Two couples (Tom and Laura, and Jim and Carolyn) traveled together on this trip.
It’s always more fun to share experiences with your friends.
Tom did the general planning. The detailed itinerary was developed through discussion
with all four travelers. General tourist information is readily available from travel
books, travel tour brochures, the internet, discussions with other travelers, etc.
During each city visited, we did quite of bit of walking throughout the tourist/historic
areas. Needless to say, all of us were fatigued by the end of each day.
We love Italy, and both couples have previously visited Rome, Florence, and the Naples
area. It was time for Northern Italy, the Italian Riviera, and Tuscany.
Jim did the driving, about 1500 miles over 12 days. In Northern Italy, we found
that the Italians drive the same as US drivers. They use the same defensive driving
techniques. We had no mishaps and no close calls. The car (diesel engine) averaged
about 30 miles per gallon, and fuel is about $6.50 per gallon. The absolute key
to this successful driving trip was taking Jim’s Garmin GPS equipped with the latest
English language chip. We used maps and road signs to verify the GPS as the data
base for the latest chip was about two years old.
We used the internet from the lobby of each hotel to line up several alternative
hotels in our next overnight destination. The Garmin GPS took us to the front door
of each selected hotel without a problem. Due to the Euro, the cost of everything:
food, hotels, clothes, etc. is about a third higher than the US. Europe is no longer
a “shopping” destination, unless a specialized European item is sought. A four
star hotel costs about 100 euros, which includes breakfast. A four star hotel is
about the same as a nice Holiday Inn in the US. The 100 euro charge results as a
$150 charge on the credit card bill. Three star hotels usually cost around 70 euro,
including breakfast. We opted for breakfast at each hotel, the cost being usually
reasonable, and the quality usually excellent.
On Wednesday morning, we left Wilmington, NC and drove to the BWI long term parking
area. The shuttle took us to the AMC terminal. We departed BWI late Wednesday
evening on the weekly Patriot Express contract flight. All Space A passengers were
accepted on this flight which first stops in Ramstein. Following arrival at the
Aviano Air Force Base about noon, local time, on Friday, we learned that the Mountain
View Lodge was full and no rental cars were available from the base PX vendor. We
were tired, and it was also raining, so Murphy’s Law was 100% correct that afternoon.
Taxis cannot access the main base, so we rode the base shuttle to “Area Two”. Just
outside the “Area Two” gate, we found a rental agency, rented a Fiat, and drove to
Hotel Oliva (less than a mile away) for the night. The hotel staff recommended
a local restaurant which was excellent.