Spevak: Expectations high for my Italian trip

October 5, 2012 

A trip to Italy has been in my plans for more than a year now. Regular readers may remember my previous columns.

As I write, I am just days away from departing. Now my anticipation is at its peak.

When I return, I plan to write a column or two about my Italian adventures. But today, dear reader, I thought I'd share with you my expectations of the trip.

I will be part of a group of 16 congenial people, most of whom are from Los Banos (including my wife, Sandy). We will gather in Los Banos, be transported to San Francisco, travel from SFO to Frankfurt, Germany, then fly on to Rome.

Technically, I'm the co-leader of the trip, along with Joanne Hoefer, even though I've never been to Italy. Fortunately, Joanne has visited the country many times. And we've both been working with a friendly local travel agent in Margaret Gomes.

Our group will spend three days in Rome, two days in Sienna and Florence, and three days in Venice. There's a lot to do and a lot to see. As of today, here's what I'm looking forward to most.

Pleasant weather. I'm grateful our trip is in autumn, when the climate in Italy is much milder than the heat of summer.

Good food and wine. Everyone I know who has traveled to Italy marvels about the joys of eating and drinking there.

Friendly Italian people. Most Italians, I'm told, are friendly and helpful to visiting Americans.

Evening strolls. In the evening the bustle of urban life subsides and gives way to a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.

Vatican City. We'll see firsthand the opulent convergence of religion and art.

Historical Rome. Visiting the ruins of classic monuments, we'll be transported back 2,000 years to the empire of Julius Caesar, Virgil, Cicero, Nero and Caligula.

Tuscany, in particular Sienna. Traveling by bus from Rome to Florence, through the Tuscan countryside, we'll be stopping in Sienna. I've been told that the landscapes of Tuscany are incomparable, and a friend of mine said he enjoyed Sienna more than any other Italian city.

Florence art museums. Walking a few blocks in this historic city, we'll be able to experience some of the finest art in the world.

Using public transportation. Within the large cities, we'll be using trains, subways, buses and taxis. We'll see how that goes.

The islands of Venice. I've seen so many photos and movies of Venice, but it's still hard for me to fathom how people get around not in cars but in vaporettos, water taxis and gondolas. That should be an adventure.

The Italian language. It's a beautiful language, and I've tried to learn a few of the most common expressions, like "scusi" and "per favore." Fortunately, most urban Italians speak English.

Walking. I'm told I'll be doing a lot of it. Walking is good for both the body and soul. I just hope my feet and legs hold up.

Enjoying the moments. I hope to absorb each place I'll be visiting without thinking too much about the next place we're going. To this end, I'm leaving my smart phone and laptop in Los Banos.

Serendipity. I relish the idea of coming across places, both large and small, I wasn't expecting to experience.

By the time you see this column, dear reader, because of publication deadlines, I will have already returned from Italy. In future columns I'll let you know how the reality of my trip compared to my expectations.

On another note: Kudos to the Los Banos High School Class of 1962. As part of their 50th reunion, members of that class will gather at 1 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Los Banos Fairgrounds to honor classmates who served in the military.

Of the 100 or so members of the Class of '62, 22 are veterans, who will be honored with a new brick in the fairgrounds veterans' commemoration near the main entrance flagpoles. The brick will read simply, "Dedicated to the Veterans of the Class of '62."

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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