1. Let the Days Evolve. Have no more than one concept or destination per day. Reward lingering with ample time to enjoy a meal while watching the street scenes, watch an artisan work or contemplate a fresco in the cool serene of a neighborhood church.
3. Early Birds are Rewarded. Get out in the morning when the streets are fresh and quiet. Visit markets before 9 am and on weekdays. Make a point of buying food that is not wrapped in plastic. Sant’Ambrogio (Piazza Ghiberti) is our favorite in Florence, the Rialto (near the bridge; can’t miss it) in Venice still fascinates. Outdoor markets in Rome’s Centro Storico have been moved inside-to ill effect – but there is still local color at the Campo dei Fiori. And there is always the Antico Forno. Do not miss it no matter how full you are.
4. Live like a Romano, a Fiorentino or a Veneziano. You will be well-rewarded for learning some Italian. Pimsleur is our recommendation to learn enough Italian for everyday transacations. Try Vino Sfuso – young, ‘house’ wine that is served from a spigot on a huge barrel. Find a local ‘vinaio’ who will pour you a bottle that generally costs less than 2 Euros per liter. Like the locals, you can buy a refillable bottle on your first visit, then come back and try another varietal.
5. Come home for lunch. We relish villa travel because you do not have to spend all day out on the streets. You can come home for lunch. Leave the shoes by the door, take a brief shower, pour a glass of wine. You may choose for a cook leave you a meal to enjoy in the peace and quiet of your own private terrace. Or, you may have them serve and clean up. It is yours to decide.
6. Give yourself permission to skip the big sites. We have strategies for managing ‘greatest hits’ list, if you must, but there is so much more to Rome, Florence and Venice. There are discoveries to be made throughout. Wonder is waiting to happen, so try something less well-known. In Rome, visit the Protestant Cemetery to view William Wetmore Story’s dramatic ‘Angel of Grief’ sculpture on his wife’s grave. Step off busy Via del Corso into the private Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. The audio tape is free, and wonderfully narrated by an engaging member of the Doria Pamphilj family. The Science Museum (including Galileo Gallilei’s finger in a jar!) and the Museo Stibbert, (armor! Gowns! Room to run!), both in Florence, are great for younger travelers.
7. Eat (really good) gelato each day We believe in the daily enjoyment of gelato, but choose your spot carefully; look for the places that are small and where you cannot see the gelato. Make a ritual of the after-dinner evening stroll with a gelateria in mind. It is a great time to stop at interesting store windows. Our favorites: Alaska in Venice (no website; Santa Croce; Calle Larga dei Bari, 1159, Phone:+39 041 715211) (but the hours can be quirky), Carapina or Perche No in Florence. In Rome some prefer Frigadirium, my favorite is Gelateria del Teatro. (no website; Via dei coronari 65-66, +39 06 45474880)
8. Your Vacation is not on your device. At least once a day, forgo using your phone or iPad or even a paper map for navigation. Wander, get lost, use your instincts and follow what interests you.
9. Select a theme for your Vacation Plan your days around a hunt and create a collection from your findings. Select an artist, a period in time, even a symbol to find hidden in statues, paintings and fountains. The focus will guide your days and complete the vacation with a collection of memories.
Be Democratic. Poll your family for each person’s ‘must’ experience. Let that list become your itinerary. Simpler is always the better and try to avoid too many ‘teachable moment’ embellishments. Maybe the wish is to eat dessert for breakfast,. Easy to do in Italy for sure. And why not?