Italy

This past August I had the opportunity to spend two weeks traveling around Italy. 

This trip was different for me as I set out to take a real vacation. Usually I'm running around taking photographs and sightseeing, but this time I had just had a summer of back-to-back trips for work and would be starting a new job and graduate school when I returned, so I told myself that I would see some sights, but mostly that I would relax and enjoy. 

Italy was beautiful and I was able to balance sightseeing with spas, beaches, bike rides and cliff jumping. As a history nerd, I felt kind of foolish not reading up before visiting as there's just so much in every monument, sculpture and ruin that you don't want to miss.  Next time, I'll visit the southern tip of the country and Sicily.

These photos were taken in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and La Maddalena, Sardinia. 

Recommendations for High Season: 

Rome

Never show up to any of Rome's major tourist attractions (Colosseum, Roman Ruins, etc.) without a ticket. Just don't. It's way too hot (like 100F) and the line will be horrendous. 

Use the public water drinking sprouts. 

Ladies! St. Peter's Basilica does not play when it comes to modesty. If you show up with short shorts, a short skirt or a top that doesn't cover your chest/shoulders you will be turned away and told to buy a cover-up.  Pick your outfit accordingly.   

Rent an electric bike to cruise the Appian Way (aka Via Appia Antica). The Appian Way is Rome's oldest road. You can take Bus 118 from most of Rome's central tourist sites to Punto Informativo Appia Antica, where you can rent bikes.  Lots of very interesting sites along the way including the catacombs. 

If you're really in vacation mode, visit the spa at the Crowne Plaza St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.  Forty-five (45) euros gets you an all-day pass to an indoor pool, traditional sauna, turkish steam room, massage showers, fitness equipment, etc. 

Florence

Book ahead at least a week to get tickets to Uffizi Gallery and the Academy Gallery. 

If you care to splurge, 100 euros gets you access to the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze spa in Florence.  It was nice, don't get me wrong, but I thought the Crowne Plaza in Rome was a better value.  

Uber / Lyft do not exist in Florence as of August 2017. This made for a panicked morning before our flight to Sardinia. The phone number at the taxi stand also did not work. Figure out your transportation well ahead of time. The trains and buses work well. Use them. 

Where to Eat: Trattoria Acquacotta, Il Vezzo, Mattacena 

Cinque Terre  

Cinque Terre is super touristy, but worth a day.  The towns are picturesque and Monterosso has a beach, but it's overrun by people on guided tours and photo nerds looking to recreate Manarola's famous postcard shot.

As such, don't bother booking a guided tour.  You can take a TrenItalia train from Florence to La Spezia, then either walk or take regional trains to travel between the five towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. 

Spend 20 euros and get a full body massage from the Chinese ladies who walk up and down the beach in Monterosso. I was not aware prior to traveling to Italy, but immigrants, mostly from South and East Asia, hold up the country's tourism industry (especially the informal sectors).  Might as well support them and get the cheapest (and probably best) massage available in Italy at the same time. 

Where to Eat: Lapo's, gelato at Gelateria Vernazza (best gelato I had in Italy - try the Apricot Cinnamon or Stracciatella) 

La Maddalena, Sardinia

If you're looking to vacation where the Italians vacation I would suggest La Maddalena. I think I heard English one or two times while there.

How to get there: Fly to Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport, then take the TurmoTravel bus (3.50 euros one-way) headed to Santa Teresa di Gallura. Get off at Palau (stop before Santa Teresa) and then take the Delcomar ferry to La Maddalena. Quicker, but more expensive is taking a private car from the airport to Palau instead of the bus (it is $70-75 euros one-way).  The TurmoTravel bus schedule is optimist.  It says it takes 1-hour to get from Olbia to Palau, it really takes at least two. Plan accordingly.  Meridiana and Mistral Air fly frequently to Olbia and for pretty affordable rates. 

Skip the countless boat tours that line the port. Rent an electric bike instead from Nicol Sport and bike to the beaches of Isola Maddalena and Isola Caprera.  Don't bother eating lunch in town either. Grab fruit and bread from Le Delizie Sarde and cheese from La Casa de Formaggio and head out for the day.  Beaches to visit: Bassa Trinita and Cala Coticcio (bring water and good shoes for the 45-minute hike).

Make reservations for dinner at least one day before if not more.  Italians vacation in La Maddalena and they like to eat out and eat late.   

Where to Eat: Ristorante Magreta, Pasticceria Ottimo Dolce e Salato, Dolce Distrazioni, Osteria de Lio, L'Alternative Steak House 

All photos shot in August 2017.

Photos of me taken by Ana MarĂ­a Reichenbach (Thank you!)

Sometime ago I realized that being a photographer meant that I would have photographs of everything and everyone but myself. I've made a sincere attempt over the past few years to make sure I get photos of myself somehow someway. Even if that means arguing with someone about aperture in the street :)