Pisa, Florence, and Venice – 1992

After taking the overnight train from Paris to Zurich where we rented a car to drive to tour Northern Italy with stops in Genoa, Portofino, Pisa, Bologna, Florence, Venice and ultimately and back to Zurich where we flew home.  We drove right by Cinque Terre (hills towns) as we took the Autostrada and not the local roads. On the way back to Zurich, we drove by Lake Como on a foggy day – so missed two of the great tourist sites and I still haven’t made it back them in 30 years.

Our rental for a couple of weeks

We had smooth sailing in Switzerland but once we got to Italy, ran into some issues. First was the toll on the Autostrada…only took Lira…and spoke no English. After blocking the toll gate for it seemed like forever, we gave them French Francs (at about 10X the rate) to get through. Shortly afterward we needed gas at about 1pm in the afternoon….the Autostrada service area was closed for siesta and we had to sit in the parking lot and wait for the pumps to open. Since this of my first big international trip, I was still in the “but in the USA we wouldn’t have this BS” mindset. But even 30 years later I fall into that mindset, instead of accepting when in Rome….

Ultimately we made in to Genoa and then drove along the Italian Rivera to Portofino. We drove through and couldn’t find a place to stay so ended up a couple miles away in Santa Margherita Ligure at a pensione (step up from hostel) next to the train station. …a lot cheaper than Portofino. Nice, but not quite the same – pictures from the internet.

From Portofino we went to Pisa (bypassing Cinque Terre – didn’t know about it) and to Bologna, Spent a half-day in Bologna (home of my fraternity) wondering around trying to find landmarks…was marginally successful.

Line at the Uffizi – we had been in the line earlier

We pulled into Florence we found a place on the outskirts that was cheap and direct bus access to the historical center. It was pretty much raining most of the trip, so we stood in line for the Uffizi in the rain and we shocked to find it was close from 11am-2pm….we finally made it in as well as the Duomo, Santa Croce, and Ponte Vecchio. We were starting to run low on cash, everything was 2-3 times as much as the USA, but I was really hungry and decided to spurge on a nicer meal. Paid about $10 each (1992 dollars) for a real meal – was less than about 4 ozs of roast chicken for both of us combined…very depressing. Pretty much grocery stores after that.

Ponte Vecchio
Tuscan country-side

Off to Venice and still raining. We found a cheap place on the island and I was tired and Sharon wanted to go to see the glass blowing on Murano Island – so a long nap for me and when she returned 4 hours later and woke me up, she had a rough time….in her own words –


“Decided to venture out on a vaporetti to Murano on my own. The boats were close to our pensione so my confidence was high. Shortly after arriving, however, the stores started to close so I had to hustle out and toward the boats. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong one – and it took me around the island – to the other side. I got off and entered a residential neighborhood and wandered in the rain with my wet map and no umbrella for awhile before meeting a young chemistry student who kindly offered to “accompany me” and share her umbrella with me. After 15 minutes I returned safely to our pensione, made a new friend and Jarrett was none the wiser since he was just waking up from his nap.”

Sharon Cantrell

Complicating her return, was that our penGsione was located in a very hard to find alley on the island. Venice is basically a maze with only directions to key landmarks. Rain continued the entire time we were there. Venice is pretty amazing and now that it is sinking, if you haven’t been it should be on your bucket list.

We left Venice after a couple of days and headed back to Zurich.

(This was written during the Great Shutdown of 2020. My memory isn’t this good, used internet searches to fill in a lot of holes. If there’s huge fat foot below me, it not my fault – that an advertisement I can’t control).


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