but you can find free Wi-Fi almost everywhere you stay and in many public places.

OK…so you are ready to go!  See you soon at our first stop – Rome, the Eternal City – otherwise known as one big beautiful crazy mess!  Why Rome?  Most likely your flight will land there and secondly, it has some of the world’s greatest art, architecture, culture and food!  The Romans really did build an empire!