|The Trevi Fountain, Rome|
The tour I've booked will take me to regions of the country I haven't visited before, like the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre and the northern Lake District. I'll also revisit the major cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. One or two short visits to these centres of art, history and culture just aren't enough to take in everything there is to see.
|Michelangelo's David, Florence|
On my last trip to Italy, I passed on a planned visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to join an optional excursion to Pisa. The day was great fun but the Uffizi is still on my Bucket List.
|The Leaning Tower of Pisa|
Another reason I'd like a do-over in Italy is the many days of rainy weather we encountered last time. I'd dreamed of basking in the sunshine with a cup of cappuccino on Piazza Navona but we trekked through frequent downpours and my camera lens fogged up.
|Fountain of the Four Rivers on Piazza Navona, Rome|
The weather wasn't much better in Venice - nary a glimpse of blue sky. Plenty of umbrellas.
|The Grand Canal, Venice|
|Piazzetta San Marco, Venice|
|Raindrops on a Water Taxi Window, Venice|
To prepare for my trip I've ordered updated editions of Rick Steves' guidebooks, my favourite source of information for travel planning. And I'm happy to see some additions, like the Palazzo Vecchio and Pitti Palace Tours in Florence and the Self-Guided Walk from Rialto to Frari Church in Venice.
It was Rick's Venice guide that led me to Pensione La Calcina, a lovely little 3-star hotel in Dorsoduro that I've booked following the tour. English author and art historian John Ruskin wrote The Stones of Venice while staying at La Calcina – three volumes of observations on the art and architecture of La Serenissima. I bought one of the volumes to read while I'm there. It will be interesting to compare the Venice of today with the city of Ruskin's time. There will be some fading, maybe a few cracks and a little crumbling. These indignities can happen to a lady over the course of hundreds of years but her ancient bones will remain much the same.
I've already skimmed the chapters on St. Mark's and the Ducal Palace but the plan is to slow down for a few days and enjoy a more thorough read with a glass of chilled Prosecco on La Calcina's terrace, overlooking the Giudecca Canal at sunset. I think Ruskin would approve.
And when I'm in Rome, will I toss another coin in the Trevi Fountain? Probably not, I'll leave that up to my daughter. Too many other enticing destinations are calling me from my Bucket List.
3 Things I Learned from Rick Steves