My adventure begins.

I’ve looked forward to this trip to northern Italy all year.  It took a lot of planning, and I hope that will pay off.  We ruled out Rome and Naples right away, since it’s the heat of the summer and the height of summer tourism.  I will make a separate trip to those places, preferably in spring or autumn.

It was a lot harder to cut Florence and Venice out of our trip.  The reason was logistics.  We only have a limited time of 12 days (14 days if you include air travel), and I’ve put a high priority on seeing off-the-beaten-track places, such as the Aosta Valley and Sacra di San Michele and Portofino.  Reliable, on-demand public transportation in the Italian Alps looks iffy and hard to find, at least on the internet, so we’re renting a car.  But it seems that having a car will be a pain-in-the-ass in cities.  Venice and Florence have restrictions on non-locals driving around, and travelers who have visited Italy say that driving through intersections and roundabouts in big Italian cities can be a game of “chicken.”  At first, I figured we’d leave the rental car parked somewhere and take a train into those major cities.  But if I made Florence or Venice a priority, I’d have to cut out a number of days in the off-the-beaten track places.  And if I only allocated two or three days to sites in the Alps, it seemed pointless to rent a car, which would transform this vacation into a different kind of trip.  Maybe we could hire an Uber or something, but I’ve been unable to find out how feasible that is in Italy.

So this is my off-the-beaten-track rental car tour of the Italian Alps.  We’ll spend some time in Milan, Turin, and Verona, but also in the Aosta Valley and Lake Garda.  It should be … amazing.  I’m sure I’ll make an effort to return to Italy to see Florence, Venice, Rome, Naples, and the many other places I’ll miss seeing on this trip.

As I write this, I’m in the Austin Airport waiting for the first leg of my journey to JFK in New York.  From there, I’ll take an overnight Emirates flight to Milan which arrives at noon the next day.

I was unable to choose seats on the JetBlue flights through my Emirates reservation.  I thought that was weird, so when I got an error message trying to check in online (“unconfirmed passenger, see a JetBlue representative at the airport”), I had a panic attack.  It turns out they just needed my passport, and apparently they lack any ability to do that online.  So I chose a seat for my return back to Austin in 14 days, and now I’m feeling good!

Thank you to my roommate and coworkers, holding down the fort while I’m gone.