Summer is almost here and with it, my chance to really cut loose and travel freely.
As you know I love Italy and everything Italian so I tend to focus my travel attention there and, if possible, hit some other areas close by.
This year we are heading back to Florence because I just can’t get enough of that city. The idea that Michelangelo, Leo Da Vinci and Lorenzo “Il Magnifico” de Medici strolled the streets there not so long ago fills me with wonder and excitement.
In Florence I have booked a beautiful apartment in the Centro Storico (historical center). I normally like to stay in the Oltrarno area and usually book with my new friends there. They have a beautiful apartment with a balcony overlooking the Arno. If that is not Heaven on earth to you, it is perched right on top of a gelato shop. You can see more of this gorgeous place in my article on where to stay in Florence.
This time however, her place was booked and due to my physical limitations, (please see my recent bitchfest thinly disguised as an article on tips for recovering from hip revision surgery) I have booked a place closer to the city center.
The place I booked is a lovely apartment with a balcony as I may have trouble walking too far and will need a nice place I can sit and watch the people below in princely comfort.
As far as booking places to stay, I recommend Air BnB highly as it is a lot less expensive than hotels. For half the price of a moderately expensive room in a hotel, you can get an entire apartment owned by someone who lives there. You get more charm and when you travel with kids or a group, you can save huge money by getting an apartment or a villa. Be sure to check out the reviews on each place before you book and keep in mind that there is no pleasing some folks and the best place I have stayed also had a bad review by people who did not know how to travel.
In Florence it is tempting to get a villa outside of the city but understand that that entails getting a car and there is very little parking available in Florence as Florence is a walky city. There are many areas where cars are not allowed which makes it a wonderful place for pedestrians who like to linger in front of store windows without blocking car traffic (me).
Obviously when you get to Florence, you will want to get your Firenzecard which, for a fee, gives you free access to most of the museums for a 72 hour period. You also get priority access which means you skip the vacation wasting lines that stretch on to eternity in the baking sun. We did this last time and it was great. We walked right into the Uffizi (stunning by the way) and spent almost all day there.
SPECIAL TIP FOR GIMPS LIKE ME!: If you have any trouble walking, please bring crutches. Even if you are kind of ok in the walking department after an injury or a surgery, the constant walking, though ok for most people can result in the mother of all vacation joy killing flare ups and lots of trips to the Farmacia and unhappy days with your leg up. I have learned this from experience. It is torture so bring canes, crutches, wheelchairs or whatever to ensure that you can get around ok. oh! and don’t be afraid to use the gimp tram at the airports. Those things are freaking awesome for gimps and the family of the gimp who also get to hop aboard.
Another tip for getting around Florence is to rent a bike. Up near the train stations they have bike rentals. You can get them for about ten Euros a day and since Florence is very walky, a bike can take a load off. You can see a lot in a short time and identify areas you want to stop and spend some time. It also gets you out of the touristy areas and into the areas where Florentines live and work. It is almost like two vacations in one.
From Florence, we are renting a convertible for a day and heading out to some of the ultra picturesque hill towns in Tuscany. I have been wanting to see Volterra forever since I heard they have vampires there. I also want to see San Gimignano and the giant towers that were symbols of power and wealth back in the day, kind of like a Bugatti Veyron which I am still trying to save up for (Droool).
After about three days in Florence, we are renting a car and driving down to Southern Italy. Our place in Santa Domenica Talao is wonderful and we miss our neighbors there. Each time we come back it is a home coming and we are really looking forward to it.
One of the reasons we bought our property there was that Southern Italy as a fantastic jumping off point for travel to so many other areas. There is Puglia, on the heel of the boot, Across the Adriatic Sea you have Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia/Hercegovina, Serbia/Montenegro, Albania and Greece. You are also a short hop to anywhere in Europe on one of the hoppy airlines like Ryanaire. An hour and a half from our house is the airport at Lemezia Terme and the train takes you right there. You cannot get more convenient for seeing a lot of Europe in a short time.
If you are interested in purchasing a property there, let me know. I can help you line up a knowledgeable sales person who speaks English and knows the ropes of purchasing Italian property.
After we arrive in Santa Domenica, we are planning a day or two in Napoli as I have never been. I have just been all over the Air BnB website and there are many places with roof terraces in Napoli with views of Vesuvius. We are meeting friends there so a shared apartment cannot be beat.
Another trip we are planning is a trip to see the Sassi di Matera. The Sassi are entire cities carved into the caves in Matera, Basilicata, Southern Italy.
Up until the 1950’s they were inhabited but due to the horrible conditions and starvation of the people, the Italian government got everyone to move out. The Sassi were uninhabited until fairly recently when the government realized the value of this historical site and promoted tourism there. Many of the caves have been renovated and you can actually get a hotel room in a cave and stay. I have seen photos of the Sassi at night and it is a fairyland. Stay tuned for photos and perhaps some video of this magical area. I can’t post any now as I don’t want to infringe on copyrights but I will have some soon. Meanwhile check out Google images for beautiful pics.
Of course, this vacation we intend to chill out n the amazing beaches.
We intend to eat at the amazing restaurants.
We intend to eat our weight in gelato every day.
And we intend to soak in the spiritual beauty that is Southern Italy in general and Santa Domenica in particular.
Now that I have drawn you in and happily hooked you, send an email to my friends Clive and Kathryn and book a room in their beautiful B and B in Scalea. They are right down the hill from us and they have the most breathtaking house in the historical center. Their place is also just a short walk to the beach.
Clive is an amazing cook and yes, when he says bed and BREAKFAST you do get breakfast and not just a bun.
Kathryn is also known as Saint Kathryn, the patron saint of fashion bargains. If you are devout enough she will take you out and about to the market in Scalea where you can get anything from roast pork sandwiches to bedding to shoes and all for a few Euros