Greetings from the gorgeous and decaying city of Venice. The WXXI Travel Club is on the last leg of its tour of northern Italy. We floated in a few days ago and visited several major sites, including the Doge’s Palace, the epicenter of European power and money for four centuries.
After the serenity of the Italian Lake District and the leafy loveliness of Lucca, Florence was a bit of a shock to me. First of all, we walked in on a feast day with parades, games, and fireworks celebrating the patron saint of Florence, Saint Giovanni Battista. Second, it was garbage day. Refuse under the hot Tuscan sun smells like refuse everywhere.
Thank you for following this journal. The WXXI Travel Club has arrived in Tuscany, and my thoughts are spinning in a thousand directions. We’ve been on a medieval whirlwind: a few hours in Sienna, a day in Florence, a rush into the Tuscan hill town San Gimignano. My feelings trace an involuntary path that might make for more interesting reading for you than a laundry list of s
I hope you get the chance to hike the Cinque Terre someday. The Cinque Terre (“CHINK-kweh TAY-reh”) or “The Five Lands” refer to five (cinque) remote villages tucked into a remote section of the Italian Riviera on the Mediterranean coast. Until the last century, these towns were pretty much inaccessible, even to each others’ residents. Until 1545 they were regularly invaded by pirates.
As I’m writing this we are streaming through the green rice fields and farmlands of northwestern Italy, the country’s breadbasket. This would all look familiar to you, except for the centuries-old stone farmhouses, white egrets, and brown buzzards perched along the highway like red-tailed hawks. We’re crossing the Po River, headed south to the Italian Riviera.
An open letter to Rick Steves:
For me, the second day in the resort town of Stresa, Italy unfolded in flashes of detail; a tiny green fern growing out of a crack in the wall, a clear glass of grappa, two girls in bikinis playing with dogs on the beach. A train carried us through the mountains, across the border north into Locarno, Switzerland for lunch.
The WXXI Travel Club landed in Milan Sunday morning, jazzed and tired after an overnight flight from New York. A bus carried us through hills, vineyards, and quarries to the resort town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore, a few miles from the Swiss border. Here was everything already loved and familiar; emerald woods, sapphire waters, hills, fragrant gardens. I’ve heard the Finger Lak