CityGirl in Italy 2018

I didn’t sleep for long the night before I journeyed to Italy. I never do. The anticipation always causes me, a resolute non-morning person, to awaken long before the alarm rings with a smile on my face. Along with that anticipation, I also have a fear of being 5,000 miles from home and without having packed just the right things. Or having left something important off my pared down list of items to bring. So, inevitably the night before I begin adding “just in case” items to my luggage; An umbrella, a cute peacock blue wrap dress, a pair of dressy sandals just in case it’s warmer than I expected, an extra scarf. Maybe it’s also a fear of not having an elegant enough wardrobe to fit in with the Italians, who even bicycle in heels.

At any rate, I was also likely antsy because I love Italy. After my first trip to Verona with a friend for a month in 2006 I was so enamored with the Veneto, Tuscany, Lazio, and Lombardy that I vowed to return as often as possible. So far I have done so almost every year, expanding my horizons to the amazing Emilia-Romagna where I usually base myself and take train trips to nearby provinces. Why Italy? It reminds me of home in south Louisiana. Serious food for home cooking foodies, laissez-fare attitude about wine, and a certain focus on joie-de-vivre I didn’t expect to be so strong anywhere other than New Orleans.

This trip, once again, satisfied my need to be on the peninsula. I racked up the miles on the train and in my rented Fiat 500 visiting Venice, Ferrara, Imola, Forli, Castrocaro Terme, Terra Del Sole, and Argenta. I had great food at new (to me) eateries in Cassana, Comacchio, and Pomposa. I learned that my favorite server for the past three years at La Postierla was expecting a baby and would not be working when I come again next September. I felt at once ecstatic for her and also like I was losing an old friend when she told me the news. She plans to name the girl Aurora.

Next year will be a new adventure, and perhaps I will even make new friends. I’m on the plane now from Venice to Frankfurt to the US. I spent my last night in Venice having dinner of shrimp risotto using a kilo we bought that morning at the ancient Minuto Fish Market with old friends and a new one visiting Venice alone from Korea that we met that afternoon while having a spritz at Gran Caffe Quadri in Piazza San Marco.

Ci vediamo, Italia. I will be back as soon as I am able.

xoxo

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Ferrara WAS New York

During my trip a trusted Ferrarese told me about a graffiti artist in her city who spray-painted the phrase:

Ferrara 500 anni fa era New York!

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It means ‘500 years ago Ferrara was New York”. So…. maybe not New York, but…. during the Renaissance Ferrara was a cultural and economic mecca. The 15th-century “Herculean Addition”, begun at the behest of Ercole I d’Este and designed by Biagio Rosseti, made her one of the first modernly planned cities of Europe. Lucrezia Borgia lived here, binding the city to Roman politics and intrigue, and the Este court grew or drew in scholars and artists such as Ludovico Ariosto, Dosso Dossi, Torquato Tasso, Pietro Bembo, Ercole Strozzi, and many others.

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Although now surpassed in tourism my Rome, Venice, and Florence I think Ferrara still offers quite a bit to the traveler looking for an Italian experience. It is situated in a couple hours train ride from Mantua, Verona, Venice, Milan, Bologna, and Florence. Oh, and did I mention the entire city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site?

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The thing I love most about Ferrara is that it is walkable. More than that, it is also a city of bicycles (citta delle biciclette). I can leave home, from a house right outside the city walls (le mura), ride into the ancient city center (centro) in a matter of minutes, and sit alongside the Este Castle (Castello Estense) while drinking a machiatto or prosecco at a cafe (caffetteria).

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This is my favorite thing about Ferrara. The freedom of movement on a bicycle in a city where it is safe for bikes is lovely. Bikes have the right-of-way in most areas, their own street signals for traffic control, and are the best way to get around the historic areas of the city where cars are not allowed.

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The warm Italian sun, brisk air of October, cobblestones, medieval cathedrals at every turn, zipping by of scooters, and bumbling by of the other bikes, cars, and buses make for a comforting din.

My favorite spots over the past #40daysinItaly are:

Piazza Ariostea (eat lunch at Ludovico here, they have great salads and wine)

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Biking and walking along Le Mura (the walls) of this ancient city which look amazing in panorama from the side but have lovely tree-lined walkways on top, too.

The centro (city center) where Piazza Savonarola is (try Osteria Savonarola for dinner and Al Brindisi for drinks after dinner)

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The amazing Castello Estense in the centro

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Via delle Volte, an old merchanting and storage street way

Palazzo Schifanoia, a palace for the Este family to escape the boredom of noble life in a castle, also home to amazing frescos!

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I only have three days left here in Italy. I miss my husband and my dog very much. So, I’m ready to return home. But, I know that when I leave it won’t be long before I have the stirrings of a different type of homesickness. A homesickness for my Italian family, and my Italian routine, and my Italian life.

Italy: What to know before you go

Italy has Western Europe’s richest, craziest culture. This is perhaps why I feel so at home there. It is also very diverse, stretching from their German- flavored Alps through hill towns to sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches. It was the cradle of the Roman Empire, bringing “civilization” to Europe by way of Africa, India, and Greece.

Here are CityGirl’s tips for having an amazing Italian vacation:

  • Go with an eye open to both the Italies of the past and Italy of the present. I say “Italies” because until the 19th century the peninsula was made up of independent city-states. So each region has its own distinct character and history.
  • Engage with locals. Italians are very social and want to connect with others. Show warmth even when you don’t understand everything and you’ll get a lot further. Embrace the melodramatic, go with it, use your hands when you talk. I live in New Orleans so this is a natural thing for me to fall into.
  • Exhibit la bella figura, a positive public persona/ appearance. Dress elegantly, miss the bus instead of getting sweaty running for it, always order the bottled water, never take a doggy bag, skip packing shorts or graphic tees unless you’re going to the beach.
  • Take part in the ritual evening stroll, the passaggiata. Put on a sophisticated outfit, dazzling accessories, gorgeous shoes, and go out… not for the destination, but for the journey.
  • Nowhere in Italy is more than a day’s journey away. There are 12,000+ miles of train lines and 4,000+ miles of autostrada, their expressway. Go explore.
  • Typical daily diet here includes two servings of pasta, a half pound of bread, and two glasses of wine. Just so you know the norm. You’ll be walking a lot, thank goodness.
  • Food here is not fast food, it’s slow food. Bought daily, prepared with love, enjoyed with friends and family. In season foods are the centerpiece and a three-hour meal is common. First comes the aperitivo (prosecco is a perfect choice), then the antipasto plate of cold sliced meats and veggies, then pasta (primo), then the meat entree dish (secondo), then salad, then dessert with coffee or a digestif. Pace yourself!
  • Italy is the number one wine producer of the world. Find out which wines are from the specific region you’re visiting, drink them. I love Lambrusco in Emilia-Romagna, Soave in the Veneto, Chianti in Tuscany, and Frascati in Lazio. Don’t order French wine!
  • Italians take a siesta called reposo or riposo. It’s a three-hour break from about 1pm. Shops will be closed, especially in small towns. Yes, even the post office. Use this time to do as they do; have lunch, socialize with friends and family, enjoy window shopping or walking the area.
  • Embrace il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing).
  • Savor your cappuccino, walk aimlessly, imagine the past, ramble through the countryside in a rented Alfa-Romeo, dangle your feet over the ancient waters of the Venetian canals or interior rivers of Florence, Rome, or Milan.
  • Accept Italy as Italy. Savor the fine points. Don’t dwell on the problems. Enjoy!

 

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Travelista Packing For A Month In Italy – Travel Tips and Packing List

Italy is SO beautiful and is a must for anyone inspired by art, food, or history. It’s where Romans ruled, Boticelli painted, and Da Vinci changed the way we see the world. It’s where Gucci, Ferrari, and Fiat originate. It’s the place that showed the rest of us what “la dolce vita” truly means.

There are so many places to go in this country (I use that term loosely as until less than 200 years ago they were all their own city-states and still have yet to get over the fact that they are “unified”) that I cannot cover them all in one post. So let’s just cover travel tips and packing!

Travel Tips

  • Look out for pickpockets and scammers near tourist attractions (don’t take any roses on the street!)
  • Understand that you are now on “Italy Time” (take your time, enjoy the moment)
  • Don’t eat near tourist attractions if it can be avoided (here are some other “don’ts”)
  • Take the train (instead of flying or renting a car)
  • Go off the beaten path (visit neighborhoods and countryside where real Italians live)

What to Pack

Don’t forget these essentials…

  • a scarf that can be worn around the neck or double as a shawl for cathedrals where you need to cover bare shoulders.
  • a pair of knee high boots that are comfortable for walking
  • an umbrella
  • a tote bag and easy to carry luggage (no elevators and escalators at hotels and transportation hubs so you have to lug everything you bring)
  • Clothes you can layer
  • pepper spray (just kidding, it’s illegal in Italy)

CityGirl’s Travelista Packing List For Italy

I like to have options, but when you deal with airlines nowadays you have to either have a ton of money to waste for a second bag, or a Delta AMEX card so you can bring up to 9 bags for FREE. Either way, that’s not me. When you have to pack your whole life for a month plus into a carry on you need to be realistic about taking your favorite cashmere sweater that has to be hand washed and hung to dry. Not happening. Be practical. Be radical. But still be fabulous.

Mixing and matching is key. With this packing list you can be stylish and versatile while still packing reasonably light. I’m traveling for 40 days in September and October so I need late summer cool and early fall warm all in one bag. There will be sunshine, fall leaves, rain, and maybe snow if go up the Dolomites.

For this trip you could absolutely just take a carry on… but since I’ll be volunteering and attending a history conference I need a few more options that are good for not just touristing around visiting museums and enotecas. My extra stuff is not on this basic list and this packing list could be packed in a carry on 22″ and weeknder tote/duffel.

I’m taking (a 27″ Atlantic Luggage roller bag to check with my specialty stuff) and a 22″ Diane von Furstenberg carry on roller bag. I’ll also have an extra large Sak tote for a water bottle, scarf, snacks, eyemask, charger, tablet, and my Gucci crossbody handbag for the plane (because… priorities!).

Like I said, this list could fit just into a carry on and weekender tote/duffel, or for backpackers a 70L or more backpack.

All of my items will be packed in stuff saks or packing cubes. One for tees and pajamas, one for tops, one for bottoms, one for dresses, one for underthings and socks, and another one for things I buy on the trip.

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 2 pair of leggings – one black and one grey
  • 1 pair of workout capris and a workout tee (in case I go hiking)
  • 2 skirts – one knee length and one maxi
  • 1 pair of Spanx tights
  • 2 tank tops with lace edging
  • 2 v neck shirts
  • 2 tunic sweaters
  • 2 meeting blouses and 2 meeting skirts (for the Kingdom Hall)
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 cardigan
  • 1 coat (warm but not bulky)
  • 1 scarf
  • 3 bras
  • 7 panties
  • Socks
  • 1 pair of pajamas, top and bottoms
  • 2 purses – a crossbody Gucci and a tote bag
  • Shoes
    • 1 pair of boots
    • 1 pair of flats
    • 1 pair of Birkenstock sandals
    • 1 pair of heels
  • Toiletries
    • Shampoo/Conditioner
    • Face wash
    • Lotion for body and face
    • Face mask
    • Deodorant
    • Tooth powder
    • Razor
    • Detangling comb and brush
    • Elastic hair ties and bobby pins
    • Prescription medicine
    • Vitamins
    • Makeup (eyeshadow, eyeliner, remover wipes, brow stuff, lip glosses)
    • Lunette Cup
  • Electronics
    • iPhone
    • iPad /Tablet
    • Camera
    • Chargers
    • Earbuds
    • Adapter for Europe with USB port
  • Other
    • Bike lock (for rental bikes)
    • Laundry bar for washing clothes in the sink
    • Umbrella
    • Flashlight
    • Travel book/ map
    • Journal/ pen
    • Water bottle
    • Eyemask/ neck roll
    • Money belt (I’m taking it but I doubt I’ll use it)
    • Sunglasses
    • Jewelry – to make your simple mix and match more stylish
    • Wine opener (just saying)
    • Passport holder and organizer

Have a fabulous trip!!

City Girl Travels to Italy

I’ll be traveling to the Veneto and Emilia-Romagna for 40 days this fall! I will be blogging and vlogging about it, so if you want insider tips on European travel, click the follow button on the right. Also, follow my Instagram @countryboy_citygirl

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I thought I might use this post to share my travel experience with you, so you know I didn’t fall off a cabbage truck yesterday. I have a lot of experiences and tips to share. Really, what good is all this knowledge if it’s not shared?

Traveling for me began early as it was a vital part of my schooling and job. In both undergrad and graduate school I interned for the USDA and traveled to conferences all over the US and Territories for recruitment and research presentations. Once I started working (in the middle of nowhere) full time after grad school, I traveled monthly for training, meetings, or shopping. I’ve been to almost every state in the Union and to several of our Territories. I have visited both Canada and Mexico for extended periods of time. I’ve also traveled extensively in the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe. I’m a complete Italophile, so since about 2006 I try to get to Italy every other year.

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Traveling monthly for work (for the past 17 years, especially the years I traveled for two weeks of every month) I got really good at carry-on packing and perfected my travel routine. I recommend that anyone looking to travel develop their routine. Mine, for example, consisted of my using preferred airline/ hotel/ car rental agencies rewards programs for ease and perks. Using TSA pre-check was an integral part of my routine because it got me through security super fast. Have your travel outfit planned for both comfort and style in case there is a delay.

Travel Routine

  • Travel Apps: I use the TripCase app to save all reservations and itineraries. You just forward the reservation emails to them and they do all the work. Use your airline app as they notify you immediately if there is a change. Same with car rental and hotel. I also use the Uber app.
  • Earn $$: Pay for your travel and related items with a credit card offering cashback or miles. I’ve used (Capital One) Quicksilver and Venture, and I prefer Quicksilver.
  • First class treatment: Enroll in TSA pre-check to get ahead of the line. If you travel often in the US it’s worth it. Make sure to enroll with your airline as well or you might get snubbed.
  • Choose wisely: Choose a hotel chain and car rental agency with locations EVERYWHERE (I use Hertz and prefer Marriott over Hilton but have rewards cards with both). Another thing to remember when choosing is how important a free breakfast will be. It can really help your budget to choose a hotel like Hilton’s Hampton Inn. They have eggs and bacon 🙂
  • Skip the lines: Booking ahead and using your hotel and car chain apps make it a breeze to check in remotely. With Hertz, I have my car with keys in it waiting for me when I arrive, as they text me the stall number. I just get in and go. With Marriott I check in from my phone and use a Mobile Key to go straight to my room, skipping the check in line entirely. I use UBER as much as possible (some airports don’t allow it) so I don’t have to wait for a taxi in the line at their airport.
  • Dress for success: Proper outfit + crossbody bag + tote bag + carry-on luggage = success. I usually wear flats & sock liners, leggings, and a tunic. I take a huge scarf that doubles as a jacket and blanket. I wear a crossbody bag that fits in my tote so I only have two items when I walk past the ticket counter. I carry-on to avoid delays waiting for my bag. In my tote I carry rosewater spray, sleep mask, empty water bottle, tablet, charger, and snacks (yes you can bring food through security). No matter what happens, I’m ready.

See you in Italy. xo

I’ll be using #CBCGblog and #CityGirlTravels to tag my posts on traveling well in the future. Search for them on Google, Instagram, or Facebook.

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Spying Out Venice, Italy

We will be in Italy this fall attending an English congregation about an hour from Venice. Here is some info about La Serenissima.

 

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Venice (Venezia) is in Northeast Italy

 

 

This post is from Gracia’s Travels blog. See link at bottom of post.

 

We had an overnight in Venice before we boarded our ship.  We had no agenda for this visit…just wander the streets and alleys.  Since we had been to Venice before, we tried to visit some of the more far off corners of the island.  Every turn brought a photo opp.  The weather was overcast and threatened to sprinkle but, having no heavy shadows, was good for pictures.

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DSC02378 C Basilica San Marco  DSC02380 C Campanile

DSC02382 C  DSC02385 C San Georgio Maggiore

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DSC02563 C    I have another 130 pictures of Venice.

But I don’t want to wear you out.  Next, we board the ship and set sail for Dubrovnik.

 

Read more from Gracia’s Travels at https://graciamc.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/venice-hard-to-take-a-bad-picture-here/

 

 

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Venice is in the Veneto Region

 

Spying Out Ferrara, Italy

We will be doing need greater work in this area in the fall. Just wanted to document some sights to see and things to do while we are there.

 

 

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Location of Ferrara in Italy

The following was written by the blogger at Gracia’s Travels. See link at bottom of page.

 

Ferrara was another day trip from Bologna.  It’s a larger city and the Old Town sites here are more spread out than in Ravenna.  And as the old saying goes … timing is everything.  Several sites were closed when their signs said they were open, and some sites had limited hours.  So, we walked quite a bit farther and had to do some backtracking.

Castello Estense, built in 1385, is in the center of town.

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Much of the castle is now used as government offices but the royal suites are open to visitors.  The rooms are empty but the ceilings make up for that.

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The orangery overlooked the moat and a market that was set up in front of a castle entrance.

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A pleasant walk from the castle brought us to Palazzo Schifanoia, built in 1385.  Frescos from 1470 depict the months, seasons and signs of the zodiac.

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Our guide book noted that these frescos are unusually unreligious in tone and the only ones of their type in Italy.  One room had this ornate ceiling.

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We walked down Via Volte through what was once the Jewish ghetto (1627 –1859).

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As in other Ghettos, because so many people were packed into a small area, residents added more space by adding rooms that span the narrow lanes.

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DSC02232 C Piazza Cattedrale

We made our way back to the center of town to the Piazza Cathedral…

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and went into the 12th century Duomo.

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The Cathedral faces Palazzo Municipal which is linked to the castle. It was the home of the Este family until they built the castle and moved next door.

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The 15th century Palazzo dei Diamanti was starred in our guide book so we walked north a 1/2 mile to find it closed, although the sign said it should be open.   It houses an art museum which would have been interesting but at least we could see how the building got its name … the façade is covered with spiky diamond shaped stones.

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The photos are deceptive.  It’s a very large building.  Notice Will in the doorway.

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There was a pretty park across the street.

On our walk back to the train station we passed through a part of the old city walls.

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DSC02279 C    There is a lot to see in Ferrara.

We would have run out of time if all the sites had been open.

Next stop, Venice.

 

See this post on their blog at https://graciamc.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/a-day-in-ferrara-italy/

 

 

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Ferrara is in the Emilia Romagna Region