Subject: Italy - Oct 2002 meanderings
Hi Elizabeth and Ziners,

This may sound strange - but I don't believe that there ARE any Must do's in Italy.

That may need an explanation - before I am lynched! After many visits to Italy, each giving as much pleasure as the last, I believe that anything and everything you see and do in Italy then goes on to the Glad I did that - and would like to do it again soon! list.

What you do with your few days does depend, in the first place, on your particular interests, and in the second, on how much time you have spent in the country previously and where. (You say, for example, that one of your travelling team has been to Napoli.)

Just as an indicator, last month on a longish European trip, I had a week in Italy with friends, one of whom has lived in Italy for 30 years but has seen little of the country, and one of whom has visited only briefly in the past.

We were not blessed with good weather - it rained heavily every day for a week - but we still managed to see and do things that were a pleasure for my friends, for whom each location was new, and for me,although I had visited most of them before.

Of particular joy were the towns like Spoleto and Spello, for example, just to wander and enjoy whatever presented.

In Assisi, we had the wonders of the Giotto frescoes, open to the public after the recent restoration work. And not far from Assisi, the Malvarina agriturismo restaurant has communal tables and good homecooked food. (Linda, I found this one in your travelogues AFTER we had wandered up there to check it out!)

In Foligno, the amazing frescoes at the Palazzo Trinci and the Museo della Citta, re-opened only on 5 October 2002 after the major restorations, post-earthquake, were quite stunning, and the new neighbouring museum of the Commune, with its fascinating exhibits on the tornei, giostre e giochi (festivals of jousting and games, such as the famous Siena Palio, for example) was an unexpected treat, tripped over by chance. To round off the day, we were given a great seafood spread - not on the menu but recommended by a regular diner - at Marechiaro (Via Piermarini 58).

In Lucca (a little further afield but that's a long story for another time), with its 16th century walls and ramparts, there was a chance to revisit to the exquisite marble funeral carving of Ilaria Del Carretto, with the little dog at her feet (The tomb is now located in the Sanctuary of the church and with a hefty-ish admission fee - but so beautiful.)

While in Lucca, try a simple lunch at Trattoria da Leo (Via Tegrimi 1), where the staff break into Opera spontaneously - and from time to time, are joined in song by the diners! In our case, the chorus was a group of Spanish visitors who were completely without inhibition as impromptu performers.

In Pescia, the restaurant/pizzeria Pucci has theatrical staff/owner - but excellent, well priced food.

Perugia was lovely, as always, despite the rain. The National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia seems to have had some significant reorganisation since I was last there, and its treasures are splendidly displayed. If you want to sample the local fare of Perugia, check out Fontanella di Porta Sole and ask the proprietor to give you some local fare. He will simply continue to bring small samples until you beg him to stop! (Don't try this if you are not into beans, sweetbreads, liver and related products!)

Travelling by train will restrict you somewhat, of course, but the train network in Italy brings you in reach of wonderful places - both major centres, such as Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice etc - and the smaller but no less enticing centres, many easily done by day trips from the cities, or en route between them.

One of the resources you might use are the route suggestions from Marco (from Milano). You can find them, as a start, at message number 23099 on 27 August 2002 and 22778 on 7 August 2002, then do a further search the message databank on anything you pick up that sounds interesting.

Come back to us with further questions, as you firm up on your itinerary - and happy planning.

Joan Melbourne, Australia