|Colosseum in Rome - Opened in 80 AD
I was sixteen the first time I visited Italy. It was at the end of a summer spent studying French language and culture in the lovely town of Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva. After completing final exams, our group of intrepid American high-schoolers boarded a train for Rome and one week of exploring Italy before flying back to the U.S. I came from a small town in the midwest. I didn't know much about Italy other than what I'd learned in school and that wasn't a great deal. I wasn't prepared for the echoes of history on every corner as I walked through Rome or the genius of Michelangelo as I gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the incredibly life-like statue of David in Florence. I was entranced. Well, as entranced as any sixteen-year-old can be. It wasn't until I returned to Italy - 37 years later - that I realized how profoundly the country had imprinted itself on my soul.
|Trevi Fountain - Rome
We were a small, but excited, group who boarded a flight to Rome on a warm evening in early July: ten of us ranging in age from 8 to 75. Two more people - a couple from Florida we had yet to meet - would join us in Rome. My friend, who arranged the tour, flies so much that she has a special status with the airline we were flying that allows her to board before anyone else. It also allowed her family (the other nine of us) to board with her. That was probably the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it's like to be rich and famous.
The airline employee assigned to her gathered us and took us to a place in front of the line waiting to board, then roped off the line behind us. First Class passengers behind us were giving us "the look" and I heard more than one person whisper "Who are they?" as if trying to figure out who the celebrity was. Have to admit: it was fun! :)
|There's a masterpiece everywhere you look at the Vatican.
Our tour kicked off with a walking tour of Rome. The sites we visited were all places I had been before but walking the ancient city of Rome never gets old and with each visit - and guide - I always learn something new.
After one day in Rome, we headed south to our main destination: the Amalfi Coast. This was the part of the trip that had me most excited. I had visited Naples before as well as Capri, Sorrento, and Pompei but I had never ventured further south. I couldn't wait to see Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, and the other southern Italy destinations I had heard and read about. Nobody told me I had to risk my life to get there!
|See those cars on the side of the mountain?
The views are incredible but the narrow two-lane highway that hugs the edge of the mountain cliffs? Terrifying! Imaging being in a 16 passenger van (a luxury Mercedes van but that's not the point) coming out of a curve when you come face to face with a big Greyhound style tourist bus. There's not enough road space to pass so the smaller vehicle (us) has to back up along the edge of the cliff and get as far off the road as possible (lucky me, on the water side, had a great view of the sheer drop-off) so the bus can get by. I was taking photos with my right hand and hanging on for dear life with the left! But it was all worth it when we got to Positano.
We spent the next eight days in Positano with several side trips to various points of interest. Here are a few highlights.
There's so much history and beauty along the Amalfi Coast. Also wealth. Unbelievable wealth.
The photo to the left is an ancient tower from which locals kept watch for invading pirates. Some are thousands of years old and they still dot the coastline all along the Amalfi Coast.
Another Amalfi Coast staple is the profusion of color from beautiful tropical flowers.
One of my favorite activities while we were in Positano was boating on the Mediterranean. We went out twice: once for our trip to Capri and again, for a cruise south along the coast. Both times, we were able to explore beautiful grottos, swim in the sea, and drool over the uber-expensive yachts that dot the coastline. Here's one that had its own helicopter!
Something else the Amalfi Coast is known for is their huge, sweet lemons. I mean, look at the size of them!
One of the products they make from those lemons is Limoncello. It's served cold, in frosty shot glasses, and packs a punch. Think lemon moonshine. I loved it! Being waited upon by Maurizio didn't hurt either. ;-)
The colors of the Mediterranean are breathtakingly beautiful, a palette of jewel tones from deep midnight blue...
...to exquisite turquoise and aquamarine.
This was my third visit to Capri but the first time I've circled the entire island by boat. The views are stunning and the boat ride over and back was so worth it. The island on the right is home to Capri and Anacapri.
My first time going through the arch on our way to Capri.
View from one side of the Gardens of Augustus on Capri.
View from the other side, looking back at the arch we boated through.
One of the many artistic displays on Capri. That's not a real person, folks.
Our water transportation. What a fun time we had on this boat with our awesome captain, Paolo.
I was charmed by this garden and watering can fountain in front of a parfumerie on Capri.
Bidding farewell to Capri. Legend says if you wave goodbye to the boy on the cliffs that you'll one day return. We all waved!
More of my Italy journey to come in Part 2, including fabulous food, Greek ruins, and a mozzarella farm where the water buffalo are treated to classical music and a daily massage.
Tell me what you did this summer?
Did anyone take a vacation? Where did you go?
Have you ever been to Italy?
What would be your dream vacation?
PJ's Birthday Month Giveaway
Two randomly chosen people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM, September 15 will receive a book from my conference stash and a 2018 bookmark calendar from Italy. (U.S. only)