After our time in the Black Forest we left Germany, traveled around a bit, and eventually migrated south into warmer climates, which included Italy & Greece.
I will address Greece at another time.
I should explain that, in general, I did not enjoy myself too much outside of being in France. As I mentioned before, go north of France and very quickly things get more organized (and judgy), go south of France and very quickly things get less organized (and crazy). Pick your poison.
(Or just stay in France, they have wine & cheese.)
To be fair, Italy is a big place, and it’s not all the same. Parts of northern Italy were nice, almost like driving through New England in at the end of summer. And there are some very amazing things to see in Italy, such as Pompeii.
KEY TRAVEL SKILL – To enjoy Pompeii, please first go visit ANY other ruin and appreciate how, uh, ruined they are. THEN go to Pompeii.
But there were also some disappointing elements, such as the crowds (even in shoulder season) and the food (for really good food, see country known as: France).
And then there were some things that I have had to suppress. Of course I’ve also had to un-suppress them to write about here, and then will have to re-suppress them later…don’t even bother mentioning these to me in person or something like this will happen:
YOU: “Ha, oh man…what you wrote about Naples…priceless!”
YOU: “You know, when you left your car to take the train…”
(For most suppressed story of all time, see Chapter 8 in ‘Life with a Crunchy Wife – Volume 1‘)
Anyway, here are:
Three Mistakes to Avoid in Italy
1. Buying Gelato that Doesn’t Melt – This is super important, because one of the ONLY redeeming factors of visiting Italy is that you can find real gelato and eat it every, every day, despite it not being organic or anything because you’re traveling and your wife has gone completely soggy on her food standards.
But this only goes well if you get REAL gelato. And after eating it every day for like three weeks, AND after receiving a personal tasting by the ‘Willy Wonka of Gelato’, I think we can consider ourselves almost-experts. We now classify our gelato into Three Broad Categories: Fake Gelato (or ‘Felato’ as we call it), Real Gelato, & Great Gelato. And here’s how you can tell the difference:
Fake Gelato – The first thing you look for with gelato is to see if it’s covered. If you can actually see the gelato, then it’s of a lower quality, probably from a mix, because it doesn’t melt. Now, obviously, it’s hard to market something that’s covered up, so a lot of places still have it open but under glass where they can try and keep the air refrigerated. So if you can see it’s not covered, don’t despair, because the other way you can tell it’s fake is when it’s piled up unnaturally high and just stays like that, forever (because again, it doesn’t seem to have the capacity to melt). Anything looking like this:
Also if they use bright neon colors and / or flavors like ‘Smurf’. That is not real gelato, it’s a stomach ache waiting to happen.
Real Gelato – As mentioned, this may or may not be covered, but it should sit IN the pan and not rise up like Mt. Doom, nor have the appearance of having been pooped out of a soft-serve machine into little mounds.
If you are unsure, simply ask if it is made from a mix or not. If they act super offended then probably they stayed up all night making it themselves and it’s going to be good.
Great Gelato – This is hard to find. Mostly we stuck to ‘Real Gelato’, and just got lucky here and there in finding truly Great Gelato. There are a few different ways to make it, but no one makes it like this one guy we met through friends of ours who we were staying with (AND who read this blog, so: We had a lovely time, that part of our trip to Italy was really nice, please ignore all of the horrible things I am saying in this post about Italy, your week doesn’t count).
They introduced us to a guy who was using science & technology to do crazy gelato things. We tasted some of the greatest gelato in his store after-hours. One of them was literally like the Turkey Dinner Gum thing that Willy Wonka does, the ‘meal in a stick of gum’ thing. I forget exactly what meal it was, but there were actually three courses.
Blew my mind.
In-sum (and this part ended taking even more time than my toilet rant) gelato can make or break your Italy, so make sure you find the good stuff, because it can go downhill from there…
2. Driving a Car – Just don’t do it. I had to drive this:
Which explains why Italian trucks are often (literally) smaller than motorcycles:
More than once I literally experienced something like this:
Agh…I can’t even talk about this. It’s still too fresh. Re-suppressing.
If you chose to ignore the above:
3. Leaving Your Car in the ‘Care’ of the Mafia – I took so long talking about gelato that I don’t even have time to explain this. I’m going to have to tell this story another time. If the words ‘another time’ in the previous sentence are a ‘clickable’ or ‘tapable’ light grey, then you’re in luck, that story has probably been written and you can click on that to read it now.
But for now, just…just don’t do anything that involves organized crime families in Italy.