Sunday, May 29, 2011

Italy Roundup

I'm most disappointed to announce that our time in Italy has come to an end. Yesterday was our last day in Rome.

I must admit that if one wants to explore Rome adequately, one should spend at least a full week in the city. A couple of days are not nearly enough to see everything in it's entirety.

Yesterday we went back into the city and spent a couple of hours at the Vatican City. We were there early and already there were hundreds of people lining up to get in. The churches and cathedrals in the city are magnificent. They have the most amazing artwork inside and one could spend hours inside just taking it all in.

My driver and I also spent a whole heap of time walking around the city to the various attractions. I loved the Pantheon in particular. The building/ruin is hardly worth looking at from the outside, but once one enters through the marble pillars the inside is spectacular. The floors are marble and so are the walls. There are a few tombs behind glass enclosures and massive paintings around the walls. The inside of the building provides a cool relief from the tremendous heat outside.

Another highlight for me was the Trevi Fountains. One walks along a corridor of buildings and at the end is an opening which leads directly to the fountains. One can hear the water raging from quite a distance away. The fountains are truly beautiful and the rushing water has a calming effect. There are literally hundreds of people scattered around the area, either sitting on the steps looking at the fountains, or standing around marveling at it's beauty.

The Gelato Bars do exceptionally well in this area and the cost of an ice cream is €5.00 for one scoop. Don't let this put you off though, they are well worth the cost.

I managed to support the economy slightly, but any little bit helps, right? I certainly didn't spend nearly as much as I had budgeted for however, my driver kept on reminding me that I had spent a squillion dollars on diamonds prior to leaving Canada, so unless I spent money surruptitiously, my driver was on my tail watching every move of mine!

One of the annoying things in Rome is that wherever there is any attraction, the street vendors are rather aggressive in trying to get one to purchase thing from them. Illegal street hawkers try to shove fake Gucci handbags in ones face and hound one to purchase there items. They are actually rude and obnoxious. The police are constantly walking around chasing them away but as soon as they leave, the hawkers are back.

The Smart Car is an amazing invension! Since the very first time I ever laid my eyes on one, I thought they were hidious but when one is in Italy one can see exactly why they were invented. They are fabulous because they maneuver incredibly well, they can park in any small spot that one may think is impossible to get into and they seems to go quite fast.

When renting a car in Italy, try to get the smallest you can because parking is extremely difficult and the streets are awfully narrow. When we picked up our rental car we were upgraded to a bigger car... Nightmare! You do not want an upgrade, ever! Size does matter and the smaller the better.

The countryside is constantly changing. The south coast is very mountainous with few roads and no freeway. The locals rely on subsistence farming and it would appear some send their women out to be adventurous and earn a quick buck. Northern Italy is hilly, very green and the hills are scattered with olive plantations, vineyards and agriculture. The north coast Is ruggered and beautiful but if one doesn't wish to compete with hundreds of tourists in tiny places then this is a place to avoid.

The people are fantastic. The Italians in the countryside are extremely humble and incredibly accommodating. They will give you the shirt off their back if they think it will make one happy. The larger centers are quite multicultural, especially Rome where most people around are foreigners.

My driver will still tell you that he is not impressed with Rome but I do believe it boils down to ones own preferences. Some people prefer quieter areas, some prefer shopping. For me, it was a mixture of cultural experiences and the coastal lifestyle. I loved the quieter vineyards too however, I certainly didn't mind all the crowds in Rome.

I've had the most marvelous experience with some of the most amazing people I have come across. Thank you Italy for such a memorable experience and fantastic vacation.

Arrividerci.

~ Vanessa

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