Italy by Rail and Ship: Trip Notes from the First Week

Has it really been one week ago since Lisa and I left early Monday morning?  Part of me thinks that time just flies, and the other part of me feels like it has been so long ago.  In no particular order, here are some trip notes from our first week on our big summer vacation.

  • Left behind, involuntary: the charger cord to my new Android phone, left behind at our New York hotel.  Didn’t realize it until we were at JFK and I was looking for it to plug in.  The good news is that we do have an extra cord that I can plug into a USB socket.  The bad news is that the cord I lost was especially for my new phone and it was a quick charger, meaning it could juice up an empty phone in under two hours.  Now it takes quite a bit longer to charge up my phone.
  • Left behind, voluntary and with regret:  (1) my good camera – figured I cut weight and just use my new Android phone, but I miss the features of my camera like the powerful zoom and the ability to take pictures in all types of conditions.  My smartphone is good, but not good enough.  (2) my running shoes – again, in order to cut weight, I left behind my running shoes.  Not that I would do a bunch of running, but at least I could give my feet a rest with a different pair of shoes and I’d be able to do more of a workout or even some running.  (3) a string backpack – I brought my new day pack, but sometimes I’d rather have something really really light like my string backpack that every business seems to give away at community events and what not.  I have ten of them at home so I have little excuse for not bringing one.
  • The smoking Europeans:   Nope, not talking about hot Italian women, I’m talking about the smoking in outdoor public spaces that is difficult to escape.  Twice we have had a lovely meal in an outdoor patio, and then while we are eating our neighbors light up and it just so happens that the wind direction that day is targeted right for us.  So tonight we ate inside the restaurant where smoking is not allowed.
  • Tiny coffee:   yep, like a little shot of coffee in a teeny, tiny cup.
  • Coke and other beverage sticker shock:  a small plastic bottle of coke runs around 3 Euro, which is about $3.60.  This price applies in both restaurants, fast food joints and in convenience stores.  Conversely, Lisa has had glasses of wine that go anywhere from 3.50 Euro to 4.50 Euro – that’s super cheap, yet it is not cheaply made wine!
  • Paid water:  I haven’t quite figured out how to order tap water.  I thought the secret word was “Still Water,” so the waiter will just bring me a bottle of regular water instead of fizzy or bubbly water.  Next time I will just ask for any water that is free / gratis and hope for the best.

 

  • Free water:  it has been pretty hot here and Lisa and I have done our fair share of sweating, especially with all the humidity and strong sunshine.  In every Italian town we’ve been to, a total of seven, everyone of them has a public water spigot that you can fill up your water bottle for free.  I’m not talking about a drinking fountain, but an actual spigot pipe in some town square or populated area where the water is free AND clean.  At first we were a little suspect, but we gave into thirst and (knock on wood) so far have had no negative post-water consumption issues.

 

  • Mosquitoes:  I have around ten bites, and Lisa over twice that amount.  They just love us.  We have repellent, but after slathering sun screen all over our arms and legs, we have been too lazy to apply our bug spray.  That will change tomorrow however because we will be going to Venice for a few days, and we hear that they have a lot of mosquitoes!
  • Gelato:  we’ve had a cup every day and have tried different flavors.  They are literally on every corner and they all look like high quality, specially gelato shops.  And here’s your frozen dairy dessert lesson for the day …
    • ice cream:  usually frozen (hard), made with no less than 10% milk fat,
    • gelato:  usually made with whole milk and no cream and no eggs, consistency is more like soft serve

 

  • Gelato sizing:  a small cup runs around 2 Euros, but when you see the size of the cup, you think “that’s pretty big!”  Well, here’s some news.  That “small cup” that looks big is actually a small cup because they hide the bottom of the cup halfway up.  I found out the hard way when I was eating my gelato and I finished faster than I should have.  Upon investigation, it was because of that false bottom!
  • Fill er’ up:  let’s talk about to-go (or as they call it here, “takeaway) cups of beverages.  In the States, when you order a large drink, you expect a drink to be filled up to the very top and then a nice lid placed over it for you “to-go.”  But here, they will only fill it up to about one inch from the top.  You’ll get a straw but no lid, and no discount for that empty space where you hope actual beverage product should be.  Oh, and here there is no such thing as a Super Size Large.
  • Photos:  too many thus far, and so hard to delete them because they are all “great” shots because everywhere we have been to has been worthy of photo keepsakes.  From food porn, architecture, natural landscapes and everything in between, we have not been able to say “NO” when it comes to taking pictures – except in some churches that explicitly state no cameras or photographs.  There is beauty everywhere and we just want to capture it all.  So yeah, we have a problem and it is not going away anytime soon!  But at least we don’t have any annoying selfie sticks!  Just random selfie shots at odd angles, we can live with that.
  • And that does it for this first edition of trip notes where I comment, muse and complain about anything that comes to mind, now it is time for bed because I need the sleep!

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