Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Travel: During The Best or Worst of Times

 We just returned from a week in a mostly windswept, rain-drenched Italy. A storm system arrived two days after we did.

Under the Tuscan Sun. . .briefly

Locals lamented our timing. "It was beautiful last week and it will be next week," we were assured time and time again as we made our way from Bologna to Florence and finally, Rome. The two photos taken on our train trip between Florence and Rome illustrate the fickle weather we experienced. The rain spells lasted longer than the sun bursts.

Tuscan rainstorm washed away the sun

Memories of what had been the weather and promises of that which was to come would do us no good - we were there for a week. While it certainly wasn't the best of times for a trip, it certainly wasn't the worst either. 

Pasta with cinghiale, wild boar, ragu

Walking between four and five miles a day, consuming as much pasta and Italian wine as we could and absorbing as many sights as possible in each of our stops made the week speed past. It will go down in the memory book as one of the best of times.

Travel Timing

We continue to read of people, Americans, in particular, postponing travel to Europe because of  'all that is going on over there' -  referencing Covid transmissions, Covid travel regulations/rules, and recently, the potential impact of the conflict in Ukraine. Some cite fears of food shortages and/or increased prices for food and fuel. 

For those folks concerned about one of more of those topics, this would be the worst of times for travel no matter what assurances I tried to provide. But because of those hesitant to travel, we decided it just might be one of the best times to travel.


Waiting to get near the Trevi Fountain - Rome

I guess we believed those headlines about tourism being down and people not traveling were painting an accurate picture of tourism. The reality is: people ARE traveling. Lots of people!  And many of them Americans.

It was most evident in Rome where prior to our arrival I had said I wanted to see the Trevi Fountain again  'before it was again overrun with tourists'.  It is the fountain, the centerpiece of the 1954 movie, 'Three Coins in the Fountain' where you stand near its edge, facing away from it and  toss a coin over your shoulder and make a wish to return to Rome.  Well, had I really wanted to make that wish, I'd probably still be standing there waiting to get anywhere near the fountain.  

Midway point in the line to enter the Pantheon - Rome

Moving on, we found ourselves nearing the Pantheon, I asked The Scout if he wanted to go in, as it has been years since we 'd last done that.  Luckily he didn't have his heart set on a return visit as we'd still be standing in the entrance line that stretched across the piazza and down a street.

Italian cappuccino can't be beat

Yet, the crowds haven't reached the pre-pandemic levels and we often found ourselves on small side streets meandering past shops and bars still frequented primarily by locals.  Those were some of the best of times, even with the umbrella unfurled and braced against the wind.

A highpoint of travel in Italy is indulging in cappuccinos,  - standing at the counter as locals do in the neighborhood bar.  The price had not changed: still 1.50 euros when consumed at the bar in the places we stopped. The cost goes up if you sit at a table but still is no more than what we pay in Greece: about 3 euros a cup.



A neighborhood bar in Florence

And when I write about drinking coffee or wine at the neighborhood bars, I am talking about tiny little places like the one pictured above.  

Table wine purchase by the half liter - 3 euros

Our whirlwind trip began in Bologna, the city we visited last fall. We found it far busier that it had been a few months ago but food and drink prices remained much as we remembered them being - quite reasonable. We stayed at the same hotel -- in the heart of the city's historic center - that we had last November. We were delighted to find a grocery store had opened across the street since our last visit.  I can report that shelves were full of essentials as well as gourmet treats.

The photo above was taken at a restaurant just off the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna.  The house red wine was served as it is in Greece, by the liter. This is a half liter that cost 3 euros - and The Scout deemed it the best 3-euro half liter of wine he'd ever consumed!

Time to Travel

Florence at night


For us the time to travel is now.  We've lost two years to Covid.  Soon we will find ourselves again unable to leave Greece as we begin the renewal process for our residency permits. It is a slow process made slower by backlogs from the Covid lockdown and a new online application system that doesn't seem to have streamlined the process at all.  


Street side restaurant Bologna

In the last year we've lost good friends - and fellow travel enthusiasts. Each loss has been a sad reminder to carpe diem, seize the day. Tomorrow's travels aren't promised.  

The question of best or worst of times for travel must be answered by each individual traveler. I can tell you that the European Union is slowly lifting travel restrictions and requirements, making travel seem much more like it used to be. On this trip we were required to wear masks inside airports, public transport, hotels, retail and food and beverage establishments. Waitstaff told us on several occasions that Italy plans to discontinue the mask requirement the first of May. But aside from being rather tedious to wear it - it didn't impact the travel experience.

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We hope that if you are traveling your experiences are good ones. Write and tell us about them in the comments below or shoot us an email.  We will continue the Italy tour in our next post. Until then, happy travels ~ be they be in real time or by armchair.   And welcome to our new subscribers, it is nice to have you with us!!  If you haven't yet signed up (subscribed)  to receive these posts as emails, (for free), just fill in your address in the box on the home page.

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2 comments:

  1. How lovely to read about your travels. The weather has been really cruel this year, not just here in Spain, as l keep hearing from friends.

    At this point, I think there will always be reasons not to travel, but like you said tomorrow is not promised for anyone. Rome is certainly a lot busier than when we last visited a few months ago. We did not get to do much really as we were there to visit the MIL who sadly passed away just under two weeks after we left. It makes you think.
    We're going back in a couple of months and with no plan as of now, just gonna work our way down from Rome after visiting his family to Calabria or Messina. Should be a lovely three weeks (even if we get bad weather :-)).

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  2. Glad you enjoyed your trip, even though the weather wasn't ideal. It's good to hear your perspective on travel from inside Europe. I do know some people who are starting to travel.My feeling is, however I try to protect myself from Covid here in the US, I can do the same thing in Europe. The war in Ukraine is worrying, but that wouldn't deter me at this time. Now I just need to convince the hubby.

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We have been having problems in recent weeks with our comment section and I am not quite sure how to fix it. Thanks for letting us know. Some comments have been coming in as emails, so I will respond to those as I get them.

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