"First Time" Italy Travelogue by RoscoeGregg
Italy Travel Guide: 69,710 reviews and 186,847 photos
After along travel day starting at 94 degrees west and traversing all the way to 12 degrees east. A full 106 degrees of Longitude in less than 24 hours!! I have approached this distance only once before and never in 1 day! It is a fantastic time in which I live.
I am with my best friend Barbara and her brother Bob. We have arrived in Venice in good order. Except the case of for Barbra's lost luggage.
I am short of the skill needed to describe the first impression of Venice. It is a feel like waking up in the desert. It feels like home with out compromise. It is high energy and relaxing at the same time. I retrospect I know I should have taken more care to experience the moment. At least I was not fiddling with a camera taking a mediocre photo.
I had made the arrangements for our accommodation so there was a fair amount of pressure to navigate this new remarkable place. As I looked at an exhausted Barb and Bob, in a light rain and failing light I knew it would be up to me to find our destination.
I thanked my lucky stars that I had paid attention to map reading instruction and the foresight to bring my faithful compass. The task made easier because Barbara did not have a pack to carry. We literally strolled right to our hotel’s front door.
We are so enchanted by our first night in Venice. Despite some lost luggage we are having a great time. I have to admit coming from a very small town that our short time in Milan was a bit awe-inspiring. The kindness of the hotel staff put us right at ease and our first night is breathtaking. Little did I know that this would be my first experience with Italian hospitality. I feel the welcoming kindness of Italians. This is my favorite souvenir.
I am a kid in a toy store. Up at first light and out, I wander the narrow streets. We meet each morning in the breakfast room at the hotel and plan the day. My companions are game for anything and a ton of fun.
I see that my lack of preparation with the language is very foolish. Good thing Italians are so kind and generous.
The whole city is a puzzle of architectural style and history much deeper than my own. We fill every moment that we can. I am out till I am just too tired to walk anymore.
We have had some very nice moments at sunset on the Ponte Realito. While San Marco is amazing we have had more fun in Santa Croce, San Polo and the Dosoduro.
After a few wonderful days in Venice we had a day of Aqua Alta. It caused us to have to wait a day before we could leave for Florence. What a wonderful problem to have. We take a rest day and prepare to catch the train out.
As we pulled out of Venice I had a bittersweet feeling. My granddaddy told me “always leave a place you love before you are ready”. This is how I feel about this unusual city.
The lack of automobiles and structures built at a human scale is a foreign experience to us and we love it. It is late November and this part of Venice is deserted. I have to pinch myself a couple of times.
We arrive in a steady rain. It is less hectic than Milan. Still it is a bit overwhelming for us Midwesterners. Traveling light once again pays off as we are very dynamic and able to make quick decisions.
After reading too many guide books about the underground passage that exits the train station. It sounded risky and spooky. So we race across the road to the east of the station. I have to laugh at myself now as I use the tunnel at all times of the day.
We have a bit of a wet slog to our chosen hotel only to decide at the last moment to change where we want to sleep. The chosen hotel had a weird feel. We begin the walk to another Hotel on our list. At this point a crack in Bobs demeanor began to develop. I think the quote was Just Pick ONE!!
Fortunately we had a good map and were able to walk right to our second choice. It was a spectacular success. The owner took an immediate liking to Barbara and put us in two very nice rooms in what turned out to be an excellent location. It is just a block off San Lorenzo.
We regroup and refit and head out on one of the most memorable walks of my life. To start we plunge into the Market at San Lorenzo. I love open air markets and this was a treat for all the senses. We wander through this market till we end up on Borgo San Lorenzo.
I know what is coming but Barbara and Bob are blissfully unaware that the Duomo is just past the next corner. As we pass from the confined street to the Piazza there is a unified gasp of delight and wonder from behind me. It is one of the most plesant sounds that I have ever heard.
As people rush past we slowly stumble into the open and gaze in wonder. You can read about Brunelleschi’s Dome all you want but it will never prepare you for the first sight of it. It is without doubt a perfect structure in a perfect setting.
Knowing that we will return tomorrow we continue on as we pass out of the piazza on Via de Calzaioli and head deeper towards the Arno. I have to say my first impression of the Ponte Veccho was not too favorable. It was crowded and hectic. Then I realized that I was concentrating on the wrong thing. It is not the bridge but the view from the bridge.
The light on the hills and the river at sunset is quite affecting. It is quite a nice spot to take in the evening. As the sun faded we wander to the oltrarno.
The other side of the river is quite nice a bit rougher and more real seeming to me. We stop for coffee at a shop across from the Pitti Palace. Of course Bob makes instant friends with the Batista even though they do not speak the same language. We wander back over to the front steps of Santo Spirito and take a break to watch people.
We decide that we are hungry and head back to the Tratoria near our rooms. We arrive at Da Guidos "like typical American tourists" too early. They seat us and Bob is immediately smitten by the hostess. This will lead to a rather frank e-mail from her brother to Bob after our return home. But for now Bob is very happy. The food and service are excellent and we leave fat and happy.
We take a short walk back towards the Duomo and Grom gelato. I have read about it on my map so we give it a shot. I am knocked out. It is one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. We have a good natured run in with some panhandlers and then drift back to our rooms and to a blissful sleep.
We Spend the next 2 days viewing the most amazing art, walking our legs off and eating. It all passes with a flash and a nod of the head.
The Botticelli room at that Ufitzzi and the David at both the Borgello and Acadamia were highlights. It is shocking to finally see a piece of art that you have read about all your life and still be impressed. We could spend a week here easy but we want to get to Rome. So we repack and transit out after 3 great days.
Arrival in Rome in a driving rain. Our rooms are less than perfect. We are still set to get out and see something, anything. Do we ever. Due to some “map inspired genius” we slog from Treminni area to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountian. The cold driving rain really kills the romance. We stop for coffee ant to warm up. As I look over the table Barbara and Bob look like drowned rats and are planning a mutiny. We begin the re-slog back to the Terminni area. The crew's morale does not improve. Then we come to a movie theater at Barbarinni.
Now we come from Kansas and we have NEVER used a subway before. We spot the M sign and decide to change plans. I convince Barbara and Bob to go buy 3 tickets to a movie and I go the figure out the Metro. I return to the theatre and we sit down and watch Anjelina Jolie in a movie dubbed to Italian and dry out. It turns out to be the greatest. When the movie (which was a blast) is done we are refreshed and ready to face the rest of the night.
The rain stopped and the metro was clean simple. We traveled in 3 minutes what had taken us 2 hours to walk.
I ask the hostess to make a dinner recommendation. She was great she even called and made a reservation for us. In dry clothes and a short subway ride and we find ourselves standing in front of The Coliseum. It is just there right outside the metro. We work our way to the restaurant for a good meal and then return for one of the best sleeping experiences of my life. Only because I did not know what the next day held for us.
Bob has the helm for day two in Rome. In the states he read about the Italian Spinster festival in Ponzano Romanao.
We start at the bus station trying to buy a ticket to Panzano Romano as there is no train for this town. Soon there are 5 men at the bus station with 5 opinions as to which route to take.
First is a long bus ride through Roma to the Fulminico stop. Here we have a brief interaction with a vendor selling fabric. We locate the train to somewhere I am still not sure we ever knew the name of. We transfer to a bus and an hour later we are dropped off at a gas station. We see a sign across the road for Panzano Ramano. We can see the town at the top of a hill in the distance.
We start the hike to the top. It is a lovely day and except for the traffic at times it is a nice experience. It feels good to be out of cities and in the country again. At the end of a two hour walk we arrive in Panzano Romano. I is in the afternoon break so everything is closed and it is painfully clear that there is no festival today.
The town is small and very beautiful. It is well cared for and the views of the valley are breathtaking. We take in the backstreets and enjoy the nice sunny afternoon.
A timely return to Rome seems out of our reach. We are 60k north of Rome and have no idea how to get back. Then from down the hill towards the center of town I hear Barbara shout “Randy come on!! Bob has found a ride!”
Our savior was a very friendly guy named Marco who was visiting a friend and offered to take us to the train station at Stigliano. He not only gave us ride down to the station but he bought us lunch and tried to buy us coffee. The lunch was excellent and the lady running the restaurant was Sophia Loren beautiful.
For the next few years we tried to contact Marco so we could take him for dinner. He never responded to our e-mails and that makes me sad. We would love to pay him back in some way
We say our goodbyes and return to Rome in less than 1.5 hours. We are so relived to have had a great day.
I am up before the sun and looking the Termini area over. It has a rough reputation but I found it vital and interesting. I have been to much rougher areas in Chicago and Kansas City.
I find Bar Fondi and have my first coffee for the day. We meet up and get out for an early start. Barbara and Bob love Bar Fondi too.
A short hop on the Metro and we get into the Colosseum. We beat the crowds and it is almost empty. I love the "ubanite" laying about. For the first time I see how much design in our buildings at home have roots directly to here. You read about it but now you know it. Very different things. This trip is full if this kind of revelation.
We wander over to the Imperial Fourm. It is also overwhelming. I am standing in front of the rostrum and next to the body of Cesar. We wander through the Basicilica Of Constantine and marvel. It is making me a little woozy to be in a place where so much history happened.
We trundle over to the Trevi Fountain. It is just loaded with people. While not surprising it is overwhelming. So I beg to go to the Pantheon.
Like the step out of the Vencian train station there are no words to describe you first few seconds inside the Pantheon. The door was packed with people but once inside it seemed almost empty. There was a choir singing in harmony. It was a very touching moment for us. Because of the crowd Bob waved off. So Barbara went back out and practically dragged him inside and he thanked her for it a few days later. It blows my mind that people spent the time and treasure to get somewhere and fail in the last few steps.
We hop a morning train to Milan. The route is curutuitous and we see a rather deep snow on the landscape. The train was crowded but people were very friendly.
The Milan Station was tumult as usual construction and hawkers. I have some idea of where the hotel is so Barbara and Bob find a cafe while I track it down. There is a constant light rain.
The hotel is formal and clean. I dump my pack and head back for Barbara & Bob
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