Nicola on the Grand Tour!

Giovanni_Paolo_Panini_-_Interior_of_the_Pantheon _Rome_-_Google_Art_ProjectNicola here. Back in the 18th century it was considered part of a gentleman’s education to take the “Grand Tour,” a trip through Europe with Italy as the main destination. The young, upper-class man of means and rank would set out, accompanied by a long-suffering tutor or family member, on this educational rite of passage and would return home supposedly with a greater understanding of classical culture and often with some works of art tucked under their arm.  The phrase “bear-leader” that you come across in Georgette Heyer originated with the poor tutor/chaperon/guardian who had to try to keep the youth out of trouble and instill some knowledge in him!

With the advent of mass tourism in the nineteenth century, these itineraries were opened up to the rest of us; women, families and those without a title (!) who would take a guide book along rather than a tutor. So, when we (my husband and I, to quote the late Queen) planned a holiday to Italy to see the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, we decided to take in at least a few other elements of the Grand Tour on our way – a journey through the Alps, some shopping in Milan and a stopover in Paris!

Read more

Turkish Delight!

IMG_0877Turkish Delight

By Mary Jo

In April and May of this year, we took a marvelous cruise from Italy to Istanbul.  I've written three blogs already:

The first was our time in Northern Italy, staying at a grand hotel on the legendary Lake IMG_0588Maggiore, and enjoying the all time best, warm-hearted wine tasting:    

Next was cruising down the Eastern Adriatic and visiting several amazingly beautiful and hospitable countries. (That's Kotor, Montenegro on the right.)  IMG_0665

Next was Greece, mother of so much Western European culture, where we saw several splendid islands as well as notable mainland sites: 


Read more

Italian Lakes

IMG_0564Cruising 2022:  Northern Italian Lakes

by Mary Jo

With the pandemic fading, the world has opened up again and the Wenches are now traveling!  Pat Rice has written about Italy and her Southeastern coastal, while Christina has just posted about her recent visit to Roman sites in Italy.

Now it's my turn.  We're just back from a two week cruise on Viking Ocean that we'd booked in 2019.  You know why it was delayed!  But it was an itinerary worth waiting for.  Venice to Istanbul, plus we'd booked a pre-cruise extension in Northern Italy at the famous lakes that lie along the edge of the Alps. 

Covid caused more changes than the years of delay. I've never had to deal with such a complicated and stressful set of hurdles for a vacation.  There were masses of online forms and apps to be filled out, and I LOATHE having to enter so much info on my cell phone because I'm terrible at using itty bitty electronic keyboards.  It was complicated! But I managed all those, along with the equal stress of arranging Covid tests for just before we left.  It's not easy to get the right timing for the tests and have lab certified results within a very narrow frame of 1 to 3 days before leaving. But we managed that, too.


Read more

Italian Inspiration – Part 2

HerculaneumChristina here with Part 2 of my Italian adventures.

Having visited Pompeii, of course I also had to go to Herculaneum. It’s a nearby town that was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD at the same time as Pompeii, and I’d been told that most people nowadays find it more impressive. This is because it is much better preserved, with a lot of the upper storeys of the houses still intact, and the paintings on the walls in situ. I’m afraid I have to disagree though.

H streetDon’t get me wrong – I loved Herculaneum too, it's a fabulous place! Walking around its narrow streets in the Italian sunshine made me feel as though I had travelled back in time 2000 years. The houses were beautiful and gave me a lot more details for the story I’m planning, and I can see why people would prefer it to Pompeii. But to me, the latter was more poignant because it’s so big and the scale of the tragedy that occurred there just hit me in the gut. I can’t explain it, but that’s how I felt.

Read more

Italian Inspiration – Part 1

Christina here and as I was lucky enough to go to Italy recently, it’s time for some more armchair travelling. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey as much as I did, albeit vicariously!

VesuviusI was a little girl the first time I heard about Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. This tragic event really stuck in my mind and ever since then, I’ve wanted to go there, but I never had the opportunity until two weeks ago when my dream finally came true. Sometimes, when you’ve wished for something for a very long time, it turns out to be a disappointment. Not Pompeii though, or any of the other sites we visited! I was enchanted.

BTW, this wasn’t just a pleasure jaunt, it was for research purposes. For a while now, I’ve had a timeslip/dual time story brewing in my mind set against the backdrop of Vesuvius’ eruption. I’d already done quite a bit of reading on the subject, but there is only so much you can do with facts on a page. Actually visiting a place is invaluable, and so my husband and I set out on our fascinating journey.

Read more