Mims and I spent 1o days touring exactly one-half of my ancestral motherland without once visiting the actual birthplaces of my ancestors. Reason being, if my grandparents had lived in tourist destinations they never would have left Italy.  Had that been the case, half of me would be smoking and eating olives right now instead of writing this post.

FotoFlexer_NickVeniceFirst up, Venice. City without potholes. Or roads, for that matter. Plenty of merchants, though. We caught up with our friends, Ray and Linda, who had a day before hitting the vinyards of Slovenia. We zipped through St. Mark’s Square, grabbed lunch water side, visited the Rialto Market and bought figs, took a water bus to the Bienvanali, another water bus to the Hotel Cipriani for cocktails, parted company and then Mims and I took a gondola ride sans musical accompaniment. I hummed “Cosi Fan Tutti.” Lovely day.

We had been wanting to visit Venice for quite some time, and it had nothing to do with that overwritten Thomas Mann novella. For some reason, everybody has asked the same question: Did it stink? No, it didn’t stink. The locals just spread that rumor to keep crazy tourists away. Anyway, 3 days was not enough to see everything on our itinerary, however, it was almost long enough to go broke. Expensive! Take more plastic, next time.

FotoFlexer_NickFlorenceDay 4 found us boarding a train for Florence, not the sassy maid from “The Jeffersons,” but rather “Firenze” as the locals call it. Right in the heart of Medici country. Tuscany land. Chianti. Olives. Antiquities. What more do you need?

While walking to avoid rain showers, Kenj and I stood at the Ponte Vecchio (pictured), toured the Uffizi Gallery and saw more Bottecelli’s andLeonardo’s then seemed possible, passed on walking up the Duomo and toured L’Accademia, which houses Michelango’s David. No pictures, please. Suck it, security. Props to Mims for defying security.FotoFlexer_Davidstatue

While in the area, we took a day trip to the Chianti region and the town of Greve, where Sting allegedly resides. We toured some wineries, and brought dry milk and rice to the locals. No wait, different trip. Anyway, I love a trip that allows your photos to all look like postcards. (Sorry, but you have to pre-order.)

Next we hopped the rails and headed south to Napoli, land of zero traffic laws, lax litter control and mob violence. Beautiful. We stayed minutes.

FotoFlexer_PositanoOur destination was Positano, on the Amalfi Coast. Holy crap, mother, but I think we’ve found paradiso. For 3 glorious days, we ate, drank and enjoyed the view. Nestled in a craggy mountain with slow moving clouds and overlooking the Mediterrean Sea, it was not difficult to put down the book I was reading. (“The Duke of Deception” by Geoffery Wolff. Good memoir, but I think he was a tad harsh on his father.)

FotoFlexer_KenjPositanoAll right, Goldman Sachs, how do I retire in Positano? Get back to me. Yes, I’ll take stimulus money. Why do you ask?

Kendra credits her vision board with helping us make it to Positano, but really all the credit goes to her. Hell, I would have been happy to stay in Venice for a week, but she convinced me that heading south was the right move. Good call, Mims. That’s why I rely on your good taste.

FotoFlexer_NickRomeFinally, we finished up our journey in Rome, where Julius Ceasar was turned into some emanthaler. With less than a day to see the sights, we raced between the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Collisseum (the whole place was in ruins!), the Pantheon and then dinner at La Dolce Vita.  The photo is a faux centurion who charges to pose for pictures. I should have stabbed him.

Highlights: art, gellato, negroni, pizza, caprese salads for breakfast, lemoncello, wine, more wine, history, vistas, sunsets, smiles, the hipster bar in Florence where the laptop DJ played “Beat it,” Santa Croce, pasta with lemon sauce, and, of course, the romantic gondola ride. Next time, Mims, I’ll bring an accordian.

Special thanks to PlanetRoz and Mike Lindsay for keeping the wheels of commerce greased while I was away. Huzzah!