Our Italian adventure is a work in progress. At this time we
have been there twice and will return again and again if we can.
Italy is one of those places that has much more to see and
experience than can be done in single holiday or even several
The Renaissance which is generally credited to moving Western civilization out of the Dark Ages following the fall of the Romans in 5AD began around 1420 in Florence, Italy. The country at the time was organized as cities where the rich and powerful governed more or less through elected councils that were at least nominally supported by the will of the citizens. They were in effect a kind of commune. The communes evolved into the formal City State, the most famous being Rome, Naples, Florence, Genoa, Turin and Venice. Today Italy still retains some of the diversity of the City States. Not until 1861 was the country brought under a unified government. Since then it has emerged as a modern, democratic state albeit during Mussolini's fascist dictatorship prior to and during WWII. There is an essential North-South dichotomy in much of the Italian culture, politics and economics. The South is poorer and politically ultra-liberal. The North where the economic center of gravity lies is richer and relatively conservative. We only barely scratch the surface of this country with our visits. There is so much art and history here that merely walking around in towns like Florence qualify as a legitimate art tour even without going inside. The buildings themselves are enough to impress the average tourist not to mention the incredibly valuable art on display inside.
We made Italy the subject of our first European tour after our arrival in Spain in December 2000. Driving from our home in the Basque region of Spain we headed east to Barcelona then along the Mediterranean coast of Southern France and into Italy near Genoa. Being December the weather along the route was often wet and cold but the presence of palms and other semi-tropical plants was evidence of a mild climate. Our rental car having a top speed of 180KPH (108MPH) was barely adequate for the high speed roads linking most of the Western European countries. It was not uncommon to be passed at 180 like you were parked at the curb by some of the powerful German cars and a few exotics like Ferraris and Lamborghinis. At one rest stop we were able to get a close look at a late model Ferrari. What a lovely piece of work, giving the feeling of looking at a sleek and powerful animal, and reflective of the spirit of artistic creation that still is found in Italy.
In general we found Italy to be first rate modern country with all the amenities. Like any place there were some disappointments and problems, but overall they have it together. Of course one will sometimes be confused and frustrated by such things as road signs providing directions immediately at the intersection where you should have turned (Spanish style) and ATM card eating road toll machines. But at least you know you have missed the turn and the card will be eventually extracted and returned if you are willing to wait.
Rather than provide a city by city description we provide the following links which are full of interesting and useful information about the places we visited.
We strongly encourage anyone going to Europe for the first time to begin with Italy. Doing that you will have experienced the best of the best in art, architecture, and cuisine. Other countries offer individual attractions which sometimes match those in Italy, but none offer such a rich density of memorable experiences. If you can make only one trip to Europe make it Italy.
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