WordPress tells me it’s been 14 days since my last post. I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, it implies, in a way, I’ve done nothing in the past 14 days. And on the other hand it kind of begs the question, what have I been doing these past 14 days? Well, nothing too exciting, I can tell you that; I’m not a Facebook or Instragram person, I don’t feel the need to share a picture/update of my morning’s coffee, etc.
But, for the purposes of posterity, or at a minimum to make this blog as comprehensive as possible so that I can (better try to) remember everything I’ve done and where I’ve been, I’ll recount a little of what’s taken place in preparation for my 3-month trip to Italy.
Rental car. Ended up going with Autoeurope (a group out of Maine). I found their prices, availability, terms and service to be very fair/reasonable. In the end, I have rented a car (10 days) in Sicily with them, and another rental period out of Turin airport (60 consecutive days, many places won’t/don’t even offer that) with them as well.
Lodging. I have yet to finalize anything yet. And while that might seem inadvisable (foolish?, remember,I arrive in Milano in just 2 days), I have some friends in the North (Piemonte/Toscana), and this time of year the rates and availability are both good. So I’m not worrying about it for now – well, not worrying about anything but the Sicily part of the trip that is. I’ll be there this coming Sunday and I’ve yet to nail down any arrangements, though I’ve been trying each day for two weeks (a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m not staying in any of the ‘big’ towns like Palermo, or Catania, etc. Instead, I’m where wine is grown, which is off the beaten path. Most of it however has to do with my desire to meet locals, to connect with the people and the cultures the same way I intend to connect with the wines and the land.
Upgrades. I’m spoiled. It’s not entirely my fault you see, I’ve been part of an ‘airline’ family for 20 years now, and the first 15 of those years saw me traveling either first or business class (usually the latter). These days those privileges are gone (but not forgotten!), and that means I’m in coach. The bottom line is I upgraded to Economy plus ($119/way), I figured I’m worth it. Or, at a minimum, my back is.
Winery visits. So far I’ve confirmed three visits (all taking place on my second day there). I will finalize the other 14 appointments as I confirm exactly which towns I’ll be staying in. At this point, it looks like my bases will be (in order): Marsala (1 nt), Ragusa (2 nt), Syracuse (2 nt), Etna/Randazzo (4 nt), Trapani (1 nt). I will (hope to?) have this wrapped up within the next 48 hours – one way or the other.
Navigation. I’m going to be using Google Maps on my Samsung Galaxy 4 (with Italian SIM card, through ‘Wind’). I plan to write about the usefulness and effectiveness of Google Maps as I’ll be covering a lot of ground over 80+ days of driving (most of it rural, i.e. unmarked), and I think fellow travelers might find some good tips on the reliability and accuracy levels I experience.
Packing. Everything I will/should need is in this Osprey Meridian bag. I’ve had it 3 years now, and have to say it’s the best, most complete and well-built bag I’ve ever owned. In addition to all of my clothes/shoes for 3 months, I’ve got my Manfrotto tripod and a bottle (gift!) of Laphroaig Triple wood inside. I think I’m a pretty light traveler.
Separately, I have my fully loaded Kata Camera Bag/Backpack with 4 lenses, flash, cards, reader, the works. I won’t be checking this bag, it’ll be carry-on.
And finally, I have a small backpack (that I’ll be wearing on my chest, as my camera backpack will be on my back) with my laptop, a couple of books, headphones, USB/charging wires, etc., this will be a carry-on item as well .