Italy - Pasta, Pizza, and Ancient Monuments
by Günther Eichhorn
In May 2016 I visited Western Europe on a trip through Italy, with visits to San Marino (the only country in Western Europe that I had not visited before) and the Vatican. I had been to all the places before, but that was in the 1960s, more than half a century ago. I was looking forward to seeing these places again.
I booked all hotels in advance through Expedia and rented a car in advance. All this worked out very well.
In May 2018 I visited Italy again, this time I drove around Sicily.
After a visit to Germany, I flew into Rome and picked up my rental car. I drove to Pompeii right away for two nights. On the first day there I visited the ruins of Pompeii, on the second day I visited Herculaneum.
The next day I drove south along the Amalfi Coast to Paestum and visited the Greek temples there. In the afternoon I continued south to stay in a small hotel in Laureana Cilento, a small, scenic village on top of a mountain.
The next day I drove north to San Marino for two nights. The weather during the drive was cold and rainy, so was the morning of my day in San Marino. Fortunately, the weather cleared up around noon and I had a nice afternoon visit of the castle of San Marino.
After my visit to San Marino, I drove further north to Venice for three nights. I spent two full days walking all around Venice.
After my visit to Venice I drove to the west coast of Italy to Pisa for one night, visiting the Leaning Tower and the old downtown of Pisa.
From Pisa I drove back to Rome and stayed there for the last three nights. In Rome I again walked three days all through the city.
In May 2018 I visited Sicily. I flew into Catania. I had booked a B&B near Catania for 4 nights. Sicily is small enough to visit all interesting parts of the island on day trips.
After arrival, I drove into Catania for a city tour. There are several interesting places to see in Catania, including the Graeco-Roman Theatre and the Piazza del Duomo with the Elephant Fountain.
The first day trip was to visit Mount Etna. There is a funicular that goes up the mountain. The top was quite cold, with snow and ice on the ground. Mount Etna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The next day trip was to the Villa Romana del Casale in the center of Sicily. This is a Roman villa with the most amazing floor mosaics that I have ever seen. This is a must-see if you ever visit Sicily. Villa Romana del Casale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The next trip was to the south of Sicily. I visited Noto and Ispica. Noto has a beautiful street, the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, with many beautiful baroque buildings. Noto is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto. In Ispica I visited the cemetery, which has some grandiouse tombs.
The next trip was to the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) in the southwest of Sicily near Agrigento. This is an amazing collection of 5th to 6th century BCE Greek temples. The Archaeological Area of Agrigento is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the last day I visited Cefalù on the north shore if Sicily. The Cathedral is impressive to see. The Cathedral Church of Cefalù is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Some things have changed, some stayed the same as I remember them from half a century ago. Food is still very good, but it is somewhat expensive by now. Especially beer is very expensive. The sights are as exciting as they were half a century ago. But more sites require entry fees, including many churches.
Traffic used to be insane, with cars driving on sidewalks, and motor scooters disregarding all traffic laws. Theft was rampant, everybody cheated on bills (restaurants, hotels, gas stations).
This has changed. Traffic is heavy everywhere, but much more disciplined than it used to be. Traffic in Rome is very heavy, and there is still some aggressive driving in the city. Passing is aggressive everywhere. It sometimes is scary how cars are passing, disregarding any no-passing signs. Motor scooters are still a bit of a nuisance due to their dangerously weaving through traffic.
You can now rely on restaurant bills to be honest (if somewhat high). I was warned about pickpockets in Rome, Pisa, and Venice, but I don't know how bad this really is.
There is lots to see in Italy, it is certainly worth a visit.
I have put the pictures in individual pages for the various cities that I visited.