I should begin by saying that even though this is an academic blog, travel is a huge part of my life.  I love to travel, I love to experience new things, and I’m always scoping out the next adventure.  In fact, the seeds for this trip were planted while we were still in Thailand, when I insisted that our next international vacation had to at least include Italy.

With that said, I’m going to do a multi-part recap of the trip, beginning with a general overview, and then a couple of posts for particular destinations with pictures, stories, and specific advice.  Everyone has his or her own travel style, and so while my posts might help some people, I don’t presume that everyone shares my tastes.  YMMV, etc., etc.  I believe that travel should extend our horizons, which means we leave our comfort zone and risk looking stupid in the name of connecting with others.

So, let’s begin!

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • May 13-17: Rome
  • May 17-21: Sorrento and Amalfi Coast (including Naples, Positano, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and the Sentiero degli Dei)
  • May 21-22: Ostuni and Lecce
  • May 22-24: Gargano Peninsula
  • May 24-27: Umbria (Bevagna, Assisi, Spello, Gubbio, Perugia, Todi, and Orvieto)
  • May 27-29: Montepulciano (with a side trip to Siena)
  • May 29-31: Chianti (Radda, Greve, Castellina, and Volpaia)
  • May 31-June 3: Florence
  • June 3-5: Lucca (with a side trip to Pisa and the Cinque Terre)
  • June 5-9: Bologna (side trip to Ravenna)
  • June 9-11: Turin

We had a car May 21-31, and the rest of time we took trains, ranging from the super-nice Eurostar (bullet) trains to the rather dinky regional trains.  Except for the Eurostar, train travel in Italy is quite affordable.  For example, it cost us less than $10 for us to take the regional Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Sorrento.  Our train from Bologna to Turin, on the other hand, set us back a whopping 114 euros (about $140).  However, it’s fast and comfortable, so it’s worth it.

Driving in Italy, contrary to stereotypes, isn’t bad at all.  The autostrade (similar to our interstates, but all toll-based) are amazing.  They’re well-maintained, intuitive, and easy to drive. People drive fast, but they are attentive, sharp drivers.  However, when you get into the left lane, you need to mean it!  If you have a map and a travel companion who can navigate fairly well, getting around is super easy.  Car rentals are not cheap, and gas is exponentially more expensive (to the tune of $7 or $8 a gallon), but it’s a great way to explore many regions of Italy that are not as well-served by trains.  The southern regions and the hill towns of Tuscany and Umbria really necessitate a car.  Don’t bother in the major cities, because it’s chaotic, expensive, and frustrating.

My next post will cover Rome and the Amalfi Coast.  If there’s anything in particular you want to know, feel free to ask so that I can address it in a subsequent post!