I have written items related to this before, but I truly feel it is important that not every vacation be a mirror image of one that you took previously. Even if you go to the same city or country, why would you not get out to explore it in a different way rather than the same old, same old? Now I am not saying that going to one destination multiple times is a bad idea, just that branching out truly has its own allure…
Take for instance my various jaunts to Italy. I have one boss that just says “Italy, again?” anytime I put in a vacation request. A couple of things here to note: (a) I have not just gone to Italy for vacations during my decade plus with the firm, (b) I happen to really like Italy, (c) I have managed to enjoy very different types of trips each time; and (d) since he is not paying for my vacation, it is well within my rights to ignore his eye roll…
Italy has been a travel destination of mine a total of five times, though none has been in the same vein:
- Trip 1: My first trip to Italy was in 1998 with college friends. To say that we were on a tight budget for a three week trip is a grand understatement. But what we lost in grandeur, we more than made up for in practicality and local flavor. We learned to pick up sandwiches and snacks (no coperto, or cover charge, for being served at seats in a restaurant), and found that it was actually a lot of fun to dine out with the crowd near a fountain in the piazza or on the stairs of a museum. An important key we agreed upon was that for every activity we spent money on, we had to schedule one with no cost at all. For instance, we took a tour of the Vatican Museums, then spent some quality time just walking around the Spanish steps.
- Trip 2: The second trip I took to Italy was in 2006. This time there was a boyfriend in tow. We rented a villa in a small town in Umbria, and used Spoleto as our base to go wherever our interests took us. As the trip neared, we learned that the Eurochocolate Festival (Italy’s largest!) would be held in Perugia, so we decided to add it to our itinerary (Perugia is a short train trip from Spoleto). Though we were surprised that a chocolate festival in Europe does not include “free samples” like it does here in the U.S., we found the dancing, chocolate, and general merriment surrounding this big event to be perfect for providing some great photos and a very memorable day trip! The downside to this trip: lost luggage that was never found. The upside: we got engaged at the Trevi Fountain!
- Trip 3: Our honeymoon, in 2007, was the next Italian vacation. Though we rented another villa, we planned for the Amalfi Coast this time around. Mild weather and the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean were a perfect combination! Our villa was on a hillside in Positano, and there was an amazing view from the patio of both the Mediterranean Sea and the narrow roads winding around the mountains near Positano. Despite the host supplying us with lemoncello as a gift for our honeymoon, we learned that we are not fans of this local and overpowering drink. Past that, we found quickly that it worked well to make the steep hike down and back up the steps to the beach in Positano just once each day, and also to use the ferries and hydrofoils (anything but the Circumvesuviana, a local train we took en route to Positano that makes frequenty stops around Mount Vesuvius) whenever possible! A side trip to the Isle of Capri and the Blue Grotto was amazing; working together to save furniture and our belongings from water leaking down the walls during a rainstorm was less than stellar…
- Trip 4: Since we met, I had been angling my now-husband to get his passport so we could travel the world, not to mention go back and visit some “favorites”. (Turns out it took him all of four months to make that happen!) The Year 2008 found us back in Italy, but retracing many similar steps that I took in 1998. The itinerary included Florence, Spoleto, and Rome. We stayed at a few of the family-owned hotels I stayed in 10 years prior and enjoyed plenty of gelato. For our itinerary, however, we branched out from the big museums and included walks through some formal gardens, visits to local art galleries, and a winery tour near Spoleto. We learned on this trip not to try and pack so much in – there will always be something (like the winery tour!) that comes along to fill the time.
- Trip 5: Last year, in 2012, we decided we needed to put Italy back on the calendar. We missed the food, we missed the language. This time northern Italy took center stage. The trip was split evenly between Venice and Lake Como. Our expectation is that Venice would be the old world, beautiful city in ruins where we would be busy all of the time. It was a nice surprise that the proprietors of our hotel shared suggestions for restaurants, churches, and watering holes where the locals went but the tourists did not. Though we loved our visits to Harry’s Bar, we fell in love with Al Timon – a local wine bar with cicchetti a plenty! There many architectural marvels in Venice, but being stuck on the vaporettos with constant crowds in mid-August was not a lot of fun. Lake Como is actually a group of cities dotting an area around the Lake, and Varenna was where we stayed for the second half of the trip. Though the lake was stunning and we had a terrific view, our hotel was located in front of ferry stop. The ferry stop allowed for great access to tour the lake, but brought with it plenty of activity morning, noon, and night. On the final day of our stay in Varenna, we went for one last ferry ride and stopped at Lenno. We found the quiet of Lenno was actually what we had long expected from the entire lake district.
All in all, you will never fail to learn something about yourself – and likely others – while on any vacation adventure. If you want to spend your vacation camping in the same lot at the same park on the same weekend each year, that’s cool. Should you have a time-share in Aruba that you go to with annual frequency, more power to you! For my money, though, I am going to venture to do something just a little different each year (especially any time I return to a city). I will never know what other fun might be just around the bend until I travel off the path I took last time around..