Author: Henry Werch
Date of Trip: October 2014
With 16 nights available to us to be in Italy, we chose to spend a week each in two different areas, and a final two days in Ostia Antica before flying out of Rome. We are tired of tourist-crowded cities. So despite the draw of Florence, Pisa, and Rome, we decided instead to base our first week in Barga (north of Lucca) and the second in Orvieto. As we had rented a car on arrival in Pisa, we expected to do more road trips, but we learned a lesson early. Hertz insisted that we take the free upgrade to a Ford Focus C-Max – a small car in the US, but one that seemed huge in Italy. We wished we had pushed the issue, but a smaller car would have made things easier! Traveling between big cities in Italy is a breeze on the Autostrada. Visiting small town is a slow process, complicated by narrow roads that are very difficult to navigate, and steep inclines coupled with poor road shoulders that catch car tires and wont let go. Being pushed over to the side of a steep street with 6″ drop-offs in a standard shift car with poor hill-holding ability just isn’t fun.
I can’t say enough about how much we enjoyed our week at the Renaissance Tuscany outside Barga, and how much we enjoyed the area of the Garfagnana. That was followed by a week in a vacation rental studio apartment in Orvieto. We loved walking in and around Orvieto, and the cafes around the spectacular Doumo (cathedral) provided wonderful people-watching opportunities.
Finally, a word about Ostia Antica. We spent over five hours wandering about, totally enthralled with how well preserved the ancient structures are. There are those who say it is more interesting than Pompeii. I can’t say, but we found it a completely enthralling experience.