Category Archives: Uncategorized

6 Preparations to Successfully Navigate the Intercity

The first time I tried to get from point A to point B in Rome I failed miserably.  The city was so busy and not clear marked – or so I thought – to properly direct me anywhere.  Yesterday I caught up with a friend who just spent the past year traveling the world.  Her trip was very missional in focus and she spent a lot of time helping orphanages, fighting against human trafficking, and working a variety of building projects.  During out conversation, I brought up how much I like Rome, She immediately said “I hated Rome.” I was surprised, especially after seeing a huge chunk of the world.  She said “It was too busy and it took me forever to find things I wanted to see.”

It made me realize that she was right.  I have spent so much time in Rome that I forgot how difficult it is to navigate the intercity.  As I thought about it most of the cities I visited for the first time were a headache to try and “figure out” for the first time.

Here are just a few European cities I had trouble navigating the first time through:

  • Rome
  • Naples
  • Venice
  • Munich
  • London
  • Frankfurt
  • Salzburg
  • Vienna

Most of these cities are fairly straight forward and I realize everyone’s’ struggles are different.  For me traveling came with a learning curve.

Here are 6 intercity preparations I make before traveling to a new city – or an old one.

  1. By reviewing a metro/bus map online before you arrive. Sounds straight forward but know where you need to be and how you are getting there are invaluable.  Just waving down a cab and saying “to this address.” Isn’t going to cut it.
  2. By downloading free Smartphone apps:  Most metropolitan cities have bus, metro, or tram apps available for your Smartphone. I have found a lot of them to be free. They can mean a 20 minutes difference.
  3. By asking locals opinion before you venture out.  Most locals are very proud of their city. And, if the city is visited often by tourists, they will be used to people asking questions.  They can be a great resource to double check information.
  4. By knowing what options you have available.  Not all cities offer all the same amenities; not all people prefer to travel on a train.  By knowing what public transportation is available to you before you arrive will help take the stress off of getting to your destination.
  5. By budgeting accordingly.  Most people do not even think about budgeting for metro or bus tickets; especially, when one only costs €1,50.  Most cities have website that will give you an idea of what tickets will cost and if there are any package deals available.
  6. By allotting the proper amount of time.  This one always gets people.  There are many who underestimate the amount of time it takes to get to any given destination – especially during peak tourist season. You generally know one of two of these people.  I recommend at lease an extra 15 to 20 minutes, depending on where you are headed, per location or sight.  It is always good to see 100% of all the items for that day – verses 80%.

The preparation time you have before a trip will make or break you.  These tips save time and allow for smooth navigation while traveling.

Question of the day:

In your opinion, what is the worst city to try and navigate?

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The Top Things Not to Wear While Traveling

The notion that there are so many poorly dressed people who travel internationally, is sad, but true.  There is a reason why stereotypes exist.  The term “ugly American” didn’t just come out of thin air.  The following are things I hope to never see again by people, especially my country men, while traveling internationally. If I offend you; I’m sorry.  I think I speak for many who travel when I say the following.

  • Hawaiian print.  Keep the flowers at home!  Until Dolce & Gabbana comes out with its Hawaiian Collection; please, please, please do not bring your bright Hawaiian prints to Italy – or anywhere internationally, for that matter. The only exception is if, and only if, you are traveling to the islands, or somewhere tropical.
  • Political t-shirts.  I’m very patriotic and proud of my country and its leaders.  However, a few years ago, I saw a man in Roma who wore a T-shirt with Obama’s Face front and center, with big letters that read “yes we can.” Regardless what you, or others, think of Obama, you never know what message you are sending.  Remember we are visitors in someone else’s country. When you travel, make the best effort to be at peace with those you interact with.  A t-shirt like that could throw gas on an already well lit fire.
  • Tank Tops.  I know the Italian climate, especially in the summer, can be extremely hot.  Please refrain from wearing tank tops as you walk around in public.  Men and women both.
  • Florescent colors.  I know 80s fashion has come back, Lord knows why, and some Italians might have even jumped on board. For the most part is laud and annoying.  It will mark you as a tourist; can attract unwanted guests.
  • Backpacks, pockets, cameras.  Let’s be realistic you need a day pack to carry stuff around throughout the day.  Just make sure you are conscious of the things you take with you.  Pick pockets in Italy are professionals.  Pockets, if I see another person with a passport, plane/train ticket, or other important paper work in the from shirt pocket of anyone will still it myself.  Not really but those who think their front shirt pocket is the Ft. Knocks compartments, I want to spit, crew, and scream! It’s such an easy target; don’t fall victim. When not in use keep cameras in a safe place out of sight.

These are a few of the things that have caught my eye as I started to pack this week.  I’m sure there are more.  If you have any personal fashion red flags, feel free to post them in the comment section below.

* Photo above was taken from the Google image search: “redneck horseshoes”

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Firenze | Florence

When I was looking at places to visit for my last trip I automatically omitted Florence, or Firenze, from the list. The mental image that came to mind – as I reflected on the people I talk with about this city – was overweight, loud mouth Americans, who loved the fact no Italian was needed to enjoy the city. As I got over the hordes of tour groups – wearing Hawaiian shirts, lead by a small flag down the streets of Florence – in my mind, I decided, now is as good of time as any to go for a visit. Maybe I should clear this issue up.

Let’s get one thing clear; I am proud to be an American. I am blessed to live in a place like the United States; however, our people don’t represent our country well abroad. For are readers who have witnessed an ugly American, I sincerely apologize. There will be more to come on this topic – I am mulling over a blog post on cultural do and don’ts.

But after I spent a week around the city, my opinion of the city was quite the opposite. I found Firenze to be great and I cannot wait to return. In my opinion the best parts of the city are;

Size: Smaller than Roma, with a similar feel, you can absorb the city much easier.

Cleanliness: Not to say other cities are dirty, but it would appear Florentine people scrub the streets every night.

Gastronomy: The food is great. It’s true country Italian-famous for their stake. As for the wine, there is no better city for quality and price, than Firenze. The only down side is the bread. It’s terrible. Too dry, and turns to crumbs in your mouth.

Culture: The people in Firenze dress like the fashion elite. It is the capital of European country living. It’s as if a magazine comes to life.

I give Firenze 83 pts out of 100. It is a great city; I will be back.

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Italian Locks

Italians are known for many things.  Off the top of my head I can think of five:  food, fashion, cars, love & romance, and history – just to name a few.  Italians live life with a class and style all their own, but like every culture they have their idiosyncrasies.  The first time I saw the locks I had not clue – I thought is just looked ugly.   If you have not idea what I’m talking about, you in good company.   Most people don’t. Even I didn’t know for almost 5 years.  Until I was educated; here’s the story.

Where ever streets have picturesque views in Italy you see a chain, a guardrail full of locks.  The locks are next to and on top of each other.  It doesn’t matter, as long as they’re stationary.  Each lock has two initials and or a heart.  The tradition goes like this.  After a long  romantic walk couples usually  take a lock; Inscribe both their initials, securely fasten it to the chain.  Then throws away the key.  As if to say our love will last forever.  The Italians took carving initials into a tree a step further.  They mark their relationship in style.  It’s an incredible sight to behold when the locks blend into the Italian landscapes. As odd as this sounds it’s a more common and beautiful than one would think.  It’s one of those things that marks the Italian as a great people.  Next time you travel. Mind the locks.

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Bread

Of all the topics about Italian travel, I bet few of you figured I would write about bread.  I am hypersensitive to others speak about their travel experiences – especially travel in Italy.   If you have spent any time in a big city you know subconsciously overhearing conversation is easy to do – regardless if that’s your intent.  The comments people make about Italy always astound me.  Italy either fits you like a glove or turns you off faster than you can say ciao.  I have heard a handful of people say the bread in Italy is awful.  At first I didn’t think much of it, but on my last trip across the pond I started making observations.

The farther south I went; the better the bread tasted.  In Bologna the bread was dry and crumbly. In Firenze the bread was still dry and crumbly. By the time I got to Roma it got easier to find fresh soft bread, but often it was dry. When I arrived in Napoli I was almost amazed by the fact that it was exactly what I was looking for. The bread was soft and chewy.  After a few conversations with the locals I found my answer.  Most bread cooked in the south, especially in Napoli, uses salt in the recipe. Most bread north of Roma doesn’t typically use salt and as a result it doesn’t taste very good to American palettes. The bread at restaurants is not free and costs any where from €2,00 – €8,00.
So if a restaurant makes the bread on sight or orders it from the local bakery consider asking if salt is used before you make your final decision.

Firenze

As we start heading out of March and into April, it’s officially the start of “pre-vacation” season. Most people are planning vacations, or have already planned them, and are buying ticket, reserving hotels, tours, etc. Florence is often times on peoples travel bucket lists. Since my first time to this city, this past January, the visit compelled me to write about recommendations. So often, when traveling, we feel rushed as to not “miss anything” within these once in a life time cities. Time is often limited as we feel the need to get the best bang for our travel buck. Case in point, yesterday morning’s online edition of The Wall Street Journal covered sights to see when traveling to Firenze. It seems everyone wants to be dreaming of Italia.

Food
Firenze has great country food, but it can be expensive. If you want to eat well without spending too much, don’t eat ever meal out! It’s easy to simply, sit at a restaurant, when you are hot, tired, dehydrated, and hungry. Buy food in the local markets, or grocery stores, will tide you over until your big restaurant meal of the day.

Markets/Grocery Stores
Despar Supermercato
Piazza di San Lorenzo, 20-red,
Firenze 50123

Supermercato Sma
Via Alessandro Allori, 9,
Firenze, 50127

Mercato Centrale
Via dell’Ariento
50123 Firenze

Sites
Most people I speak with have 2 to 3 day in Firenze, I recommend you must see the following …
Il Duomo – Costs 7 EURO walk to the top of the copola. It is well worth it if you can physically handle the walk.
Ponte Vecchio – World famous bridge that crosses the Arno river. Absorb the culture of the city as you walk to and from the bridge.

Lodging
I stayed at the great bed & breakfast within walking distance of the train station and the Duomo called Soggiorno Magliani. An excellent place to stay, inexpensive, and has an extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Soggiorno Magliani
Via Santa Reparata, 1
Florence, Italy, 50129

Firenze seems to be the city that most English speaking people like to visit. So, If you are looking for an off the beaten path kind of tour, this is not it, however, it’s a great place to see some classic Italian country. I will return in due time.

Question
Do you have a favorite restaurant in Firenze?

Kick off 2011: Italy

I am making my preparations for my first trip to Italy this year!  — Can I get a what what!  As I have been diving into where I am going two things have hit me.  One there are so many place to go.  And two, there are so many places to drink good wine! Lets cut to the case.

City Review —

Florence:  For most americans Florence is the italian mecca. Most people when the picture Italian living in their minds they think of nothing less. Even though I have avoided florence in my travels I will be making my first stop there on this up coming trip.

Recommend — If you are a wine drinker, as I am,  you have to try a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino.  It’s a must for any wine lover.  It is my favorite wine right now, regardless of the high price tag.

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