Setting Up Old Reliable, The Computer...
Yesterday I sat down in my room, installing things that we need for the trip, like Google Earth (which won't work.), update the computer, etc. Old Reliable is what I call this old Windows laptop, like from 1990-something. We will probably use it to post posts on the blog and check my Gmail inbox. I found something out about that computer, it's like we haven't used it in 20 years (which we probably have) because up to the hour you're reading this, it's probably still updating.
What Should I Bring to Italy?
What should I bring?, What should I bring?, What should I bring?, yeah. Really, what should I bring. Whenever mom and dad ask me I always answer: "ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I don't know?!" Okay, so I think I've figured it out. We each have a bag, and part of it will be clothes (I mean like, 3/4!) So probably next post, or the post after that, I might be able to share a little computerized drawing of what will be inside my bag (probably BORING stuff, like clothes, notebooks, a stinky old 3rd gen Kindle and 2 stuffed animals (I LOVE DOGS!)
Well, I hope you enjoyed this double-feature post, that's all for now!
I got all my ducks in a row months ago with the packing plan. I got a credit card that allowed us one checked bag each for free. Whew. Saving lots of money and not needing to lug baggage around the airport. I was a planning rock star.
Then, whap! Hubby announces that from all his research, he has come to the conclusion that we should avoid checking ANY bags. To save time. Huh? Three weeks of clothes in a single carry on bag? How on earth was that supposed to happen? He gently explained we would not carry 3 weeks worth of clothes, we would have to do laundry whenever we could (or wash underwear in the sink if we needed to). Uh, OK. I'll keep an open mind, or at least try to.
Airline max carry on dimensions were 9 x 14 x 22. The first bag he ordered as a trial didn't look too bad--smaller on one side than the other, but still staying within total linear dimensions. Maybe I could work with this. Then suddenly--a new regulation change--the sneaky airlines removed "total linear dimension" flexibility. The trial bag was officially now too big.
When the smaller bag came, I broke into a sweat. I was sure I couldn't fit even a week's worth of clothes in there, let alone all the accessories I needed. And so, we embarked on a trial packing session.
He packed--no problem. When all you need is two pairs of jeans and a couple pairs of shorts for a 3-week trip, you can't go wrong. But I'm a GIRL. I need a hairdryer. And shoes. And well, STUFF. We knew Lucas would not be a problem (he'll follow orders). And so, we embarked on a trial packing adventure for moi. I laid out all the clothes I wanted to bring--no not 3 weeks worth, enough for about 7-10 days. We folded, rolled, packed, squeezed (I continued to sweat) and squeeze some more. And you know what, it is possible to pack carry on only for a 3-week trip, provided you are willing to:
I won't lie, the girl who expects to have a nicely ironed change of clothes for every day is still getting used to this new way of travel. But I'm still not feeling washing underwear in the sink...stay tuned!
One of the main considerations when planning a flight to Europe is what you can't bring on the plane. At times it can be very confusing depending on where you're getting your information, and if the rules have been recently changed.
Here's a great link for the TSA online tool that let's you search for all sorts of things to find out whether they are permitted on board or not. The TSA also has a Facebook Page where you can ask specific questions or even post photos of what you want to bring on-board a flight.
It's been about three months since I started researching and planning our Grand Voyage to Italy. I'm going to try and give you some tips and advice based on what I've learned.
Here's the first big tip. Google Earth. I can't tell you how valuable this tool has been in researching places to stay, sites to visit, the best viewpoints for vistas, the best scenic drives, where to park, and how to avoid the dreaded no drive zones found in most tourist towns (zona traffico limitato).
Google Earth is easy and free to install (DOWNLOAD LINK HERE). While Google Maps is best for planning driving routes, Earth allows you to save pin maps sorted by folder for each region or town you will be visiting. I have a folder for Puglia a folder for Rome and so on. I've pinned the best parking spaces, best views, hotels, bakeries, delis (salumerias), cheese shops, Hertz locations, and of course, all the sites I'd love to see in a given area.
And the best thing about Google Earth is dragging the little man to see the street level view, in 360°! This can prevent you from booking and agriturismo that looks more like a factory, how seedy a particular neighborhood really is, or how thick the crowds really are at all popular tourist site so you can plan accordingly. You might even discover areas worth visiting you had no idea about before actually seeing them on Earth.
While looking at a town you might be staying in or traveling through, turn on the Photos layer on the Google Earth map and look for clusters of little blue squares in the surrounding area. Clicking on the square pops up a photo of something interesting. I've found many "things to see" in different areas in this way--things that I had no idea existed in the area--castles, waterfalls, caves, belvederes with wonderful vistas and more.
Try exploring with Google Earth months before your trip. It's both addictive and enlightening. My son doesn't want to see too much on Google Earth because he wants to be surprised... But after all, I'm the grown up and realize that surprises while traveling is not necessarily a good thing.
There is a fantastic travel tool that you might already have: Microsoft OneNote. This multi-functional software has helped me keep track of all the research for this trip, down to every detail. The structure is simple: Create a notebook (called "Italy Trip" or whatever). Open tabs (called sections) titled for each part of your trip (Rome, Florence, etc.), add other sections to keep track of travel reservations, hotel reservations, etc. You can clip and paste on the fly as you do your research on the Web... URLs, photos, bits of text, just about anything you can see on your screen.
In fact, a great ability is to use the print-screen key on your keyboard to print a web page or photo that typically can't easily be copied... then paste it from the buffer (control-v on Windows PCs) into an image editor (I use Photoshop) to crop out unnecessary items, and then to paste the image into. This is an excellent way to capture an copy-protected image of something you want to reference later on. As long as you can see it on your screen, print-screen will print it to the copy buffer.
You can then add pages to each section, although since the section spaces are truly virtual (without boundaries) I haven't found a need for that. Everything gets pasted onto one page and I just zoom in and out or scroll around.
Every time I come across a travel tip, an interesting site to visit, contact information for a B&B or hotel--whatever--I cut and paste it into OneNote. Items also retain their URLs. Just a click takes you back to the site where you originally found the information--an incredibly useful feature! OneNote also auto-saves. Just quit and leave the program whenever you want and everything will be there the next time around. You will never lose your notes.
After gathering info on different regions we were planning on visiting, it was an easy task to gather my wife Lisa and son Lucas around the computer and fine tune our plans.
The really great thing is nowadays, OneNote is free for download and syncs to all your devices!
After Molfetta, we will take the high speed train from Bari to spend four final days roaming around Rome (bad pun) before heading home. We dread the tourist trappings but of course realize the need to see the Roman Forum, St. Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Sigh... we hate long lines and crowds so we booked a "private tour" of the Vatican Museum. We'll let you know how that went.
The ultimate goal for this Voyage is to learn about the part of Italy where my father, Saverio (Sal) was born--Puglia (in Italian, Apulia). When Dad was still with us, we always talked about going to his hometown together. We never made that trip. Even though he left as a boy of 4 years old, he always remembered the white houses, the harbor full of fishing boats and the smell of the sea. My dream is to bless myself in the waters he played in as a child.
The town of Molfetta is my personal reason for going to Puglia but there is so much more here... 2000 year-old olive trees, caves, grottoes, seafood, the world's best bread and "Land of Oz" Trullo pointy-roofed houses. We are looking forward to spending some time in a Trullo B&B near Alberobello (a town with hundreds of Trulli) and in an apartment in the historic center of Molfetta overlooking the harbor.
Just before we cross the border of Basilicata into Puglia, we will stay in a cave hotel in the Sassi town of Matera, a World Heritage site known for its cave dwellings carved into the rocks that the town sits upon. People have been living in caves here since paleolithic times, and in the 1950s much of the population was relocated because of the poor living conditions, but nowadays many have been converted to B&Bs and chic hotels.
Our next step of our voyage will take us into relatively unknown territory--unknown to most Americans, that is. Basilicata is a rugged, natural area of Italy with its own versions of Macchu Picchu-like villages--Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa--up among the cliffs and clouds. We will stay overnight in a hotel which looks out over the village of Castellmezzano and then explore this rugged area as we head further south.