An Italian Summer Journey

An Italian Summer Journey

Phil and Lauren Green of Lakeland have always loved to travel. While neither is fluent in a second language, their desire to see as much of the world as they are able recently took them to Italy where their summer travels, were, in Phil’s words, “an exceptional experience.”

BY MARIA IANNUCCI
PHOTOS BY LAUREN GREEN

 

Setting aside about 16 days for the journey, the Greens began planning months in advance using websites to plot their path through the country. “We were selective on the hotels,” Phil said. “We’d decide what cities we wanted to visit and planned everything ourselves, including how many days to spend in each location and/or travel from city to city. I did a lot of research.”

June in Italy is about the peak of the tourist season; but the higher temperatures usually come a little later, so it’s a gorgeous time of year to visit. The Greens selected an overnight flight that arrived in Rome early in the morning (often the hardest day of the trip as you begin to acclimate to the six-hour time difference).

Venice

The history of Rome spans about 2,800 years and is one of the oldest named cities in the world. Spending five days in Rome, the couple walked the streets of the city to have the best opportunity to take in the sights, never forgetting the unique aspect of antiquity. “It was incredible to think as we made our way through Rome that we stood beside structures older than the United States,” said Phil. “Being in the Sistine Chapel, seeing a Mass being offered at St. Peter’s Basilica, and walking to Vatican City were just breathtaking. Rome was my favorite city of the trip.”To travel around the country and between cities, the Greens primarily used the high-speed transit system, sometimes referred to as “bullet trains” for their quick service. “Public transportation is so convenient,” said Phil. “The cities are so populated that using the trains worked best for getting around.” Driving in these urban areas was out of the question, as the traffic and unfamiliarity with the roads would be a challenge to navigate without experience. Arriving in the northeastern city of Venice by high-speed train, Phil and Lauren had a couple of days to tour Venezia, as it is locally called. The city is home to over 270,000 residents and is best known for the Piazza San Marco (the public square) as well as the canals throughout, making for the perfect gondola ride.

Pizza in Naples

Moving on to Florence, they spent 5 days in the most populated city in the Tuscan region. Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and is noted for its art and architecture. The Greens sought out the masterpieces of the Renaissance, including the famous Statue of David by Michelangelo, a well-known marble sculpture of the period housed in the Gallerie dell’Accademia since 1873 and over 500 years old.

A side trip to Pisa led them to see the Leaning Tower. The Pisa tower is one of the four buildings that make up the cathedral complex in Pisa, Italy, called Campo dei Miracoli or Piazza dei Miracoli, which means “Field of Miracles.” Moving on to the nearby town of Lucca, the fortress-like Tuscan district is encircled by an unspoiled Renaissance wall where the couple was able to rent bicycles and pedal around the wall while enjoying a bird’s-eye view. “It was neat to know that this wall had protected this town for hundreds of years, and here we were, able to bike around on it,” said Phil.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Cinque Terre, a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera known as “The Five Lands.” These colorful villages date back to the 11th century and the Greens recommend riding the little railroad or a boat that connects them to get the best perspective. “Many of the places we visited in Italy were full of tourists, like ourselves,” said Phil. “In Cinque Terre, we saw people hanging their laundry and living their lives while we were overwhelmed with the beauty they experience every day on the edge of those cliffs. There’s nothing like it.”

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City

Heading to the Southern coast to Naples, the Greens fell in love with the vicinity and surrounding region. “We visited Pompeii and took a tour of the ruins,” said Phil. “Visiting the Amalfi Coast was incredible; there were the prettiest sights I’d seen.” A boat ride to the island of Capri was a special treat.

Lauren believes that becoming a part of the local culture is important to the experience of travel. “When I travel, I like to completely indulge myself in the culture of wherever I’m visiting. Many people can get caught up with the hustle and bustle of sightseeing and don’t sit back, relax, and really take in their surroundings. I want to eat when the locals eat, drink what the locals drink, and do what the locals do.”

Along with the great views during their trip was great food. Phil noted that while breakfast at the hotel was always a satisfying start to their busy days, it was the pizza he came to sample. I had pizza every single day in Naples,” Phil said. “I wanted to experience it at its birthplace. For me, the best mozzarella was in Naples. I couldn’t resist it.”

For their evening meal, they tried to order regional specialties, which almost always included pasta. “Like in Venice, we had seafood,” said Phil. “The cheeses were incredible. We’d have dinner very late – perhaps around 10. There was no rush to eat. I had the best tiramisu of my life in Rome before we left, and we’d have gelato (a style of rich ice cream) every day.” Lauren agreed that the cuisine was irresistible; “My favorite part of Italy was the food. I tried to eat gelato twice a day, a dish I’ve never had before, and pasta every day. I gained 5 pounds because of it, too. As they say, ’When in Rome!’”

After two weeks of touring the countryside and a final evening in Rome, Phil and Lauren headed home with a suitcase full of souvenirs, a camera full of photos and minds full of memories. They came home with something to share with their family – dried pasta. They plan to prepare an authentic Italian meal to share a hint of the special times they had Italia. So, mangiare bene (eat well)!

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