Two Weeks in Italy
|Mama mia! The Steves family attempts to cool off.|
The incredibly frugal Rick Steves takes his family on one of his own tours
By Rick Steves
My wife Anne and our two teenagers, Andy and Jackie, made the most of our summer vacation by taking our Village Italy tour. For me, it was a chance to zero in on sights other than the predictable biggies. It was strangely enjoyable to be so close to Venice, Florence, Rome and the Cinque Terre but visit Padua, Lucca, Urbino, and Santa Margherita instead.
We actually scheduled the trip to fit our kids' busy summer schedule and with Italy sweltering in July, we all became expert at enjoying the air-con, mineral water, and gelato. Zip-off pants were handy long to get into the churches, short to survive the rest of the day. Our clever guide improvised cool activities, like early morning hikes, late night bocce ball, and breezy bike rides.
Day after day, our Village Italy tour guide dished out a steady stream of intimate Riviera, Tuscan, and Umbrian treats. We hiked through what seemed like an exotic Italian jungle to dreamy Portofino, where we savored cool and explosively tasty gelato. The day before, we biked (our kids on a tandem) around the Renaissance walls of Lucca. And the day before that, we nibbled homemade Pecorino cheese and sipped wine with a woman whose family name has been on the label since before Italy was a country after exploring her half mile-long Etruscan wine cellar (which we entered through a narrow door in her kitchen). I enjoyed a special treat, playing Scarlatti on her grand piano as Franz Liszt did in that same chandeliered room 150 years earlier.
In the midst of that tour it occurred to me that travel experiencing culture, history and quality living through real people doesn't get much better than this. For Anne and I, exposing our children to the richness of European culture makes it even more rewarding.