Tourism is 13% of Italy’s GDP and employs 4 million Italians. I learned this on foreignpolicy.com. When tourists can’t or don’t come, Italy really suffers. Like now. First it had a reputation as a coronavirus hotspot. Then international travel became impossible. Italy is a feast for tourists. Below are some highly recommended places that should be on your to do list when travel becomes possible again
Jobs in travel go beyond hotels. Hotels in Italy, especially in Rome, can be expensive One time our friend Tom put us up in a convent to keep costs down. We were there for a week and it got pretty funny. Breakfast was the same every morning, bread and coffee. Our room was dark and unadorned. We had to be back by 10 pm or we were locked out. The funniest incident came at the end of the week. None of the nuns spoke English, and Ruth became convinced that we were not being charged enough. She almost got into a bare knuckle fight with a nun!
Ravenna was an early Christian center and became a capital of the Roman Empire. It exploded culturally in the Byzantine years and some of the architecture of that era remains. Ravenna is known for its mosaics, which are especially vibrant in the Basilica de San Vitale. Some mosaics date from the 5th and 6th centuries. It’s no wonder that 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sights are here. Being in Ravenna is a little like being in Istanbul.
Perugia is similar in population to Ravenna and is perhaps Italy’s best preserved hill town. It’s a steep and dark but fun climb from Perugia’s train station up to its Old Town with lots of ancient attractions that take a couple of days to see as your reward. Most people take the bus up to it, and a lot of them stay in the hotels in the modern city that surrounds the hilltop.
Upon arriving in Siena’s remarkable Piazza del Campo, a dapper Italian gentleman, ignoring me, took Ruth’s arm and escorted her across the piazza chatting away in Italian the whole time. Ruth said nothing so I assume he never realized she could not understand a word he said. He was so charmingly Italian that I couldn’t get upset. Later that day, I became temporarily deaf, but that’s a story for another time. Sienna is a must-see town of about 60,000.
Ruth and I have largely ignored Southern Italy except for the Gargano Peninsula. That’s why we were planning a trip to Sicily and perhaps Trieste in Northern Italy near Venice when the virus forced us to change our plans.