I’m back home. It’s 3 AM in the morning, I haven’t slept soundly since, well forever, but most recently over the past 10 days. I awoke this morning to my cat, who was cuddled and snuggled up with us on the bed when she began making that wretched noise cats make when they are about to throw up. In a stuporous semi wake panic, I swiftly pushed her off the bed in fear that she’d ruin my white linen with finely embroidered intricate lace inset, 600 thread count, duvet. As all cats are known to land on their feet, even while under duress, she made it harmless to the floor where she finished with the release of the long coiled mix of food, hair, and bile onto the bedroom carpet, which I later stepped in upon finally deciding to get out of bed in the still dark of the early morning dawn.
You see we just got back from the fastest European vacation to Italy known to man. With an 8 day start to finish trip, which really meant 6 vacation days due to flying, I knew it was going to be a fast-paced “taste of Italy”. My husband warned me for months prior to vacation that it was going to be a moving and grooving vacation so at least I could prepare mentally for long days full of touring. I needed to prepare for my mental wellness to make the most out of every second.
We couldn’t fly direct to Italy so, after a layover in Atlanta, we were finally on the 9-hour flight to Italia. We landed in Venice around 8:30 AM which was really 2:30 AM Baltimore time before finally reaching our hotel destination in Venice around noon. Our driver didn’t show up at the airport so we bussed it to Venice proper and walked for about 40 minutes, with our luggage, until we came to our hotel; Ca’ Sagredo. We only had a ½ day in Venice before we left for Florence the next morning by train. So we walked around, had lunch, took a quick nap and went back out for more;. The local paintings you see of Italian scenes don’t lie, we saw laundry lines of linens draped and blowing in the breeze from the shuttered residential windows. Storefront cases lined with pastry, pastrami and cheese, and gelato-my husband’s bucket list of “Food” to try and his favorite dessert. And of course, the Gondoliers propelling the watercraft Gondolas through the canal. It was like right out of a movie. We were there for a short “minute” with hopes to someday come back and visit the Lagoon islands of Venice.
Next, we visited Florence and stayed at Hotel Brunelleschi – my favorite. We were there, in Florence, for three days. A much more “modern” appearing town than Venice due to all the designer clothing, shoes, and leather stores.
The first stop we made was to the Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the oldest Pharmacy in Florence, founded in the 16th century by Dominican friars, this is more like a museum than a perfume shop since it stocks an awesome range of perfumes, herbal elixirs, and soaps based on, of all things, vinegar. I purchased Santa Maria Novella of Florence’s “Elisor Di Rose”; soft with hints of roses- heaven to my palette- not vinegar, and “Liquore Mediceo”’ a little bitter but medicinally delightful for me. Next time I have a cold, I’m reaching for this! I brought home with me two out of 8 different flavorful elixirs not found in the USA. Great with Prosecco OR as an after-dinner cordial along with some fancy chocolates to compliment the different Elixir beverage flavors- This was on MY Italian bucket list of places to visit-a little off the beaten path not many would think to go when heading to Italy.
While in the Tuscany Valley we also visited Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Lucca. All with a rich history, lots of hills, churches, and art. We had a tour guide for each spot.
In Siena, one of the most intriguing stops along the way was a visit to see the Head of St. Catherine. Yep, you read it right! Set in an ornate reliquary in the Basilica San Domenico in Siena is the dismembered, mummified head of the revered Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). Her shriveled right thumb also resides in a smaller reliquary not far from her head.
San Gimignano, known as the “city of beautiful towers,” had 72 towers in its heyday. Now 14 remain, and, rising above Tuscany’s Elsa Valley, they make the town look like a medieval dreamscape. Lots of shops, wine tastings, and gelato! These tour guides talk about the history, things you won’t read in a book and give you 30-60 minutes of free time; enough time to walk through the streets and browse.
Pisa, with it’s leaning historical tower, was incredible. We’ve all seen the pictures in history books but there is nothing like seeing the amazing structure up close and personal. No time on this trip to walk the 296 steps.
Cinque Terre was probably my favorite. A string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas; feeling the cool breezes to rub against my skin gave me the calmest.
While in Florence proper we also visited the Uffizi and the Accademia Academy
We then trained it to Rome where we had a day and a half left on our trip. We visited the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, and the Ancient city ruins of Rome, still standing, built before Christ. From the Coliseum to the Parthenon, to the ancient Roman Forum, the best preserved ancient sites in the city are impressive beyond comprehension. Nothing can prepare you for the enormity of size, wordless emotions, and history that you just can’t get from the history books.
So along the way I was feeling a bit gypped–on time. Not enough time to see all there is to see..but on the bright side, would I have rather not gone? NO! So, in the pursuit of positivity here are 6 reflections from my trip to help improve upon my daily living:
The 6 Wellness Takeaways from my Whirling Dervish Italian Vacation
- Get out and see the world
There is more than Baltimore Hon! Traveling opens us up to history, culture, and LIFE! If you can’t muster an overseas trip or even a trip within the USA get out and take some day trips to places you haven’t been before and where you know absolutely no one.
- Get out of bed!
Get out of your comfort zone, you’re in Italy, Gosh darn it! Wake up and see the sights!For as much as I need sleep and relaxation on this or any vacation, I was in absence of both sleep and relaxation on this trip. But that’s OK! I was energized by the wealth of information and eye candy surroundings. The early bird gets the worm.
- Less is more
Sometimes with less time you can achieve more. We had really 6 days to pack in at least 2 weeks of sights. We did it! Just stay focused. We balanced our days and still had time for gelato and wine!
- Moderation in Everything- Everything in Moderation, except coffee.
Enjoy the menu but be careful not to overeat… Bread, wine, pasta, cheese, salami, eggs, tuna, squid, coffee, pastry, gelato, Nutella, cookies, cantuccini, dessert wine, wine, Spritz’s; the list goes on. The last thing I wanted was to not fit into my pants on the way home. Don’t overeat is my best advice (aside from-don’t feed the gypsies). For me the food was great but it’s not worth the gluttony or the bulging belly-think ahead of the consequences of overindulgence-but drink as many cafe latte’s, espresso, and americano’s as you want!
- Hot water and a warm bed feel good
For as busy as the days were, it always felt good to come back to the nice hotel for a hot shower and a warm bed. Nothing like coming back to a room ready for your comfort with the room cleaned and the bed turned down. If you’re going to indulge in anything, indulge in comfort-stay in a nice hotel.
- Me Time/Honey Time – Allow for it
We work hard everyday! Make sure you grab some “me/honey time” while on vacation and also while at home. This kind of time brings us closer. It’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s needs surrounding your job – it’s ok to let that go and connect with yourself and your family. They always say to place your own oxygen mask on first before helping those seated next to you.
So now we’re back home, safe and sound and my cat can’t be happier! Our memories are still hot in the frontal cortex. Jazzed up to consider the next getaway near or far. A little life-work balance is OK with me.
Michelle was born in key west FLA but grew up in Lancaster PA. She is the second oldest of 5 siblings. Michelle went to art school in PA before moving to Baltimore Maryland to finish College. She received a BFA from MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) and later earned her art teaching certification in Disciplined Based Art Education, grades k-12, from Towson University.
After college, Michelle found work in the foodservice industry, everything catering to serving to small bakery deli production and service, taught group fitness for 16 years, art teacher, and worked in corporate America as a sales and marketing professional for over ten years.
Regarding the arts, Michelle worked on set designs for Homicide-Life on the Street, freelance set design, television commercials, and as a faux finisher for a well known local company all while producing, hustling, showing and selling her own diverse art. She also owned and operated Galerie Michelle-a fine art sales and art placement company in Lancaster PA.
Coming from a gene pool of entrepreneurs, sales, health care professionals, and creatives, Michelle has combined the skill sets developed over her life and work experiences to form her own niche business; Type A Home Concierge- A Home Wellness & Lifestyle Management Company, where she has employed up to 13 staff since its inception in 2008.
Michelle is married since 2003. Loves animals, outdoor activities, good food, and wine.