When retirees decide to travel in their golden years, most people sign up for a tour where everything is planned for them, including airline tickets, hotels, meals, and sightseeing. What they do not know is that there are many advantages to traveling without a tour guide and a set itinerary.
In A Perfect Trip to Italy-in the Golden Years, author and avid traveler Sharon Wilson shares practical tips and advice for those who want to make travel a real adventure without worrying about where they will sleep, eat, or catch the next bus or train. This volume concentrates on Italy and the cities of Florence, Venice, Rome, and Tuscany.
Wilson outlines useful information for choosing the right travel companion, planning the itinerary, preparing for departure with passport and money, and arranging day trips. She also includes an Italian food vocabulary, a list of useful words and phrases, packing tips, and sample recipes.
A Perfect Trip to Italy-in the Golden Years shows that enjoyable travel is still possible over sixty when the joints and bones are aching-neither age nor arthritis need be an obstacle.
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A Perfect Trip to Italy—in the Golden YearsVolume 1: Florence, Venice, Rome, and Tuscany
By Sharon Wilson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Sharon Wilson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChoosing the Right Travel Companions
If you are married, you might not have the choice of a travel companion! On the other hand, choosing travel companions is one of the most important things in planning your trip. When you travel with someone, you really get to know that person at a much deeper level than socializing at a party or going out to lunch with a friend. In the Golden Years, people are often set in their ways and less flexible. Here, I will discuss some important factors in choosing a travel companion. It is not necessary to choose someone just like you, but there is much to be said about compatibility. No matter what you do, there is a lot of walking. However, when you are traveling at your own speed, you can sit down on a bench or rest for a few minutes without losing the group. It is not a good idea to choose a travel companion who wants to get some place in record time!
When you plan your own trip, you can choose your travel companions. When you travel on a tour, you often do not get to choose with whom who you are traveling. Most people are courteous and considerate, but one rude or obnoxious person can ruin your trip.
Through my experience as a counselor, therapist, and teacher in the field of interpersonal relationships, I have learned that the people with whom we associate can determine the enjoyment of our experiences. I have also learned that I can positively or negatively affect the enjoyment of the experiences of others.
I have included some information about factors of personality that can be used in having discussions with your potential travel companions. Most adults have some idea of where they fall on the following continua of personality factors. According to Saucier and Goldberg in The Language of Personality, the five-factor model of personality provides a conceptual framework for integrating all of the research findings and theory in personality psychology. Where you fall on these continua does not mean you are good or bad. It just explains individual differences in personality. I have summarized the five factors of personality and their constituent traits as follows:
A person who is open appreciates art, emotion, and adventure. The open person enjoys unusual ideas and likes a variety of experience. Those who are high in openness are imaginative and intellectually curious. They tend to be more aware of their feelings, and they are willing to share what they are thinking and feeling.
Those who are low in openness are usually down-to-earth and conventional. They tend to have traditional interests. They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may find the arts and sciences boring and uninteresting.
The highly conscientious person shows self-discipline, acts responsibly, and aims for achievement. The conscientious prefer planned rather than spontaneous activity. There are many benefits of high conscientiousness. Conscientious individuals avoid trouble and achieve high levels of success through purposeful planning and persistence. They are also positively regarded by others as intelligent and reliable. On the negative side, they can be compulsive perfectionists or workaholics.
People with very low conscientiousness are often perceived as lazy, irresponsible, and impulsive. This is because they prefer to live for the moment. They have the ability to take things as they come and accept problems as normal occurrences.
Traveling well does take a lot of planning. If one companion is willing to follow along without taking responsibility for some of the adventures, the conscientious person may feel taken advantage of and the low conscientious person may feel "bossed." No one likes to feel demeaned or to be treated like a careless child. Whether you are high or low in conscientiousness, it is important to show respect for your travel companion.
A person high in extroversion exhibits high energy and tends to seek stimulation in the company of others. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals who are likely to say "Yes!" or "Let's go!" to opportunities for excitement. In groups, they like to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves.
Introverts lack the exuberance, energy, and activity levels of extroverts. They tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less involved in the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression. Introverts simply need less stimulation and desire more time alone than extraverts.
If you are an extrovert, just dying to socialize and ready to go to the next activity, you may feel frustrated with an introvert who would rather sit in the apartment and read a book or who would rather sleep on the train than have a conversation. If you are an introvert, an extrovert may overwhelm you.
Agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others and have a real concern for social harmony. They are generally considerate, friendly, generous, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. They believe people are basically honest, decent, and trustworthy.
Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along with others. They do not like to be told what to do. They are generally unconcerned with others' well-being, and they are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others' motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative. Being a team player is important when traveling with one or more travel companions. For example, you may not want to participate in cooking an inexpensive meal at home, but you do anyway just to be part of the team.
Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening. They view minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time. This means they are often in a bad mood. Those with neurotic tendencies have a hard time making decisions and coping with stress.
At the other end of the scale, individuals who score low in neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings. Frequency of positive emotions is a component of the extraversion domain. One example of high neuroticism is the "get my own way" syndrome, when a person becomes moody, untalkative, and resentful if not allowed to do what he or she wants. It is always important to negotiate with friends so that everyone gets what they want sometimes even if at different times. For example, I may want to go to a particular restaurant when others do not. Through negotiation I can get what I want, going to a particular restaurant, but on a different day. There is no need to get bent out of shape over a meal!
Attitude Toward Life
Besides the five factors of personality, a person has other personal characteristics that determine attitude and behavior. There are two main attitudes toward life in general: positive and negative. As we have learned in our elementary science classes, positives and negatives attract. However, when choosing a travel companion, for some strange reason, this principle does not work. Someone who has a positive attitude in life, thinking that most things will turn out well, can be worn down by someone with a negative attitude who is always worrying that something bad will happen. On the other hand, someone with a generally negative attitude will feel overwhelmed by someone who thinks that anything bad will soon turn to good. Therefore, it is important to know your possible travel companion well enough to know whether that person has a basic negative or basic positive attitude.
Although we cannot see or touch our values, they are every bit as real as any physical object. People may dedicate their entire lives or even give up their lives to pursue their values, as so many loyal patriots have done by fighting for the values of freedom, equality, and human rights.
We all have values that determine our decisions and guide our lives. Those who value their individuality take responsibility, act self-reliantly, and behave with self-respect. Those who value truthfulness cannot bring themselves to tell a lie. Those who value family or friendship sacrifice their personal interests for the good of others. Those who value goodness cannot bring themselves to do something that they know is wrong. Some other common values are loyalty, reliability, honesty, generosity, and trustworthiness. Values guide us to take responsibility for family, friends, community, or country. On a more physical level, we may place great value on cleanliness, punctuality, orderliness, accuracy, and physical perfection in whatever we do.
Values determine our political views. Although politics may not come up when you are traveling, a person with extreme political views may cause discomfort in others.
We express values in our relationships with other people. The quality of your travel experience increases if your companions share similar values.
It is fun to share similar interests when traveling, but a travel companion with different interests could make your adventure more interesting. For example, if someone is interested in architecture, you might learn some interesting points about architecture. In addition, if someone is skilled in photography, you might get some good tips on how to take better photos. I learned about "poison rings" from a friend, and it was fun to search the shops and markets to see if I could find one. It might be interesting to explore the different categories of interests that one might have and share these with your potential travel companion. You might learn that you have many interests in common that you would like to incorporate into your adventure. It is important to do some things that may not be your interest because you will enrich your own experience. For example, your friend may want to take a cooking class, and you do not. By taking the cooking class, you will probably find something else that you like such as driving through the Tuscan countryside or participating in a wine tasting.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Sleeping habits can make or break a trip. There are many advantages to going to bed early and rising early when traveling. However, it is no fun to roam the early morning streets or to see a beautiful sunrise with a grumpy, sleep-deprived friend. Street noise and snoring can interfere with your usual seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. I travel with a CPAP machine that prevents my snoring from disturbing others. Most people over sixty do snore. When I was twenty-five, I did not even know if people snored!
If you are used to exercising every day, it is important to maintain that habit when traveling. Fortunately, travel itself is usually a lot of exercise whether walking for miles around a city or climbing five flights of stairs to see a beautiful palace. Your physical condition will determine how many miles you walk or how many steps you will climb. If you are an early morning jogger, it is important to consider safety. Maybe you could jog around a plaza while your arthritic friends savor a caffe latte in a nearby café. In addition, it is just as important to wait patiently for a friend with arthritis who needs to rest every once in awhile.
Everyone has a special way of eating. For some it might mean eating a hearty breakfast or eating dinner early. In the Golden Years, many have problems with gallbladders, hiatus hernias, and irregularity. Spicy or greasy food may not be an option for some. Some of us follow a strict diet of healthy eating while some of us just like to eat, period! It is important to make sure no one is going hungry or experiencing low blood sugar by skipping meals just because you want to make it to a museum line early in the morning.
Food is probably the most expensive item in your travel budget. It is beneficial to plan to eat as many meals as possible in your apartment or to take picnic lunches or snacks with you when you are out traveling for the day. However, who can resist a lunch in a beautiful cafe overlooking the cityscape or watching gondolas glide by? One advantage to eating out in a restaurant is that they usually have nice restrooms.
When you are staying in an apartment, you do not have room service. I think it is considerate to make your bed, clean up in the bathroom, empty trash, wash dishes, and keep your belongings neat and tidy.
You may think that all of this information about personal characteristics is excessive, but I cannot emphasize enough how important your travel companions are to the enjoyment of your trip.
Chapter TwoGetting Ready
In this chapter, you will learn about all of the things that you need to do before you go on a trip to Italy. By preparing well, you will enjoy your trip much more and avoid many of the stresses that may come from traveling. In our Golden Years, most of us have our "senior moments" where we forget important items or events. This chapter can serve as a checklist so that you will not forget important details.
It is a good idea to make sure you have a current passport as soon as you start thinking about traveling because it can take anywhere from four to six weeks to obtain a passport. The easiest way to obtain your passport is to go on-line to either www.travel.state.gov or www.usps.com/passport/welcome. htm. They have two kinds of applications: one for renewals and one for first time passports. A passport is valid for ten years. You have to apply for a new passport if your passport is more than fifteen years old. The fee is usually around $100. You can also go to the post office, get an application, and mail it in.
I also recommend registering with the U.S. Consulate when you are going to be out of the country for a month or more. They can contact you if there is an international emergency of some sort, hopefully not terrorism; they also keep you up to date on health issues like the swine flu and immunizations. You can receive a lot of good information on their Web site at http://travelregistration. state.gov.
Italy uses the Euro as their currency. The conversion rate varies weekly. You can get the most current rates at the Web site: www.xe.com/ucc/. The Euro for 2009 has varied from $1.28 per dollar to $1.51 per dollar. If the Euro is $1.45, something that costs around $10.00 here at home will cost $14.50 when using Euros. Do not use cash express centers in Italy because they will charge you exorbitant fees. The best way to get Euros is to use your debit card at Bancomats (ATMs) in Italy. There are Bancomats all over, including at the airport. You can also use credit cards for many purchases in established stores and large restaurants.
Make sure you check with your bank or your credit card company before you go to notify them that you will be traveling outside of the United States. I know several people who did not and found out they could not use their card in Italy. Also, make sure you have the phone numbers to report a lost or stolen card with you. You might also want to check with your bank to find out what their conversion rates are. For example, Wells Fargo banks charge $5 per transaction. Also, check your daily credit limit. I would recommend that you have at least a $500 daily limit so that you do not have to use the Bancomats so often. Most Bancomats limit withdrawals to 250 Euros but some will allow 350 Euros. If the Euro exchanges at $1.30, that will cost you $455.
Excerpted from A Perfect Trip to Italy—in the Golden Years by Sharon Wilson Copyright © 2011 by Sharon Wilson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Choosing the Right Travel Companions....................1
Chapter 2: Getting Ready....................8
Chapter 3: Planning Your Itinerary....................21
Chapter 4: Getting There....................23
Chapter 5: Getting Settled....................26
Chapter 6: Florence....................33
Chapter 7: Tour Florence by Neighborhoods....................38
Chapter 8: Other Things To Do in Florence....................69
Chapter 9: Eating In Florence....................71
Chapter 10: Shopping In Florence....................74
Chapter 11: Venice....................78
Chapter 12: Milan....................92
Chapter 13: Rome....................97
Chapter 14: Day Trips....................107
Chapter 15: Conclusion....................126
Appendix 1: Italian Food Vocabulary....................127
Appendix 2: Useful Italian Phrases and Words....................131
Appendix 3: Coffee....................133
Appendix 4: Festivals in Florence....................135
Appendix 5: Italian Recipes....................139
Appendix 6: Sample Itinerary....................146
Appendix 7: Sample Packing List....................148