Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Trip..... to Italy!

Cody, Jake, Kevin, and I all piled into the hybrid sleepily and started our journey South into the land of wine, pizza, and "its-a me Mario!" a few weekends back. Using indispensable tips from fellow Army wives, we drove for about three hours and made a pit-stop in Garmisch for a stuffing German lunch, and then continued into and down the Alps, through Austria (where we stopped and got our vignette and some chocolates) and finally arrived in the city of Vicenza.

Vicenza is a beautiful city but it is also chaotic, as I believe most Italian cities must be.... The driving is challenging, to say the least, and our GPS was no help in getting us to the Vicenzan Army base. This would not be even close to the first time we would get lost in our Italian wanderings. We luckily obtained directions from a travel agency and eventually found our way to the entrance gate (it helps to follow the too-big American SUVs), and the patient guard was somehow hilariously able to guide us to the hotel only using the phrase, "follow the way." The hotel on Vicenza's small post is impressive- extremely comfortable, accommodating, large, and clean with several extras we utilized more than we thought we would (free movie rentals, anyone?). The first night we were told of two popular Italian restaurants within walking distance and didn't waste much time immersing ourselves in wine, pasta, wine, pizza, wine, and tiramisu (did I mention lots of wine??)- all delicious and fairly cheap! We didn't actually explore Vicenza much until our second evening when we had finished touring the other two cities, but we got to see a healthy portion of it while riding the bus to the train station each day. When we did take the time to have a look-see around town, I was highly impressed by the beautiful sights and pleasing sounds tucked into every nook and cranny. We found a quaint, yet stunning, park off a small square and the most delicious meal of our trip on the patio of an elegant (yet reasonably priced) restaurant in the middle of the main square. I wouldn't hesitate one second to stay at the same hotel and spend more time in Vicenza itself during future trips to Italy, although next time, Cody and I will have to spend one night on the island of Venice.

Venice was a short bus and train ride away, but when you walk out of the train station you will feel like you entered another, more beautiful, universe. The hustle and bustle is extreme and the setting is breath-taking. Venice's tourist filled streets manage to stay magical with never-ending canals, colorful architecture, cafe-lined sidewalks, and the ability to offer you any merchandise or food your heart could hope to find. The four of us wandered lazily through the streets until finding a gem of a bar for a glass of Prosecco and some fresh appetizers that were out of this world. We slipped into a not-so-hidden bar for some sangria next and tripped and laughed our way through our next hour of exploring. We caught the view from the highest point in the city, and headed back towards the train station while looking for dinner. Unfortunately, we found ourselves hangry (hungry enough to cause anger) and lost in the residential neighborhoods of Venice, with not a tourist or restaurant in sight. With our stomachs empty and our feet hurting, we stopped at the first sign of food, entering into a questionable establishment and encountered the one pitfall of our entire trip- an unsatisfying and inedible meal that cost an arm and a leg (the cost is expected in the city, but the bad food was a complete disappointment that was hard to let go). We didn't overturn every stone in Venice, but we left feeling like we saw enough for the trip. Cody and I would love to go back for a romantic weekend where we can take a famous gondola ride and see the city at night.

Our second day was spent in Verona, which is just as easy to get to as Venice from Vicenza. Unfortunately, the town does not reveal itself on a shimmering golden platter as soon as you leave the train station, and we spent a hot, and aggravating, hour walking around in the wrong direction when we first arrived. Luckily, when we got ourselves turned around and on the right track, we were greeted by huge crowds, bands, and parades all in town for a bike race. We got to check out the Arena, and have a lovely lunch right in the middle of the action so we could people-watch to our hearts' delight. After lunch we found our way (easily with directions from our sweet server) to the castle in town and wandered through and around more beautiful Italian scenery. We had our fill of gelato, crowds, and the city so after another quick loop we headed back to the train station and made our way to Vicenza (where we spent the evening as I described above). It was a truly enjoyable weekend with amazing company and there is nothing I would change about it (except maybe that one horrific meal....)! Italy has held a special place in my heart since I first visited in high school, and I was so happy that it held up so wonderfully to my rose-colored memories of it.

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