Travel Tips From My Summer Adventures.

Before I get into the art stuff, I want to mention a few of the indispensable items that kept us happy for our two month trip.

1. Maps and Travel Books.

I don't like to bring those very thorough, yet totally unwieldy 500 page travel books. I have in the past, but this time we were packing light. Carry-on luggage only! The best solution for a slim site seeing book with great shopping and eating picks PLUS manageably sized maps is the Knopf MapGuide.

The genius behind these books are the fold-out maps. Here we have an example of useful origami! The image above shows, on the left, a description of the neighborhood and a small map to mark its relation to the rest of the city. On the right you find restaurants, cafes, bars, and shopping. Once you flip the page from the bottom up you will find a larger detailed map and cultural destinations listed along the bottom.

Snacks in Rome. 
Looking for a pizza rec in Flo.

A long leisurely dinner at La Beppa near St. Miniato in Florence. 
On this night we had the best pizza of our entire trip.
Thank you guidebook! GO THERE.
Planning tomorrow's Florentine adventure.
With this classy design you actually want to display your travel guide.
On the train from Padua, heading toward Venice.

From Venice to Athens!
Passports in hand! Next destination in the bag.
En route to Istanbul via the seaside airport in Iraklion, Crete.

Surprise upgrade to FIRST CLASS. Thanks to Turkish Airlines we flew to Stockholm (with our MapGuide in place), surrounded by complete luxury and lots of space. What a lovely experience.
Now you can see some of the major cities that we traveled to: Rome, Florence, Venice, Athens, Istanbul, and Stockholm. Lucky for us there was a book for each one on our itinerary. Knopf MapGuides are not published for every destination under the sun. I kind of like that they are selective. Our future trips will have to be based on which cities they offer.

Take note:

Make sure that you always get the most up to date edition. For some reason I ordered an older copy of Athens and it turned out that many of the recommended places had closed. This was especially devastating when we went looking for Greek bakeries. Not getting those lovingly described pastries at the end of a long, sweaty trek is the worst. 

Although the recommendations for food, shopping, and top ten neighborhood sites were always fantastic, these guides do NOT offer extensive information on works of art or architecture. You will need supplemental books if you want to learn about these things while you are looking at them. We saw a lot of people reading from their books in churches and museums. We didn't really need them in this case, since I am an art historian after all. However, we did get some small art books here and there along the way just to be sure we didn't miss anything. Even though we filled every single day with a dozen stops, barely remembering meals, seeing way more than I thought was possible, we still managed to miss a few very important things...

Like Bernini's 17th century St. Theresa in Ecstasy in the Cornaro Chapel at Santa Maria della Vittoria and Bramante's Tempietto. I am utterly devastated that these were in reach and went unnoticed. More trips to Rome!

Tempietto, Rome

Completed in 1508, Bramante's Tempietto was modeled after the early Christian Roman martyria. It was thought that this spot, where the "little temple" stands, is the site of St. Peter's crucifixion. Bramante was one of the architects involved with St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican City. Even though the basilica did not follow the central planning that Bramante wanted, his plans for the dome, finally designed and built by Michelangelo later in the 16th century, were partially included in the final product.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

2. Camera case. 

This was such a good investment for us. Twenty bucks probably saved us another 700 and possibly invaluable documentation. I have a history of bad luck with digital cameras. I usually break them while on important adventures. This has happened three times already! First in Berlin, a separate trip in Stockholm, and finally last year in Barcelona. That was the most painful occasion since I had traveled far to see the church I had written about during my graduate program. Luckily we had a film camera so I was able to take a few pictures for my archives. I also invested ninety euros in a very thorough book I found in the makeshift souvenir shop. It is massive and filled with hundreds of images that were taken with a crane. So this story turned out okay, but we were determined not to be foiled again.

Part of the problem here is the lens. If the lens is mechanical, the camera is more susceptible to malfunctioning. If the lens can't open, then the entire camera is unusable. This time we got a Nikon1 which has a manual lens and a nice leather case for complete protection in case it gets dropped. You can wear the camera on the strap instead of fishing it out of your bag and then throwing it back in. This setup made taking 7000 photos easy, exciting, and somehow a little bit classier. Of course I still took lots of pictures with my phone like everyone else.

A Pentax photo on real film! 
But notice my Nikon digital camera all safe and cozy, Roman Forum.

3. Avene Products. Especially SUNBLOCK.

You really need good sunblock (and a hat) to brave these cities in the summer, especially if you've ever had the lucky chance to have some mysterious mole carved out of your leg and are now terrified of skin cancer. On our first day in Rome we went to the apothecary and consulted with the saleswoman. She took one look at our pasty white skin (summer hadn't reached New England yet) and recommended a French brand, Avene, which uses thermal spring water as its base for every product. The best option for us: very high protection, very water resistant 50 SPF.

This is the good stuff. We never once got a sunburn, which is saying a lot considering how much time we spent outside in the sun. We barely ever saw any clouds at least for the first month, only a lot of sunburned tourists. It's so water resistant that sometimes we didn't have to reapply every day even after sweating, swimming and/or showering. I also discovered some of the other marvelous Avene products such as thermal spring water in a can. These spray cans became indispensable for refreshing cool downs and energizing sweat cleansers. 

Now that we live closer to the equator, I'm using Avene now everyday, all year, forever. 

In conclusion: I highly recommend these travel products for a safe and happy adventure of any kind! 

1 comment:

  1. Ooh we're getting into the trip now... so exciting. We really lived out of those books, didn't we?

    Can't wait to see what's next.