Ah Italy, the land of pasta, parmesan and pizza! A feast for the eyes and taste buds, Italy is one of those countries on most people’s travel bucket lists. I have been to Italy twice, but still feel I have barely scratched the surface. And because Italy has many beautiful spots, it can really be a challenge to narrow down where to go and what to see when planning your trip. Last summer I took my daughter on a 12-day train ride through Europe and Verona and Venice were our Italian stops. Here’s a little bit about what happened:
Why Verona and Venice?
The idea for this trip had been the result of a close friend planning to hold her upcoming wedding in Venice. As soon as I heard the news, I began planning. I dusted off my 2006 Italy guidebook and began leafing through those pages, carefully reading everything I could about Venice. As I studied the map, the dreaming was starting.
When said friend then decided she would get married in her home city of Toronto instead, I had a mini-meltdown. Not really, but like I said, the dreaming had begun and I was now determined to go to Venice. Out that was born a 12-day trip with my daughter that started in Amsterdam and ended in Venice. I thought Verona would be a good stop before Venice, as it was a smaller city and I figured it would have a different vibe. Plus, I wanted to see Juliet’s balcony!
Oh Verona, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
I fell in love with Verona. I enjoyed the laid back vibe, and seeing ordinary Italian life, such as people waiting at a bus stop or shopping at a fruit market. I was impressed by older Italian ladies who looked so beautiful and stylish, I felt like I had to step it up a notch! The people were friendly and helpful and the couple we stayed with went above and beyond with their kindness, and were especially helpful when my daughter fell sick. The city was easy to navigate, and although it was high season, it didn’t feel over-crowded (well, except at Juliet’s balcony – seems I wasn’t the only person wanting a peek and a photo). I left Verona wishing I had had more time to explore and I dreamed of returning one day soon.
A little more from Vernona…
Oh Venice, why must you be so crowded, hot and confusing?
I’m afraid I didn’t fall in love with Venice in the same way. Not on this trip, anyway. Never a lover of crowds (I avoid food courts like the plague), Venice was a zoo of people in August. The streets were confusing, and at one point I just sat down on the ground against a wall, frustrated, and announced to my 14 year old, “I give up.” She patiently waited for me to recover and several minutes later we were on our way again, looking for our hotel.
One thing I did appreciate though, were the photo opportunities. There is really no where else like Venice, it is so unique with its system of canals and traditional gondolas guiding people under bridges and down narrow waterways and I never tired of watching them.
One of my best memories was after dinner with my daughter, trying to get from a restaurant to our hotel in a rain storm, and the two of us running over bridges as fast as we could, but also trying to stay low so we wouldn’t get struck by lightning. We laughed a lot that night. My worst memory was when the owner of a cafe started yelling at us because I had put a dirty napkin (not from his cafe) into a garbage can in his corner cafe (because I couldn’t find a garbage receptacle in the streets!). That wasn’t fun and slightly humiliating. In spite of that experience, when I returned home I read a really good book set in Venice, and I started to see it through different eyes. I may have liked Venice a little more, had I traveled there in the off-season.
Here’s some more from Venice:
So that was our taste of Italy this past summer – two very different cities. How about you – what is your favourite Italian city and why?
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