Go Ahead traveler Judy N. journeyed to Italy in 2012 with her husband and six friends and family members. Here, she tells her story of exploring local landmarks and finding her husband’s family roots.
In June 2012, I flew to Italy with Go Ahead Tours for the most amazing experience. The major cities we saw were Venice, Florence and Rome but the trip would not have been complete without the visits to other locations as well.
Italy is breathtaking. It’s about marble and gold, art, museums and fountains, cathedrals, wine and fashion—not to forget the great Italian food. Unlike in the U.S., where chicken is featured on most every menu, in Italy it is wild boar!
Our first three days were spent in Venice with both guided tours and free time. St. Mark’s square is the hub of activity, from which a maze of streets leads to churches and various forms of art. Our gondola ride—complete with champagne and music—was the highlight of our day, especially when we saw the Rialto Bridge, the location of many famous movies.
From Venice, we traveled by tour bus across the Apennine Mountains to spend the next three days in Florence, known for its Renaissance art and as the location of the tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo. We took a memorable excursion to the cities of Siena and San Gimignano in the Tuscan countryside. Our day ended with a wine tasting at an Italian vineyard!
Our next day in the Florence area took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, adjacent cathedral and Baptistery of St. John. It was amazing—I thought it would be a tiny little tower, but as you can see, it is a magnificent structure.
Leaving the beautiful countryside, we arrived in Rome to find a city with a population of four million that swells to ten million during peak travel time. It is a city of high fashion, fast cars, speeding mopeds and bicycles. Nevertheless, maneuvering the city is easy. The Italians love visitors and are proud of their history. We spent hours touring the Colosseum, the breathtaking Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and the necropolis, where deceased popes and saints are entombed.
Every visitor to Rome should see the Trevi Fountain, which can be found in several romantic movies. And my husband Ralph, born in Pittsburgh, just had to find the Steelers Bar nearby, where we met several airline pilots who use it as their meeting place.
Our final day on tour was also Father’s Day and a special day for Ralph. We hired an Italian driver to take 6 of us 115 miles east of Rome to the mountain village of Bugnara, where Ralph’s parents are from. We were able to see a plaque honoring local veterans, including Ralph’s father, who went missing in action and was never found—the plaque was the only evidence of his fate in 50+ years. It was a great Father’s Day present. Another special happening was meeting cousins who still live in the village; we have kept in touch and hope to visit again soon!
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