Throughout the trip, I kept a series of notes to document various thoughts and highlights as I felt them so I wouldn’t forget them later. Some were full paragraphs typed up in the middle of squares, others simply a word or two to remind me of something to dig into later.
Many of them ended up as anecdotes in this series of posts, but others didn’t really have anywhere to go, or had to be removed during the editing process so I wasn’t posting rambling ten page entries on each city.
I decided that instead of just leaving them as thoughts uncommunicated, I’d post them here, alongside some stats and favorites as a sort of endnote addendum of the trip. Enjoy.
No matter where we went in Italy, people were walking their dogs. Everywhere, all times of day or night, dogs out walking with people. But the people get super weirded out if you try to pet the dogs. Even if the dog clearly wants you to pet it, and is bopping its head against your leg. If you pet its little puppy head, the people will give you a look like you just peed on the dog to mark it as your own. This is not a petting dogs culture, apparently. I don’t like it.
Tonight I have eaten art.
I can’t say for sure that their playing David Bowie’s greatest hits was the element that made this the best meal we’d had in Italy, but I can say it definitively didn’t take away from the experience.
I’m pretty sure Italy is sponsored by illy. I’m not sure any other coffee company exists aside from the occasional AirBnB Nespresso.
Florence is Beautiful - Genoa is functional
In Florence there are pasticerrias and focaccerias every fifty feet - I wonder if it’s their version of Sharks and Jets.
Florence is Italian Disneyland
Genoa feels, in some ways, like it was just rediscovered a month ago, and everyone moved in to start living a normal life in ancient ruins.
“The train will arrive in,” the train recording spoke in perfect British English, before firing off a string of almost identically-sounding, vowel heavy location names in double-speed Italian, and then wishing us - again in perfect British English - a pleasant day. I genuinely have no idea where we’re going, but I expect I’ll know when we get there.
You get receipts for literally everything. All the time. No matter how small. Without asking. Had I kept all the receipts, my checked bag would have been six pounds overweight.
The Italian high speed train system is incredible. There are tiers of high speed trains: Frecciarossa (red) > frecciabianca (white.) Frecciarossa was the same price as the others, but we got a proper meal and proper drinks, complete with a post-meal coffee.
Rome really likes beer. None of the other cities had heard of the beverage (except that one place in Genoa where even they admitted that they were outliers.)
I’ve always been a big fan of the kismet that comes from traveling with a specific goal of staying as off the beaten trails as possible, and experiencing a city by letting it unfold itself around you. Basically, I like to discover a city by promptly getting as lost as possible and then seeing what I see, smell, hear and find.
The Rome airport has the best designed bathrooms I’ve ever seen.
There is - and this is 100% true - a Hot Priests Of Rome calendar. We almost bought it. We should have bought it. We should have bought a hundred of them. This is my biggest regret from this trip.
When we went wine tasting out in Tuscan wine country, we met the most charming man in the world. His name is Marco. He’s in his late fifties or early sixties, and his family has been making wine for generations. When you ask Marco a question about his winery, he says “aletta me tell you” in his Italian accent, puts his arm around your shoulder to answer, and it is the most warm, generous, joyfully welcoming motion. And then someone else asks a question, and says “aletta me tell you” and he goes and puts his arm around their shoulder to answer, and the light goes out on the world until you think of another question to ask him. Marco is a joy, and had both the best wine we drank in all of Italy, and the most beautiful vineyard I’ve ever seen (his family bought it from Machiavelli - “Yes, *that* Machiavelli” he is happy to report. We bought a case of his wine. We will buy more. I’m happy to give you his email and some bottle recommendations.
If you bring your own bottle of wine to a restaurant in Rome and ask to drink it, the waiter will ask you, in a rather insulted manner, if their wine isn’t good enough for you. If you try to explain that - apologies - you didn’t realize it was an issue, and were just trying to drink it before your flight tomorrow, and don’t have anywhere to store it during the flight, and you’re happy to pay for a bottle of wine to drink that they don’t need to bring out - the waiter himself, perhaps, could take it home - he will consult the manager for an uncomfortable amount of time, make it known that while the manager will allow it, he - the waiter - finds it horrifying. It’s best at this point that you pick another restaurant and hide the wine away for another time.
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Number of miles walked: 101.2
Total steps: 255,502
Days we skipped gelato (out of 15): 2
Best gelato: Gelateria del Teatro in Rome
Best meal Bella Bu in Genoa
Best pasta: Osteria Pastella’s signature truffle pasta in Florence
Best sandwich: All’ Antico Vinaio in Florence
Best dessert: Bella Bu’s sinfully decadent pavlova in Genoa
Best/Biggest steak: Buca Lapi (3.1 pounds) in Florence
Best house wine: Bella Bu in Genoa
Best wine overall: Marchesi Bartolini Baldelli Fattoria di Bagnolo