Italian Sunsets

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy at sunset taken by Karen Campbell, Photographer in 2015
Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy at sunset

In 2015, a friend and I took an exciting trip to Italy. We met in Milan after our separate flights from Dallas, Texas. At first, we experienced a bit of confusion in finding the hotel which had a separate office in another location and no typical front entrance. There is a bit of a learning curve to traveling in Italy, especially when going for the first time. Anyway, we finally found and settled in at the hotel and walked around the central area over a late afternoon and evening. The grand cathedral (Duomo di Milano), the shopping area right next (Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II), and the opera house nearby (Teatro alla Scala) were all lit up at night and there were many people out walking the streets and sitting on patios enjoying the evening. The city had a mixed feel of modern and historical architecture.

The next morning we took a train to Lake Como district for three days to enjoy the beautiful landscape, sumptuous food and ferry rides to the unique towns at the lake. We took an open-air train ride around one town and also boated around the lake and stopped off to tour Villa Balbianello. We toured inside with a guided group and then walked around the gardens and landscaping. Here is an article about some villas at Lake Como, (https://www.roncodellabate.com/2018/05/17/five-amazing-historic-villas-to-visit-on-lake-como/) One of my pictures posted here I photographed at sunset while walking around near the shore of Lake Como. Here is an article about nine amazing towns at Lake Como. https://lakecomotravel.com/best-towns-lake-como/

After Lake Como, we boarded another train to Cinque Terre on the northwestern (Mediterranean) coast. We saw colorfully painted buildings, ate scrumptious food from street food vendors and restaurants, dove into dark blue waters near the rocky coast for refreshing afternoon cooldowns. We also walked all around the five train linked towns for several days and went into food and gift shops. There are many tourists, but the views and character of each town are worth visiting. Here is an article about traveling to Cinque Terre: (https://www.travelandleisure.com/five-things/how-to-travel-to-cinque-terre). Plan to travel lightly since the cobblestone streets, train transportation, and vertical nature of many towns at Cinque Terre can be a challenge with bulky luggage.

I made a quick diversion from my friend to visit the city of Pisa to see the leaning tower. I didn’t plan this and should have done my homework since it was not a town like I imagined, but a gigantic city. The lines to go into the church, baptistry, and leaning tower were extremely long with tourists visiting from all over the world. When traveling in Italy, it’s important to buy tickets before going to the famous sites to cut down on wait time. Travel guide, Rick Steves, talks about this on his travel shows. You might use TripAdvisor.com to find tickets.

After walking around Pisa, I took a train over to the town of Siena in the Tuscan region to meet with my friend at a rustic but modernized B&B just outside of the city. Siena has a centralized historic district inner core and a modern city outside of the historic area. Since we stayed many miles outside of the city, we took taxi rides back and forth to the town, but it worked out since the B&B in the countryside was worth the extra travel time and taxi expense over two days. There were several other travelers staying there, mostly from around Europe such as Spain and Germany. In the morning we shared a big breakfast outside under a covered patio, engrossed in conversations.

Siena was a beautiful place and had loads of history to learn about and see. I almost sensed the famous historic figure, Galileo, walking around the central city district on the cobblestone streets and old buildings while eating my gelato. We also visited several quaint towns around Siena via a scooter tour. I held on to a tour guide as he drove the scooter around the beautiful Tuscan countryside. That was one highlight of my trip—although, one man on the scooter tour crashed his scooter after a visit to a winery where we had lunch and sampled wine. He was okay, although he sadly had to pay for the scooter damage—about $500!

After Siena, we went to Florence, a place I have wanted to visit since I was a teenager when I saw a movie that took place there. At the Accademia museum, I saw Michelangelo’s “David” and his other sculptures that were unfinished, possibly on purpose. You walk past those before arriving at the enormous David sculpture towering over you with many tourists staring at him and some art students studying him and then sketching him on their art paper. I also visited the Uffizi gallery where I saw The Birth of Venus, Botticelli’s famous painting, and hoards of Madonna and Child paintings by various artists plus many other pieces of artwork. Again, buy tickets to the museums before the date of your arrival. I was thankful I did this since it saved me from standing in lengthy lines to get in.

Needing a break from the museums, I walked all around Florence to discover the various districts and just took in the city’s soul—many shops, artwork, restaurants, chocolate and dessert shops, churches (basilicas), and piazzas (squares) with shopping markets set up. I loved going into the massive, Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence. I went up into the tower and looked out over all of Florence and went up into the domed roof of the basilica. I could have stayed longer in Florence, which had a romantic old feeling and full of vitality.

The Siena, Florence and the Tuscany countryside region were amazing! After three days in Florence, I finally took the train separately down to Rome by myself since my friend had already been there before on her previous trip. I had heard impressive things about Rome, so I was eager to get there but also sad to leave Florence.

Rome was big and wowed me in its unique way with the Roman Forum, Roman Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish steps, Trevi fountain, unique museums, Vatican City, parks, gardens, piazzas, shopping, great restaurants and…more gelato! I walked my feet off during this trip and by the time I got to Rome I was tired yet pushing myself onwards. When planning a visit to the Vatican, buy a ticket for the St. Peter’s Cathedral several weeks beforehand since the lines are astoundingly long. I was there at the end of September and beginning of October. There is also a tour of the Vatican museum, which is amazing. You walk through hallways of painted walls and ceilings and end up in the Sistine Chapel, another one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces.

I’m so glad I had taken that time to visit Italy. I had always wanted to go there, and I would love to visit again. Life sweeps by at such a fast pace. So, get out and see the world if you can take the opportunity.

Inspired by the great paintings I saw in the museums, I took pictures of Italy’s beautiful sunsets and many other sites! Here are two of them—one at Lake Como looking out over smaller mountains (below), and the other (above), in Florence from the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) looking over the Arno River(a river used in the famous Puccini opera, Gianni Schicchi in the aria, “O mio babbino caro”. I didn’t throw myself into the Arno River like the character Lauretta sings about, instead, I just took pictures.

Many of the pictures I have taken on vacations jump out at me. They sneak up on me and beg me to capture them for the memory books, so I have learned to be ready. In Italy, the beautiful surroundings easily wowed and inspired me. It was a lot of fun to visit. My friend and I traveled economically, but it turned out nicely. So, you don’t have to spend loads of money to travel, especially when using airline reward miles, booking hotels before the trip, using the train system between towns, walking and using the bus and subways around Italy. “Divertitevi” (That’s Italian for, “have a good time!”)

Lake Como, Italy at sunset
Lake Como, Italy on a patio looking towards the lake at sunset.