People & Stories

Barbara's Best of Italy – Part One

Well, here it is—my diary of our Best of Italy trip with Trafalgar. It was long, hot and fabulous! We met amazing people and made lifelong friendships with several, including our beautiful Travel Director, Federica—I would follow her anywhere!!

Our Rome sightseeing begins at the Vatican, where we meet Amelia, our Local Guide. She breezily takes us in to the Vatican Museum bypassing the long lines and doles out our audio headsets so we can hear her commentary from wherever we are. Something we’ll repeat many times over the next two weeks with a variety of Local Guides. Everyone is anxious to get to the Sistine Chapel—it is dark, quiet and utterly mesmerizing as Amelia directs us to seats along the wall and begins her talk. It is fabulous.

It’s off to the Colosseum where we are again whisked past the long lines. It is awe inspiring and we wander about for some time before meeting at the Arch of Constantine for a group photo.

Group at the Colosseum
Group at the Colosseum

We begin to travel today as we head to southern Italy. First up is Pompeii and a Local Guide named Enrique. Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79 that froze bodies in lava rock. Seeing the plaster casts of the cavities left behind by the citizens in the exact positions of their death is very moving.

Then we drive along the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, arriving in Sorrento. The hotel is lovely and rustic with big rooms and a small infinity pool facing the sea. The sea is azure blue and everywhere there are olive groves and lemons the size of grapefruits. Even the air smells lemony. Heaven.

Before I can contemplate the headiness of this all we are off to Positano—beautiful shops and alleys, lemons everywhere—it’s all too much so we must have limoncello martinis down on the beach and dip our feet into the warm sea. I die for the tenth time. Why don’t we live here?

Next day, we’re off on a ferry to the Isle of Capri. Enrique is our guide again and he whisks us off the ferry and up the funicular to the town of Capri for a history and garden tour. Despite his poise and dry wit his favorite expression is “okie dokie artichokie”, strange but funny.

That night we go to see a Local Specialty of Sorrento—inlaid wood-working—before heading to a hillside farm for our Be My Guest dinner. We climb up steep narrow streets in little electric minis to a dirt road that turns onto a family’s lemon grove where we are greeted with wine and an unbelievably beautiful terrace garden set for dinner overlooking the sea.

One of our group, Jack, tucks into dinner and tells me he is “eating culture” in this lemon grove. I agree! The mother and sons prepared all of the food—eggplant rollotini, pasta, fish—and made the wine and limoncello too. They even demonstrate how to make limoncello. These Italians are handy folks. Federica insists that it is now time for us to learn a special dance that we must do every day called the Chewy Changa. I haven’t seen a funnier sight than Federica laughing and dancing among the lemons while getting all of us to do this ridiculous dance. It is enchanting. What a day!

Next morning, it’s on to Assisi to visit the Basilica of St. Francis with a Local Guide and see where he is buried. Assisi is walled and medieval, very quiet, shops filled with religious mementos. Tim and I head for the bar!

Visit Italy

Barbara, USA

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