Italy

We recently took a trip to Italy for a week of driving around, seeing the sights, eating good food and COFFEE.


Coffee Crack

The trip began with a flight from Orlando to Philadelphia to visit Amy’s family for xmas and for me to meet the new niece for the first time.  We did not get into any flight delays due to the shutdown since we flew on the 25th of December.  We had a few pleasant days in Mt Airy with the family then took Amtrak to NYC.  After a night in Manhattan which included a grossly overblown dining tab we caught a plane to Milan.

Not Milano

We picked up our OPEL CORSA rental car at the airport and on no sleep for 24 hours started the drive from Milan to Montacatinni Terme.  It was early morning and so foggy one could not see more than a few meters outside the front car window.  Luckily it was New Years day and the traffic was at a minimum.  We made a quick stop in Parma on the drive down for coffee and snacks and eventually made it to the hotel for some much needed showers and rest.

Route Driven

Our home for the week was an old hotel in Montecattini-Terme called Grand Hotel Plaza in the city center.  An older hotel that was comfortable and not bad for a package deal.  Finding parking everyday was always an adventure as they did not have any parking center and we had to secure a random spot on the street where we could find one.

We drove some in the Tuscan countryside viewing dormant wine fields, beautiful old castles and nice little towns.  The cities we went to were: Vireggio, Luca, Bagni di Lucca, Pisa as well as taking the train to Florence.  Fun trip, not too crowded due to it being off-season.

Pisa

Pisa was great to see.  The architecture and art are amazing, and it is funny to watch people line up outside the tower pretending to hold it up for their photo-op.

Florence annoyed me with the huge crowds and thousands of people jamming the streets.  We watched a really good busker in the city center playing guitar and singing in Florence and saw some great art and a group of young communists holding a vigil by the museum while the Italian police smoked cigarettes and smirked at them.

Pisa
Florence
Flying into Milan over the Alps on New Years day
Milano

Now, please indulge me as I do a bit of editorializing.

When you read most popular travel bloggers and or attractive/popular social media folks you get the sense that travel is nothing but non-stop wonder with sexy people doing exciting things in lovely locations.  All pinatas and single malt scotch whisky.  Nary a bad time to be had.  I’m not going to sugar coat it — traveling is wonderful and also a pain in the ass all in one package.  For every great piece of awe-inspiring art I viewed in Florence there were 1000s of people trodding willy-nilly in all directions not paying attention to where they were walking, let alone having any concept of personal space or hygiene.  For every wonderful cup of espresso and tasty pastry I consumed there were 100s of people trying to sell me a piece of shit selfie-stick that I did not want.  Traveling is like anything else, you take the good, you take the bad and average it all out into a life experience.  Hopefully, you’ll grow a bit and have a laugh or two.

More editorializing.

The Milan airport is a shithole.  More specifically, the customs line to get to the outgoing flights is a small special portal to hell.

Line one – for EU passport holders.  Calm and running slowly, but smoothly. A bit of pushing and close standing, but Euros, whattaya expect?  Line two for all other passport holders.  Running like a mad rush to see the pope on Easter in Spain.  There were three flights leaving at approximately the same time.  One to Beijing, one to Miami and the flight that we were on to New York City.  Everyone was in the same boat – pressed for time to get to their flights.  We entered the winding queue and immediately an Israeli woman (saw her passport) pushing a stroller shoved in front of us.  I said, “what gives, lady?”  Which she ignored.  Then she tries to push further up and then goes to the back of the line and then somehow ends up in front of us again.  Meanwhile a group of at least a dozen Chinese folk are pushing and shoving their way through the line, where again I asked one guy, “hey buddy, what the fuck gives?”  Which he ignored.  Then an Eastern European woman starts shoving through the line and I don’t let here through.  I asked her “what’s the deal?” She says, “I am needing to get my flight.”  Where I replied, “so are we all, sister.”  Then she dove under the velvet rope and squirmed through a huge crush of folk and disappeared like Homer Simpson into a shrub.  You can tell the Americans in line as we are all standing there rolling our eyes and thinking WTF?!  We eventually get near the front of the line where there is one lone tiny woman trying to direct the crush of humanity to the most open customs window.  There must be a better way.  We eventually made our flight, but mostly due to the fact that the flight was delayed for six more hours.

 
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