I have traveled to many destinations in the world during my lifetime, but I just never got around to Europe until 2006. That was the year of the Total Solar Eclipse in the Libyan Sahara that was hosted by the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. As part of that tour, I observed my first total solar eclipse from deep in the Sahara Desert and spent a week in Libya.
The group spent the following week in Italy, where we saw both astronomical and the regular sights in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan. I really found the European portion of the itinerary fascinating. So JoeTourist® finally made it to Europe!
After Italy, the group returned to Toronto, however I added an extra week to the trip by traveling onward to Athens, Greece. This gave me time to kick back and relax…and see some of the sights on the Greek mainland.
Although I would suggest you start with Rome, if you are only interested in certain parts of Italy, by all means click on the specific links below.
- Vatican Observatory
- Vatican City
The map shows where we traveled in Italy – essentially Rome and north. All of our travel was by highway coach, except Florence to Pisa which was by regional train.
Thoughts on Italy
I liked Italy very much. The people are friendly and helpful, and most speak some English. I didn’t try to speak Italian – I just don’t have any talent for learning languages, and find a smile and some pointing or gesturing gets the job done.
As a group, we had the distinct impression that we were being taken advantage of by the tour operators (Dan Tours on the Canadian side, and Gullivers on the Italian side). We had no paperwork from the tour operator until we were literally at Toronto airport ready to depart, had itineraries changed on us in Italy at the last minute, and were told we couldn’t see certain sites which were printed on our itinerary. Lots of reasons were given, and none of them made much sense to us. Nothing we could prove, but many of the group were experienced travellers, and we all agreed something was up while we were in Rome. We didn’t find this in any of the other Italian cities we visited, and overall we had a terrific time in Italy.
So, what did I like best about Italy? Although Venice is certainly a standout for impressive sights, I would have to say my plan for a return trip to Italy would be to go to Florence and explore the Tuscany region between Pisa and Venice. The food and wine in Tuscany is simply amazing, the people are exceptionally friendly, and there are so many sights left to see.
Other than the language, North Americans should experience very little culture shock when visiting Italy. The country is very modern, and has efficient and plentiful transportation and accommodation services.