Over the course of the eleven weeks we took 2 planes, 23 taxis, 25 trains, 6 ferries, 6 water busses and 1 water taxi. We rented 3 cars, rode 1 funicular, took 7 organized tours and landed in the ER once (one of us did).
- Biggest hit: Venice, runner up: Rome. We’d been to both before but both were maybe our favorite places to visit. Venice edged out Rome because it’s just so unique, like no place else in the world.
- Biggest miss: Marseille, France. Maybe it was the rain and gloomy weather or the season, but neither of us cared for Marseille. At all. We had a good dinner at our hotel and that’s about where what we liked started and ended. It felt like a gritty port with a bunch of yachts and we found not much else there. Maybe we missed the mark.
- Biggest missed opportunity: Siena, Italy. Last time we came to Italy, we stayed only one day in Siena. This time, for some reason, we booked it for only one day again. We stayed in the same hotel, the Palazzo Ravizza with its lovely terrace overlooking Tuscany. Alas, I landed in the ER for most of our stay so we only had a couple of hours to quickly look at Il Campo and the Duomo. I guess you’ve got to leave something for next time.
- Most unexpected: Assisi, runners up Lucca and Sorrento (all in Italy). We had no expectations for any of these and they are pretty tied in ranking but Assisi edged the others out, probably, because it was pretty amazing to be there on Good Friday and Easter Sunday and observe all of the ritual of the culmination of Holy Week.
- Prettiest: Gordes, France. We went to a lot of amazing places but Gordes’ position in the world, perched atop a hill in the middle of Provence is magical. Perhaps adding to this, because we were there so early in March, we had the place nearly to ourselves with things still being open.
- If you had to move, where would you live: Italy: Lucca, France: Antibes. Both are relatively close to larger cities (Lucca to Florence and Antibes is almost a suburb of Nice) but have small city charm with lots to do and are in beautiful spots in the world. Both have the sea and mountains nearby.
- Most Exceeded expectations: Naples. By a lot. We’d only been through Naples on our way to Positano before and saw only the neighborhood near the train station. It’s not nice. We both have family connections to this area (Melissa’s parents met here and my mother took school trips here and to Pompeii) and perhaps this connection made it stronger for both of us. We did the Rick Steves walking tour and he really helps you look past the trash and appreciate Naples.
- Best meal experiences: I put this here in the list to help explain the Naples connection. #1 our pizza at Pizzeria Speranzella in Naples. Pasquale and team were fantastic and the pizza was even better. #2 Osteria da Pasquale in Lucca. Another Pasquale attends to every detail of your meal and is a lovely man. You can read more about both in our posts about Naples and Lucca.
- Best non Italian meal in Italy. Sacrilege? Maybe, but we did tire of Italian food over two months. Our best non Italian meal was at Ristorante Persiano Tehran in Florence. We should have just taken the waiter’s recommendations for everything because the one thing we picked against another recommendation was just good, while everything else was amazing.
- Most memorable days: #1: our walk to and lunch in Portofino, Italy. We had lunch in the port with several elder gentlemen celebrating a birthday. The walk to and from Portofino was beautiful and the lunch experience was unforgettable. #2: our wine and food tour in Frascati Italy outside of Rome. you can read more here about why.
- Best museum: Naples Archaeology Museum. So much to see (without being overwhelming) and so much history from the Farnese Collection to the recovered mosaics from Pompeii to the “secret rooms” we visited a lot of museums and this one stands out.
- Best art museum: Musée Calvet in Avignon. The collection is small but the variety is amazing. And it’s free.
- Best churches. We saw a lot of them. These are all unique: Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna Italy for its mosaics. So special. The Annunziata Church in Genoa. You’d probably never walk in if you weren’t in the know but the walking tour we found tipped us off. Perhaps more beautiful than St. Peter’s in Rome. Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. Both the upper and lower churches are beautiful. We visited three times, for Rick Steves walking tour, as we got caught up in the crowd on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday. And finally, The Capella Sansevero in Naples. The sculptures are unforgettable and so human like.
- Best organized tour: Secrets of Venice with Federico. Informative, educational and different. Gave us a real feel for the history of Venice and made us appreciate a place we already loved even more.
You’d think it would be a bit tough to choose out of all the places we went but, oddly, it wasn’t. These all rose to the top and we were in agreement on them without even comparing notes.