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I am very fortunate that I have had the opportunity to travel to Europe for business and pleasure.  The countries and cultures within Europe are so diverse.  The history of each village or city is interesting and the architecture varies greatly.  I also enjoy the mix of old and modern styles.  Even when traveling for business with a hectic travel and work schedule, I feel more relaxed in Europe.  I’m not certain if it’s the focus on simple food and good conversation, the scenery, the friendly and helpful people, or the excitement of visiting new places and meeting new people.  Regardless, I love the European lifestyle!

I have visited Italy twice and vacationed on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.  I am infatuated with southern Europe.  I have certainly watched ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ too many times in my husband’s opinion, but it satisfies my desire to experience Italy and my interest in architectural renovation.  Who doesn’t want to buy a villa in Italy?!?!

I finally convinced my  little family to indulge me…..we will take a family vacation to Italy in June 2018.

Lemons are extremely popular in Italy. They can be found everywhere from orchards and gardens to food, beverages, and painted on pottery.

Italian Food

I LOVE Italian food.  If I were sent to a deserted island and I could only bring one food item, I think it would be risotto.  What a great base for any spice, herb, vegetable, or protein.  Most of our vacation will be on the coast, so I am looking forward to fantastic, fresh seafood.  We plan to skip hotels in favor of renting  apartments or homes with kitchens, so we can purchase local foods and prepare some of our own meals.  Shopping at local markets is always a great adventure and perfect way to experience a new or different culture.  Not a bad place for souvenirs either!  I can’t lie….I also LOVE wine!  I will most certainly sample plenty of wine and will book a lunch stop at a winery on our way from Rome to Positano.  I’m sure this will provide an excellent opportunity to stock up for our stay.  However, I do want to make sure I have the opportunity to sample different wines from different vineyards.  Spread the love!

Learning the Italian Language

Have you ever had the opportunity to hear people speaking in Italian?  What a passionate language.  I think speaking Italian is in my soul……I love to speak with my hands and speak with a rhythm.  It’s almost like singing.  I started my Italian lessons with the DuoLingo app.  I worked my way through the free version and even purchased the Rick Steve’s handy Italian dictionary.  This will be a great reference for our trip and it’s small enough to pop into my purse.

When I realized I needed a more robust language learning program I conducted quite a bit of internet research and spoke with several people.  I was leaning towards Rosetta Stone, but it seemed like a significant financial investment.  I spoke with several friends and co-workers who had purchased Rosetta Stone, but none of them seemed to be using it.

In the end, I chose LingQ.  I use the app, I work through lessons on my laptop, and I even have a tutor.  My tutor is fantastic and I am more committed to the on-line work when I know I have a tutoring session coming up.  I schedule appointments every other week for 30-minutes.  I also play Italian podcasts many evenings while I am cooking dinner.  The Iceberg Project with Cher provides great  podcasts and a newsletter with E-mail tips for learning the Italian language.  I like receiving information from different sources so I get tips and advice from different teaching/learning perspectives.  I am finding that I am much better at understanding the language.  I’m still struggling to speak, but all the more reason to study and practice.


Our Proposed 2-week Itinerary

We are working on a 2-week itinerary.  We want to see a lot, but we also want to relax and really immerse ourselves in the culture.  Life is hectic, I look forward to slowing it down even if only during vacation.  I have had the privilege to visit Tuscany and I definitely plan a return visit, just not during this trip.

The internet is a wonderful place to research points of interest, travel itineraries, ‘must see’ points of interest, local insider tips, and places to stay.

Rather than staying in hotels, I prefer sites like Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).  Rentals are available around the globe .  Keep in mind, you might not have all the comforts or amenities of home, but isn’t this adventure the point of traveling to a different country?  I love to rent local residences to feel a closer connection to the communities we visit.  The hosts typically provide a wealth of information and tips on local treasures not to be missed.   The reviews on VRBO are also a great way to get a feel for what the rental has to offer and activities in the vicinity.  I recommend checking out some of the reviews for dining, sight-seeing and shopping recommendations even if you stay in a hotel.

Rome – Trastevere

We will start our adventure in Rome and will stay in Trastevere, Rome’s favorite neighborhood.  This area is beautiful with lots of restaurants and bars.  It’s also close to all the main tourist destinations in Rome.

A visit to the Colosseum in Rome is definitely on our ‘to do’ list.

Trastevere is a charming neighborhood in Rome. Famous for it’s wonderful food and nightlife.

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast  (Positano): I know there are other beautiful places on the coast, but I feel my first visit to Amalfi should be Positano.  I found a place that has a ‘secret’ cove and beautiful pool.  It’s off the beaten path, but close enough to hike the hills into town.

Puglia – Ostuni

Puglia, the heel of the Italian peninsula.  I don’t know anyone who has traveled here, but I stumbled across this region during some daydreaming activities after watching ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ for the 1000th time.  I was searching for Italian property to buy and renovate (dreamer here!).  The region has very unique architecture; coned white houses called trulli.  The towns and beaches look absolutely amazing.  Another feature that makes it seem more adventurous is the fact that most of the rental reviews are in Italian.  A few other languages thrown into the mix, but very few English reviews.  Thank goodness you can cut and paste into google translator for a quick rundown of key points….my Italian isn’t quite that good yet.  All the more reason to study.

It seems crazy to plan a vacation so far in advance, but I really enjoy the mini virtual vacation breaks as I research our itinerary.  I also continue to search for the perfect trullo renovation project 😉 I am finding that as I share my plans, friends and family are providing travel tips.  As a result, we will take a tour of Pompeii on our way from Rome to Amalfi.  I hope you will share your travel tips in the comments section.

I have some favorite travel tools.  It’s essential to have a great bag and some reliable luggage.  This makes it easier to pack and get around during a longer trip with lots of different segments.  Baggallini bags and purses are fantastic.  So easy to wash and air dry in a flash.  That’s a great feature that I really appreciate.