I recently had my second trip to the great country, landing in Rome on a Saturday with my traveling partner, Shika Brown.
Those all night flights can take it out of you but we hit the ground running with a three hour tour - a three hour tour - of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Aside from the Mona Lisa, I would say the next most important works of art are in Italy. While the Sistine Chapel isn't one work of art, the cumulative affect of the overhead and side panels is overwhelming. I noticed this trip that the crowd inside did not seem as reverent. I would have liked to be in the room alone, laying on the floor and just staring up at the ceiling.
Our tour guide was a history professor, Francesca by name, so I did learn some new and interesting facts about the paintings in the chapel. But she did go on. Hmmmmmm.
Naturally, we made the obligatory touristy stops at the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. Yes, I threw a coin, ensuring my return to the Eternal City.
The next stop was new to me: Sorrento. From this base, we traveled along the Amalfi Coast, at the recommendation of my favorite muse David Gandy. The road through Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Minori is hair-raising but the views were spectacular!
Our intention was to take the boat to and around Capri but, upon arrival at our hotel, the boat excursions had been cancelled due to bad weather. The waves around our side of the Sorrento coastline were tumultuous but on the other side, calm as could be. Alas, we did not get to see the lovely Faraglioni rock formations. You know the ones I'm talking about - where David Gandy seduces three different women in the D&G Light Blue commercials...
I got to see Pompeii for the first time. I could have spent three days there winding through the vacant and haunting streets of the destroyed Roman city. Next time, for sure.
The following day, we jumped in the car and headed to Florence. Have you ever driven in Italy? Well, driving and parking can be a nightmare in the central parts of the largest cities. And well, I must confess, I parked way to far from the fun sections of Florence so we walked way too far and spoiled some of our time there. From there we cut across Italy, to get our five minutes at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then on to Milan.
Shika was a trooper, getting us to our hotel with only the help of a map. No navigation system for us. This was my mistake. I've driven in Italy before and had every confidence I could do it again. GPS would have helped, I must admit, but we made it in fine.
The next morning, we woke early and headed to the church where the Last Supper is painted on the wall. I guess I didn't know that. It's not only a painting, it is also a mural. The painting is held in an air controlled environment and, for now, the restoration work is complete.
I got teary walking into the room. It is a spiritual experience regardless of your background. Only a small crowd is allowed inside, in fifteen minute intervals. Well worth it.
Shopping and eating in Milan are rare treats and we got to do plenty of both. The Via Dante was full of shops, not only Italian design houses but many large and famous international chains. The Via della Spiga is an impressive, closed-in walkway with some of the most exclusive shops in Milan. Alas, our greatest sorrow occurred here. We missed David Gandy by one day!!!
The wildest of our adventures was the Versace show during Milan Fashion Week. I got the tickets via the Blue Steel Appeal auction last spring. Naturally, we needed new shoes and fab dresses. The best part was Shika - she was a paparazzi magnet, striking a pose as if she'd been on the runway her whole life. The show was for the Spring-Summer 2014 collection and lasted all of eleven minutes and thirty seconds. A great, once in a lifetime opportunity!
And I can't say enough about the delicious food we had the whole trip. For nearly every meal, I got out the camera and snapped a shot. So much good food, so little time.
Oh, and I mustn't forget Theater La Scala. In the words of Stendhal, La Scala is "the world's number one theater, because it is the one that gives the maximum musical enjoyment." The interior is magnificent with it's reds and golds, the extensive box seats and massive chandelier. Since the theater opened in 1778 with the opera Europa riconosciuta, La Scala has been the premier opera house in the world.
Let's see... What else? Some writing talk. Gallons of peach tea. Several miles of walking. And all the greatness of Italy.