Happy Independence Day to all my American readers. Regardless of your location, though, I hope you’re all having a lovely weekend and that those of you in Europe are finally getting some relief from the heat wave.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted any perfume reviews lately, but I’ve been overwhelmed by all that I have to do for my upcoming trip. It’s finally set and everything worked out, much to my disbelief because I really hadn’t been sure I would manage to get away. I’ll be in Italy for a little under 3 weeks, departing on July 20th and returning in early August after visiting Florence, Rome, and a seaside resort town.
Simply finalising my locations took a lot of time because, at one point, the goal had been 10 days on Croatia’s stunning Dalmatian coast. What beauty… truly stunning. (You should see some of the YouTube videos of their amazing islands and national parks!) Unfortunately, Croatia doesn’t have the easy train connectivity of other European countries, so one can’t simply hop on a train to go from one place to the next. Plus, Croatia seems to be a place best suited to someone outdoorsy, beachy, and/or seriously sportive (the last of which is not me) who is happy to stay in one or two seaside towns/islands, or who can rent a car to go around in-land. That’s not me either. I’m not going through the hassle of getting an International Driver’s License. (Plus, with my luck and terrible sense of direction, I’d end up driving myself off a cliff somewhere in Albania.) So, Croatia will have to wait for another time.
Once I decided to stick purely to Italy, the issue was narrowing down where I would go. I’ve been to Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Genoa, Portofino, and parts on the Amalfi coast in my younger years, but I don’t have a strong adult memory of some of them. I was particularly young when I went to Rome, and all I recall is a massive volley of machine-gun fire ringing out one night when the Red Brigades (Brigate Rossi) shot up something in one of their attacks around the time they kidnapped poor Aldo Moro, Italy’s Prime Minister. Needless to say, I’d like to have a more typical, normal memory of the famous city.
Venice is the place that I recall in greatest detail, so I wanted to focus on the other cities more. Still, I considered spending a few days there and looked for hotels, but I quickly came to the conclusion that one should never be so idiotic as to try to go to Venice at the last minute, at the height of the summer tourist season, and without serious advance planning or a prince’s budget. All that was left 3 weeks in advance were hotel rooms that were either ludicrously expensive, or fleabag horrors from hell (and still not all that affordable at that). After a day of scouring sites and reading reviews, I gave up, deciding that Florence and Rome would be easier, in addition to making more logistical sense given the other places I’d be visiting.
It took two more days of headaches to find available rooms in suitable, decently located, reasonably priced hotels in either of those cities at the last minute, too, but it finally happened. The one in Rome actually seems too good to be true: the Relais Praxedis is a small townhouse that opened merely a month ago (!!); looks clean, chic, and modern; is very well situated; and is reasonably priced. I’m rather amazed. You should have seen some of the places I read about in Venice for $120-$150 a night: 10 sq. foot hotel rooms with hard, army-style, narrow beds and squashed mosquito stains on the walls, as well as surly service, WiFi in theory or name only, and virtually non-existent air-conditioning.
So, for the next week, I have to focus on the rest of the things I need to do in advance. I’ve booked and reserved my tickets for the Italian bullet-trains that I’ll be taking out of the Rome airport to go down South, assuming that I don’t miss them due to flight or customs’ delays (in which case, I’m screwed and the ticket goes out the window, but the alternative was no seat availability whatsoever). The next thing on the agenda is to figure out whether to get an Italian SIM card or a dual American-European one, as well as which company offers the best rates. (Please feel free to offer any suggestions, as my last European trip resulted in a huge AT&T bill, even with an international roaming plan and my using WiFi for the most part.)
There will basically be two 2 legs or stages to my trip, with the first week taken up on something perfume-related that doesn’t require any planning on my part, but it’s the second stage (Florence and Rome) that will take great thought. I tend to plan for trips like a military campaign, so there is a gigantic list of things I need to do. I’ll have 6 days in Florence, but only 3 days in Rome. For the latter, the Vatican and its many museums are much higher on my list than the Coliseum. I mean, look at the photos:
But I also need to figure out some sort of advance ticket situation for the Vatican museums because something I saw on Wikipedia made me gulp. It was a photo of the queue of people waiting to get into the museum. The “panoramic view of one small stretch of the entire queue in April 2007, which continues for some distance in both directions beyond view” was sooooooooooooooo huge, I couldn’t imagine what the complete line must be like. This is one “small” part of it:
In terms of Florence, I want to take at least one day trip outside of the city, but should it be purely the Tuscan countryside, or should I try to fit Siena in there on a second day? Given just how many lovely small towns there are in Tuscany, where exactly should I go if I have only a limited amount of time? If any of you have any favorites, please let me know all the details.
I also need to: draft a document of sites to visit in both cities with specific Metro directions for each from my hotel (yes, I am that OCD); figure out any other advance reservations I would need; locate perfume places other than Santa Maria Novella in Florence; and make sure that I have enough extra camera batteries, chargers, and electrical transformers for a small army. Oh, and I must research good foodie sites/ restaurants in each city! Ideally, ones that are not too far from my hotels and that, again, won’t cost a Sultan’s fortune each time.
Somewhere in the midst of all this, I also need to further test perfumes, write some reviews, and finish up all my research for interview questions for an edgy European perfume house founder.
And, naturally, My Teutonic Overlord must be worshiped and taken care of throughout it all. I need to schedule a last-minute vet visit to make sure he’s in a good state before I leave him with my parents with a bag of his meds, toys, and special food. God, I’m not relishing leaving him; he normally spends the first 5 days waiting by the front door for me to return, and my mother has to actually drag him away and force him to eat. After the first few days, he simply goes into a depression, even though he loves both my parents enormously. (He may actually like my father more than me on occasion.) Still, my reception when I come back is always an iffy thing; the first time I left him was for a mere 4 or 5 days, and he refused to have anything to do with me on my return for 3 whole weeks from sheer anger. (That was the first time I ever boarded him, and the absolute last. His Highness clearly holds a grudge if he’s boarded.)
In short, there’s a lot to arrange between now and July 20th when I leave, but I promise to do as many reviews as I can manage in that time, even if they’re more cursory than my usual, exhaustive approach. Hopefully, if the timing and schedule works out, there will also be an interview that I’m excited about because the chap does so much more than just perfume and is a real avant-garde intellectual artist. (He’s also responsible for an incense fragrance that some of you love passionately, but that’s the only hint you’re getting.)
So, if any of you have places, restaurants, or must-see destination spots that you’d recommend in Florence or Rome, please don’t hesitate to let me know. And, if my replies to comments are a little spotty throughout this time, please accept my apologies in advance. I’m a little overwhelmed by how much there is to do. But I’d love to hear what you are all doing this 4th of July weekend, or about your own summer as a whole. Any fun plans?