I’ve traveled around the world on more than 150 cruises but none of those vacations fully prepared me for this 12-day, Mediterranean cruise. In Italy, we toured Rome for three days and while walking on the Apian Way and climbing to the top of the Roman Colosseum were dreamlike experiences right out of a European history book, the clearest memory must be the pizza. Seriously. Growing up in the New York area, I know good pizza but none compared to the pizza we enjoyed in a seemingly ordinary, nondescript restaurant in Rome.
This authentic, Roman pizza had a very thin, crispy crust covered with a very tasty tomato sauce and fresh-picked herbs and spices. The flavor was robust and I’m sure has never been replicated in America. You’ll just have to go to Rome for the experience.
And in Italy, you don’t have to wait outside a restaurant for a table. They bring the tables outside on the sidewalk. On busy days, they just bring out more tables. In between sampling fantastic Italian cuisine, we toured the Vatican, just outside of the city center of Rome. Looking up at the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel truly inspires a mixture of awe, disbelief and fascination. Add a highly professional docent who can bring the painting alive and reveal the centuries of colorful history and the experience becomes more than magical. Seeing St. Peter’s Basilica and the 40 angelic faces in person was just as breathtaking.
The most valuable part of the experience was learning exactly where to stay when in Rome.
From Rome, our itinerary called for a cruise out of the port of Civitavecchia to Venice, with stops at Pompeii, Pisa and in the Greek Islands. Special thanks go to our personal tour guide for handling transfers from the airport to the hotel, and to the ship. We arrived on time every time. Finding a local guide who’s reliable and knows how to get around town in a foreign country is highly recommended.
Cruising into Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius casts a shadow over the ruined city yet seems as calm and quiet as any ordinary mountain. Touring the remains of the city and its people frozen in time, it felt as if we were extras in a History or Discovery Channel episode chronicling the eruption that covered Pompeii in volcanic ash. Archeological digs continue to progress today. Thousands of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum may be seen in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples.
At the Leaning Tower of Pisa, nearly every tourist leaned into the tower cathedral at just the right angle and had their pictures taken looking as if they were either holding the tower up or pushing it over (this is actually a personality test of whether one is good or evil). The good people move next from Pisa to Venice.
The closest thing to Venice in America is the Venetian in Las Vegas – but now that I’ve enjoyed both, there really is no comparison. We crossed the Bridge of Sighs, had drinks in St. Marks Square and relaxed riding the canals in a gondola. Our gondolier was both knowledgeable and charming. If we’d had more time, we might’ve enrolled in a class to learn how to become a gondolier – maybe the next time we travel on a European cruise.
I’ll put some of my favorite experiences from the Greek Isles part of this itinerary together soon. If you would like to learn more about our trip, or for a quote on a custom trip to Italy, just call me or email firstname.lastname@example.org.