Italy, Spring 2006

In the April 2005 I had the good fortune to be able to visit Barcelona, Spain. This web page, and the pages it links to, are my notes from the planning I did for a visit to Italy in April of 2006.

For various reasons when I was planning a trip to Spain, Barcelona was, for me, an obvious choice for my visit. Planning a trip to Italy has been more difficult. Italy seems to have more culture per square kilometer than any other place I can think of.

In April of 2006, I spent two weeks in Italy, visiting Venice, Bologna and Siena.

San Francisco (SFO)
(VCE Marco Polo)
Venice to Siena
Siena by train/bus
Siena to Bologna
Bologna by train
Bologna to SFO


There are myriad reasons to visit Venice. Venice is one of the most remarkable cities in the world. Venice is a city built on a lagoon, surrounded by water. The Venice of the modern world is the bones of the Venetian Empire, which for hundreds of years was one of the richest empires in Europe. At its height Venice controlled much of the Mediterranean. This wealth was used to build the churches and palaces that one can see in Venice today.

Venice is considered one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world to visit (having not visited yet, I can't provide an opinion). Venice was a major stop on the Edwardian/Victorian era "Grand Tour" that the sons and daughters wealthy British families undertook before settling down. The Romantic poet Lord Byron lived in Venice for a time.


Tuscany, the Italian region that encompasses Florence and Siena, is renown for its art, architecture, food and the beauty of the countryside.

I originally planned to visit Florence. Many people love Florence, but as I started to read about it, the traffic sounded oppressive. Siena, which is Florence's ancient competitor, sounded like it had the charm of Florence with less impact from the modern world.

The mark of a medieval city was its walls. The walls provided protection from invaders, but perhaps almost as important, the wall provided a physical and emotional demarcation of the city. As European cities expanded, the walls were usually torn down and frequently converted to ring roads. Siena is remarkable in that the city wall still exists.

As it turns out, April 25 is a "liberation day" in Italy and is a holiday. This makes a four day weekend and Siena gets a lot of Italian visitors. I suspect that the crowds in Siena are now as bad as they are in Florence.


When tourists think of Italy they most often think of the frequently visited areas like Venice, Florence and Rome. Bologna is not really on the tourist map. For example, it is difficult to find tourist guides to Bologna. Although Bologna is not as well know as Italy's other tourist spots, it has a reputation of being one of the most unique cities in Italy. In a country that prides itself on food, the food in Bologna is considered some of the best in Italy. It is Bologna that has given the world tortellini and lasagna.

Bologna is also sometimes referred to as "the city that works". In a country mired in dysfunctional bureaucracy and corruption, Bologna is considered a model of what Italy could be. The government is reputed to be relatively efficient and corruption is limited (at least by Italian standards). Bologna also has the unique distinction of having a Communist past. Although few people are Communists these days (including the Chinese), Bologna keeps some faith with its socialist roots.

Socialism without recognition that markets and commerce provide the wealth for the socialist ideal always fails. Bologna seems to have embraced business and the relatively efficient government is probably a welcome change compared to the rest of Italy.

Bologna is also the home of the oldest University in Europe. During the years of the world technology boom in the late 1990s, Bologna was the locus of Italian technology. Although Bologna is not a common tourist destination, it does seem to be a popular site for professional and academic conferences.

Notes on Italy


Venice (Venezia)



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