Thursday, January 24, 2019

Italy - Prep Work...

Well, after talking about an Italy trip since we went to Ireland in August, I finally pulled the trigger. 

In April, I'm going to spend eight full days in Italy. It'll be just me, my Canon 6D MKII and a Citroen C4. I'll be based in Rome, but side trips are definitely going to be on the agenda. I plan on visiting the Amalfi Coast (which looks amazing) and Florence, and I'd also like to do a trip across the country to the Adriatic Sea, just to say I did it. 

Unlike those maniacs in Ireland, Italians drive on the proper side of the road. Even still, I'm told that traffic in and around Rome can escalate to insane levels, so I rented something small with an automatic transmission. The Citroen C4 will never be accused of being the sportiest ride on the road, but it ain't bad:


It's got a 16 gallon tank and gets roughly 37 miles to the gallon, so a tank of gas is going to get me well over 500 miles. The Amalfi Coast is only 170 miles from Rome, so a tank of gas makes that trip easily. Pescara, which is on the Adriatic Sea, is only 130 miles away; yet another easy trip. Aside from those side trips, I'm going to be staying only a few miles from the Vatican, so when I want to get into the city center I can either take a shuttle from the hotel (for only €3) or drive and deal with parking. It'll be nice to have the car, though, when I want to do some night shooting and the shuttle's not running.

Everyone's been asking where I'm going to be staying. Did I pick some bed & breakfast along the coast of the Mediterranean? A quaint little inn downtown where English is a seventh language? No, it would be neither. See, one thing I've learned after years of traveling is that things can often go sideways and, when they do, those smaller, quaint inns aren't always prepared to deal with problems. So, I'll be staying at Holiday Inn Rome - Eur Parco Dei Medici. Now, I don't know what all of that means, but I do know that it means I'll be staying at a four star property with all of the amenities one would expect from a worldwide brand. 

And, hey, the rooms look pretty nice:




One of the things that's bound to be a challenge is the language barrier. Of course, I suspect that the hotel staff will speak English, as will those working at most of the tourist attractions in and around Rome. But what about when I'm somewhere between Rome and Bergamo, and I have a question about something? The further away you get from the metropolitan areas the less likely English will be widely spoken.

Enter this little guy:


The Multi-Language Portable Smart Voice Translator (couldn't they have come up with a shorter name for it?) lets you translate on the fly. You speak into it and it instantly translates what you say into one of 30 different languages. It boasts an insane accuracy rate and translates whatever you say in as little as .2 seconds. And, what's nice is that whoever you're talking to can speak into it and it will instantly translate that speech into English. The unit was $100, which is more than I think I would normally spend on an impulse buy, but it could prove to be a bargain if it works the way they say it does.
 
And, since this is going to be a full-blown photo trip, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my two favorite apps. 

First (and thankfully), my favorite GPS app, Waze, works in Italy. It's the most accurate GPS app I've found, and it even works better than my dedicated Garmin GPS unit (which hasn't seen the light of day in over a year). It will be indispensable on those day or overnight trips outside of Rome.

Second, RGPS (Really Good Photo Spots) will come in awfully handy when I'm wondering where to go to shoot. Sure, when I'm in Rome there's plenty to photograph and it's all pretty easy to find. But I could be in Florence and not know that there's a great scenic view only a mile down the road and around a bend. RGPS clues me into those things.

So, the games begin. Over the next couple of months I'll be dialing in the things to do and the tours to take. The "hop on/hop off" bus that we did for two days in Dublin was fantastic, and they have something similar in Rome. I can't imagine not doing that, as it really is the best way to move around a city and see the main sites. 

From a photographer's perspective, there's so much to see and photograph in Rome, and the rest of the country, that I'm already wondering if I should've done a longer trip!










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