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Our Trip to Italy - 2007
On our second night in Rome, our tour group was taken to an Italian restaurant for an evening of great food, fine wine, and intermittent opera sung by four resident (and very talented) opera singers. They sang between each course and after dessert. For their last number, the ringleader of the singers (the guy in the red vest) selected two of us from the audience to join him on the stage. We were then instructed to lip sync the opera while he and the other singers sang. It was my finest hour.
Ponte Vecchio is a bridge standing in the old section of Florence, Italy. It’s a major shopping area during the day and a major focal point of tourist night life in the evening. We were warned that pick pockets were especially rampant in this area but, in spite of pressing crowds, we didn’t have any trouble. The picture at left was taken as the sun was setting and the charm of the city was at a peak. The picture below shows a local street performer who was really quite good. He sang a lot of American songs and I bought one of his CDs, only to realize that not only did the CD only have 4 songs on it, they were all original songs sung in Italian, not the recognizable tunes I had heard him sing.
Image acquired at:http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-2783551-ponte_vecchio_florence-i
I’ve always wondered what the big deal was about Tuscany and why people who seem otherwise normal seem to almost swoon when Tuscany is mentioned in conversation. I’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun and I vaguely remember a Seinfeld episode that had something to do with Tuscany, but I still didn’t see why Tuscany was so special. Then we visited and had time to wander and appreciate how beautiful the countryside is. I could see myself living there. Now, whenever I look at the pictures we took, I get positively all swoonyfaced, and it’s all I can do to stifle the palpatations of my trembling heart. Yeah, right. Still, it’s a really cool place.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in Venice. I had heard it was dirty and smelled bad. Instead it was clean, gorgeous, and a lot of fun. It’s impossible to walk around and not get lost, but there are signs to make it easy to find your way again. Food was overpriced, but the shopping was fun and it was every bit as quaint and charming as one might imagine. We took an over-priced and not quite satisfying gondola ride, because it was unthinkable not to. Still, there are lots of great ways to spend your time (and money) in Venice that have nothing to do with gondolas.
We spent our first three days in Rome, sometimes with a tour guide, sometimes wandering around on our own. Our local guide was a woman named Marisa. She taught us how to march boldly into Rome’s crazy traffic, trusting drivers to stop. She also had genuinely interesting insights and stories related to the sites. We visited the Coliseum, the Fountain of Trevi and, of course, the Vatican. The Pope was in residence while we were there, but he must not have known we were in town, because he didn’t come to his window to wave.