Thursday, April 25, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy REVIEW


From PREview to REview, a month later!  We did it!

First, I'll give the review, as told by our Facebook posts throughout our trip.  Then I'll follow up with some thoughts about this grand adventure.

Monday-Tuesday, 1-2 April, from Zeddam, NL, to France (overnight) and then to Turin, Italy

 Here's the map again to get your bearings, on our 2-day way to Turin.

The OAD "Excellent" bus was our transportation for the trip.
There were 29 of us, plus the driver (Huseyin) and guide (Ellie).

Our afternoon stop in Baden-Baden, Germany, the first day was at this motorway.
Have you ever seen a church at a pit stop?

The next day we drove through the Swiss Alps, the biggest surprise of the trip for me.
And yes, that's Montreux at Lake Geneva (right-center).
Why didn't I know that we would see this!

Wednesday, 3 April:  TURIN

Of course, we had to see the Shroud of Turin, even though it was discovered in 1988
to be aged from the  Middles Ages.  But to the Italians, it's still a Holy artifact. 

Thursday, 4 April:  LUCCA and PISA

You know how much fun I'm having with the Happy Color app on my iPad,
so I started out the day on FB saying "Guess where we're going today!"
And no, Silly, it wasn't to Paris!

In the morning we first went to Lucca, a walled Medieval town,
known for it's Romanesque churches...in Tuscany! 

In the afternoon we were at Pisa, when the heaviest rain of the trip soaked us all.
Sadly, it was the beginning of several getting sick with colds from that day on.

Friday, 5 April:  FLORENCE

How do you pick-n-choose what to show of such a grand city!

On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at Montecatini Alto 
to see the quaint Medieval town on top of the mountain...in stark contrast to Florence.

Saturday, 6 April:  SAN GIMIGNANO and SIENA

Another Medieval delight is San Gimignano, one of the highlights of the trip for us.
It's one of the best preserved walled cities because of its many towers still standing.

Siena was next, with its UNESCO city center.
It's 12th century duomo (cathedral) was one of the highlights.

Sunday, 7 April:  CLASSICAL ROME

It was my 3rd time to visit Rome, Astrid's 1st, so it was good to see it through her eyes.

Of course, there's too much to see, besides all the "impressions" everywhere.

Monday, 8 April:  VATICAN CITY, etc.

There were 5 of us who did NOT opt for the Vatican Museum part of the tour this day,
so Astrid and I had a wonderful day on our own to do as we wished.
Since Astrid had not been inside St. Peter's, we stood in line for 45 minutes 
to then spend 30 minutes inside to see what we wanted.  It was enough.

That then left us plenty of time to see other things, including the Castel Sant'angelo 
and the Piazza Navona.  We even found the Francesco Borromini masterpiece  
for Ted at the Palazzo Spada (top-right).

Tuesday, 9 April:  MONTECASSINO

From the city of Cassino below, you look up the mountain to see the monastery,
the first of the Benedictine order, established in 529.
It was bombed by the Germans during WWII and had to be completely rebuilt.

The doves of peace visited us that day.

The treasures there were as impressive as anywhere on our trip.

That day Astrid also starting posting images on FB...first of inside the monastery.

Later that late afternoon she took time for a walk by our hotel near Naples.

Wednesday, 10 April:  POMPEII

Before actually seeing the ruins, we knew where we were, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background!
While we never visited Naples, we passed it at least 3 times on our trip and were reminded 
that if  the volcano erupts again, approx. 3 million people will not be able to escape.

It was my 2nd time in Pompeii, Astrid's 1st, but I saw more this time than before.
And it didn't matter that there was a gentle rain the entire 2 hours of our tour.
It somehow seemed appropriate.

This is Astrid's post from that day.

Thursday, 11 April:  The AMALFI COAST and AMALFI

You could easily say this day was the most visually awesome day of the trip!
Everything you've heard about the Amalfi Coast is true, along the Mediterranean Sea.

After lunch, we stopped in Amalfi, the town, for 2 hours of free time.

This is Astrid's post from that day.

Friday, 12 April:  BARI

From the Mediterranean Sea we drove east across the ankle of Italy to the Adriatic Sea,
where we stopped in Bari for a nice leisurely stroll before our hotel.

Bari happens to be the city of St. Nicholas...the Sinterklaas of the Netherlands, yes!
It happens to be where he is buried, even though he was the Bishop of Mira, Turkey.
Who knew!

Saturday, 13 April:  ALBEROBELLO

One of the treasures of this trip was seeing this UNESCO site of trullo houses in Alberobello.
They're dry-stone huts with conical roofs built initially for the poor people seeking shelter.
Now they've become rental property for tourists!

There's even a trullo church there, called the Church of St. Anthony.
Even though it was a rainy day, the entire town was a delight to see. 

It so happens that Astrid needed a "reset day" and decided to stay at the hotel.

She had her own thrills while we were gone....

...filling up her tank.  Just what the doctor ordered.

Sunday, 14 April:  RIMINI and SAN MARINO

It was an all-day drive along the Adriatic Coast to Rimini, not far from Verona.
Many shots were from the bus as well as those from rest stops.

Just before we reached our hotel, our guides made an unscheduled decision to visit San Marino.
OMG!  Did you know there is a wee, wealthy country/republic within the country of Italy??
I totally got my education that day!
(It's like having the wee, wealthy Vatican City within the city of Rome.)

This was Astrid's post that day.

Monday, 15 April:  VERONA

Astrid and I had a free day for ourselves because we had been in Verona for 4 days in 2017.
We went directly to the Basilica of San Zeno because it was one of our favorite spots.
It once again brought tears to my eyes once inside.  The frescoes?

We then had time around the Castelvecchio Bridge, another favorite spot.
What a special city on the Adige river!

Don't you love how Astrid sees things!
We're often reminded of how we fell in love with each other through our photography.

This is what she saw that morning on a walk before we left for Verona.

Tuesday, 16 April:  LAKE GARDA

Lake Garda wasn't scheduled as a group trip (long story) but it happened nonetheless.
But before we got there, our Italian bus driver had us stop at Borghetto for 5 minutes.
Definitely a photo op!

Before free time in Sirmione, on Lake Garda, we took a 30-min. boat ride along the coast,
at which time the yellow Maria Callas house (top-center) was pointed out.  
Who knew she lived there!

Astrid spotted this golden Rolls Royce in the parking lot, at the tune of $8+ million.
Who would park that in a parking lot???

Astrid's take on our free time that day.

Wednesday, 17 April:  (VENICE) BOVOLONE

There were 4 of us who did NOT take the optional trip to Venice this last day.
We were there for 7 days in 2017 and didn't need to spend more money to go back for 4 hours.
So Astrid and I again had time together for just us.
We first went to 2 cemeteries...because you know us and cemeteries!

Then we walked around the city center of Bovolone, visiting the church of San Giuseppe there.
We even picked out a quiet restaurant for our last lunch in Italy.

Thursday-Friday, 18-19 April:  Italy to Germany (overnight) to Zeddam, NL

It was now time to drive 2 days back to Zeddam, leaving Italy behind.
Italy's version of the Alps is their Dolomites... 

...before entering the Austrian Alps and then our overnight in Aalen-Treppach, Germany.
Again, who knew we'd be traveling through 3 different countries' worth of alps on this trip!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

So now, after all that, do you want to know what we learned early on???  THIS WAS NOT A VACATION!  It was a GRAND TOUR of Italy.  As long as we kept reminding ourselves, we were okay with the hectic schedule of going from here to there every day.  Actually, it was harder at the beginning when we didn't have free time.  Towards the end we we able to be on our own a lot.

I could and probably will say more later but right now...I'm too tired.  HA!  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  I can't imagine covering so much territory in any other way for that extent of time.  We both feel that now we really have a better sense of Italy.

More in the weeks to come, of course....