We walked everywhere and ate and drank everything! It was a brave new world, and a challenging one thanks to the intellectual stimulation of all that art. But we had magnificent gelato and an enthusiastic friend as our guide, and it was great. And it was fun trying out the few Italian phrases I learned on the plane over there, too. ^_^
Why were you inspired to do this?
I've always wanted to visit Italy. It's just been one of those places that tugs at me somehow and it's been on my mental wishlist for as long as I can remember. I'd like to see multiple cities for contrast, visit the great art sites, and learn a little more about the history as I go.
What were 3 things you did to make this happen?
Organization and discipline to clear and set the right dates--currently I have a friend in Italy who is a historian, would let me stay at her place, and would be the best unofficial tour guide I could hope for. But she won't be there forever, and I need to get on top of my schedule (and hers) and actually set this up with firm commitment ASAP. Time off work for SO also needs to be arranged.
Research in advance--figure out what I'm most passionate about seeing/experiencing and make sure my list doesn't get stressfully long, check what cultural things I need to know about Italian travel, and learn some key phrases.
Plane tickets. ;_; It really hurts to spend all that money at once, but unlike new "stuff," a new experience is worth it in the end.
How did you feel once you had accomplished this?
I felt proud of myself for actually going out and doing this. It was a big travel goal and I got it done. I know I've traveled a fair bit in my life, but this is the first big one in many years that was a journey to a wholly new place that was wholly conceived of and motivated by me. And I also made it my first non-working week of vacation in four or five years as well--setting an Out of Office notice in Gmail as well as my company email bought unbelievable peace of mind. I'm always afraid I'll chicken out or I won't follow through and really go after things and do them, but this time, even though it was maybe the least coherently planned vacation of my life, I *did* it.
Additional notes and tips:
- Make sure the ATM cards in your wallet are current before you leave! I accidentally took not one but two cards that expired right at the beginning of the trip, causing extra stress.
- Reading recommendations from fellow My Life Listers enhanced the experience (I read Playing for Pizza and Under the Tuscan Sun). I highly recommend reading not only facts but also "fun" books set in your vacation spot before/during any trip.
- We learned the trick to spotting substandard gelato places: don't go to the ones where the flavors are all piled up in high mounds that rise above their bins. Look for gelato that's flat in the bins, or else gelato that's hidden in a metal container so that you can't even see it. (The piled-high ones are not as pure ingredient-wise.)
- Many Italian museums will not give out free maps like U.S. museums do. So if you're planning to go to a really big one like the Uffizi or the Vatican, especially without a tour guide, it might be worth visiting their websites before you leave and/or trying to find at least a rough map somewhere online so you can get yourself oriented once you're inside. (I think the big ones do all sell giant "guidebooks" in the gift shops, but the gift shops are all at the end! And usually I don't want a guidebook so much as a simple map to orient myself.)
- Don't forget: no tank tops/bared shoulders allowed in many of the Roman churches. We knew this ahead of time, though, so we were fine.