Every year, within hours of the final graduation ceremony at my university, I’m usually Europe-bound, sometimes with a group of students for a study abroad trip, sometimes solo. I always try to leave before May 15, because after that magical date, air prices increase by $700 or so. This year I used frequent flier miles for the trip, and because I booked in December, I could leave any damn day I chose to! I opted to have a week at home after school ended and it was really a nice change, as I felt a lot more together by the time I was ready to leave on the 22nd. I’d made dozens of plane, hotel, car rental and airport shuttle reservations over the last months, and everything was perfectly planned. Or so I thought…
My shuttle to the airport was due at noon, and what usually happens is that they arrive early and I’m scrambling to get my act together, but this time I was ready by 11:45, so when I got the text message saying my van was outside 10 minutes early, I did not panic. I got my bags, clamored down the stairs, and out to the parking lot in front of my building, but there was no familiar blue van in sight. The text I’d received said, “Do not reply,” so I tried calling the number and it simply disconnected on me. Five minutes later I got another text. “We’re waiting outside your apartment.” I wanted to type back, “No, you’re not!”, but of course I could not reply! Searching my reservation info I could not find a bloody phone number to call the company. And when I tried to get online with my phone, my connection was too slow so I could not look up the number! I tried Directory Assistance and after having to explain I was trying to reach San Francisco Super Shuttle about 8 times, they connected me and I had the most confusing conversation ever with a dispatcher who claimed I had no reservation. Turned out this was some OTHER shuttle service, not Supershuttle. By now I had received a third and final warning from the van. I went outside and my neighbors Nancie and Keith were there, and as I filled them in on what was happening, I found a place in the text message that allows you to locate your van on a map. It was evidently parked 5 stories down at the base of my building where there are only garages and trash bins! Keith threw me into his car and drove me down the hill to meet the shuttle, which by then had already gone. Mamma bloody mia!
And so good old Matt, the guy who tries to have things all planned out and would do ANYTHING not to inconvenience anyone around me thankfully accepted the offer of a ride to the airport from Keith. I felt awful for causing him the trouble, but relived to be at the airport on time. After that, check in, security, and boarding all went fine, and to my delight I was seated at the window in a row with NO OTHER PASSENGERS. How often does that happen anymore? I’d be able to spread out and sleep without elbows in my ribs from the passenger beside me. And then, a young woman in her 20’s appeared and took the aisle seat, conspiratorially sharing that she was actually seated across the aisle (with an empty seat beside her), but thought this aisle seat would somehow be better. Oh well, we still had a middle seat between us, but of course she started throwing her backpack, a book, an i-pod, snacks and all kinds of other personal stuff onto the seat between us. At one point I was sleeping, and woke up to find her in a fetal position across her seat and the middle one, her head against my thigh, and her legs up on her tray table so that I could not even get out of the row without having to waken her. People absolutely amaze me. I think she got the message from my body language and loud sighs that I was annoyed, and she vacated the middle seat the rest of the way to Paris.
After a long layover in Paris, it was on to Milano and I was really looking forward to getting to my airport hotel and being horizontal for a while after 15 hours of sitting on planes. I called my hotel and they said they would send a shuttle right over to get me and to stand in front of Exit 3 in the Terminal. It was hot and there was no shade, and I was getting antsy when my phone rang and the woman from my hotel said, “Mr. Davis, where are you? Our driver can’t find you!” Shades of Super Shuttle all over again! I am a 280 pound redheaded man. You could spot me from Jupiter! Why can’t shuttle drivers find me? I explained I was directly in front of Exit 3 at Arrivals, wearing a red and white shirt, and carrying a big green bag. A few minutes later the phone rang again. “The driver cannot see you”.
To make a painfully long story shorter, I’d mistakenly told them I was at Terminal UNO, but of course I was really at Terminal DUE… and so, mystery solved, the rather frustrated driver finally found me at the correct terminal and I apologized all the way to the hotel! I stayed in the little town of Casorate Sempione at Hotel Osteria Della Pista, a hotel attached to a famous osteria, a more informal type of restaurant, that has been around for 150 years. Pista, the owner explained, means “Runway” in reference to the proximity to the airport, but it also means a “racetrack” for horses, and the hotel was adorned with many photos of horses. This town outside Milan is filled with stables and is famous for dressage horse training, making me wish my cousin Marsha from Virginia could be with me, as she used to do dressage with her horses.
I had a nice walk around town, soaking in the many families strolling the town square for their evening walk or passegiata, a tradition in every city and town in Italy, and then I went to dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. The waiter was so friendly and kind, and I had a beautiful pizza and a seafood pasta and felt happy to be back in Italy. I noticed a man who appeared to be the manager, casually circling, almost prowling around the room like a combination of policeman patrolling the neighborhood or the Godfather! It made me laugh because at my favorite Italian restaurant in San Francisco, E` Tutto Qua, the owner, Enzo does the same routine. I almost coughed on my pasta when this guy approached guests who were just arriving at the restaurant and they all shrieked, “Ciao, Enzo!” Parallel universes… parallel Enzos.
The next morning It was back on the shuttle over to TERMINAL DUE to catch my flight to Athens and then on to the island of Mykonos. The trip to Athens was fine, but when I tried to get the boarding pass for my second flight I was told that the flight was overbooked and that I was on stand-by for the flight, with a slim chance of getting on board! Mamma Mia (I wish I knew the Greek equivalent). So for two hours I waited nervously, fretting about whether I would lose a night on Mykonos, which had been paid in advance, and whether my rental car would be held for me. I watched as the plane loaded and heard 5 stand-by passengers’ names called; mine was not one of them! I was told that I was guaranteed a seat on a 7PM flight (it was 4:30 PM now) but that because of my inconvenience, I would receive a free ticket from Athens to any Greek Island I wanted, good for one year, and 250 Euros in cash as compensation for my troubles. This did make things a lot less painful. I called the car rental company to tell them my new arrival time and all was OK. And then, JUST as I was boarding my 7PM flight I received a text message from Volotea Airlines informing me that my flight from Mykonos to Venice on Sunday was in danger of disruption because of an air traffic controllers’ strike scheduled in Italy for that day. Mamma mia! And people ask me why I prefer driving to flying whenever possible…
And so I arrived on Mykonos, got my car and drove the ridiculously narrow and bumpy roads out to the north end of the island to the Mykonos Star Hotel, arriving at 8:30 PM. George, the owner, had been concerned for me as I’d said I would arrive by 5:30 and he hadn’t received the text message I’d sent him to tell him I’d be late. Did I mention how much I hate technology? Sigh. But all was well, and I settled right into what has to be one of the most welcoming and tranquil hotels on the planet, a little cliff-top “village” of natural stone and white stucco, surrounding an enormous azure swimming pool and overlooking the darker Aegean Sea below. I was really looking forward to relaxing and charging my batteries at this place.
The hotel is run by Sia, the matriarch of the family, whose husband built the place, but passed away a few years ago and her son George. Sia is always wearing black, even on the warmest of days, and can be seen walking around the property with her dog or helping out in the dining area. Olga, the breakfast waitress remembered me instantly when I appeared for breakfast the first morning and greeted me like a long lost friend. I love places like this. The hotel was rather quiet, as it was still early in the season. The other guests were a quiet Italian couple, a very reserved Indian couple, and a group of three very funny gay Irishmen whose conversations were reminiscent of the banter in the British film, “The Trip”.
After settling in, I made the 20 minute drive to Mykonos town and dined at Captain’s, a seafood restaurant right on the small harbor that I’d visited last year. There was grilled calamari and tomato fritters and a Greek salad… the standard island fare. Conveniently, next door there is a fantastic gelato place called Gelarte, which is really wonderful though the price of a cone there is about double what you’d expect to pay in Italy. Oh well, you can’t put a price on good gelato!
My next three days were wonderfully lazy. It was uncharacteristically cool in Mykonos for this time of year – maybe 70 degrees with the water temperatures hovering around 67. I still managed to spend some time in their gorgeous saltwater infinity pool, from where you can rest your head on the side and gaze out at the Aegean Sea. I also took the short hike down to the beach below the cliff where the hotel is located, and had a nice long swim there as well. Even though the water was brisk, the warm sun helped.
Breakfast was always a happy affair, with Olga laying out quite a spread each morning in the open air dining area that looks out over the pool and the sea. There were fresh fruits, little spinach and cheese pies that were still slightly warm from the oven, cereals, homemade orange cake, eggs with bacon or ham, cheese, jam, Greek yogurt with honey, and coffee, and the quality of everything was top-notch. As soon as I left my room I’d know whether the Irishmen were at breakfast because when they were there, you could hear every word they were saying. They are from the part of Ireland where the TH sound in English is pronounced like a hard T, so I could always hear the details of what they TINK or what they TAUGHT (Think or thought) from far, far away. But they were very funny and kind and since they come to Mykonos regularly, they had a few recommendations for me.
One place they recommended was Vegera, located right beside Captain’s on the harbor. I went there on Night 2, and got a seat right at the front of the outdoor terrace overlooking the harbor. Unfortunately, the menu stand in front of the restaurant was about 6 feet away. Beside it stood the host, a man of perhaps 40 with a neatly trimmed beard, long, Jesus-length hair, and a deep tan. (If any of you are fans of the TV show Lost, he was a dead-ringer for the character Desmond! I kept looking to be sure that wasn’t who it was! He approached almost every person or group passing by the restaurant and gave a well-rehearsed, slightly smarmy pitch for “joining us for dinner”. He described fish preparations in painful detail and always said, “And we have a table right over there so that you can dine al fresco this evening”. After hearing it all about 50 times I was ready to throw a roll at him! Dinner was OK, but nothing to write home about, so I won’t! But toward the end of the dinner, “Desmond” and a jewelry-shrouded woman whom I believe was the manager stood inches from my table and kept staring at me, and the message was clear that it was time for me to go so that other people could dine al fresco. A single man beside me ordered coffee and dessert and then made the mistake of going to the restroom, and like vultures, another party swept in and jewelry started clinking deafeningly as the woman began clearing the table for them. I interjected that the man was not finished with his meal and had just ordered more food, so she backed off and the man was grateful for my help when he returned. Let’s just say I would not go back to this place again, and to top it off they served one of the most bland and unappetizing Greek salads I have ever had.
Another dining spot that was on my radar, listed on Tripadvisor as the #1 place to eat on the island, was Kiki’s Taverna. This place was just over a hill from my hotel, overlooking a deserted stretch of beach and only operates from 1 to 7 PM, as they have no electrical hook-up. They cook all the meats and seafood on an open grill, and they take no reservations. The buzz was that service was strictly first come, first served, and you can’t just put your name in and go down to the beach while waiting. At least someone from your party must stay in line at all times. Tripadvisor tales told of a pregnant woman asking for an exception and Kiki firmly telling her she would have to wait in line like everyone else. Another reviewer said she’d broken the rule and gone off to the beach, came back, and Kiki busted her. She tried to say she’d been in the ladies’ room when he’d called her name, but he said he’d already checked there. “Back to the end of the line for you!” One other review likened Kiki to the “Soup Nazi” on Seinfeld. So I was intrigued and a little apprehensive!
I decided to give Kiki’s a try. I’d heard you have a shot at getting in for the first seating at 1:00 if you arrive at 12:30, so I walked over and found at least 40 people sitting mostly in the sun at 12:20! A large man, perhaps 60 years old and wearing a purple and blue hibiscus aloha shirt introduced himself. “I am Kiki. I am sorry, but there is no room for you in the first seating. Next chance is 2:00.” Thoroughly disappointed I walked down to the beach, but it was smaller and more crowded than the one at my hotel, so I started to trudge back up the hill past the restaurant and saw everyone going inside. On a whim, I hopped to the back of the line, but with only 2 other couples in front of me, we were told the place was full. However, there were now seats in the shade and Kiki said we would be the first three parties seated once someone left. An added incentive for waiting is that Kiki provides free, unlimited wine and cold water while you wait. So I found a seat in the shade and waited probably 55 minutes, all the while talking to people and passing the time quite well. Within the first 15 minutes, another 30 or 40 people had arrived and were waiting behind the chosen 3, and Kiki kept completely accurate track of who arrived first and second, etc. without ever writing anything down! He would just point at people and say, “You are first, you second, you third (that was me!), you next, you next…” I honestly do not know how he keeps track, but it was impressive because after the first few chairs were taken, people were randomly sitting on steps or on the ground in no particular order. I have seen more haggling and anger displayed at American restaurants when there are names on a waiting list than I saw at Kiki’s that day. The couple ahead of me in line were Asian, but as soon as they spoke I heard decidedly American accents. They live in Daly City, just outside of San Francisco. A small world indeed, and we had a good chat while we waited.
At about 1:55, the first three parties were invited in and I got a great table in the middle of the “room”. I use quotes because basically it felt like being in a large treehouse and in the middle of it, a huge olive tree shaded the entire room. The sea was visible out front, it was cool and comfortable, and the service was friendly and calm, with no pressure to hurry up and eat to make way for the throngs gathered outside. My waiter invited me to go inside to the “salad bar” to choose the salads I wanted with my meal. Inside, a pleasant, blond woman with a heavy Greek accent welcomed me and pointed to a huge deli case that must have contained 16 options. She went through each and every one, explaining what was in them. I opted for a beet and green apple salad, and a sweet red pepper and feta salad, and she told me they’d be brought to my table. For my meal I ordered the octopus salad (I would never have imagined it years ago, but octopus is now one of my favorite meals… in Greece and Italy at least. Not sure whether I’d order it in Bakersfield or Newark!) I also ordered grilled chicken stuffed with feta and sun dried tomatoes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into!
The portions were enormous! Between my bread, my two salads, and my beer, I was already getting full. I know that taking home “doggy bags” of food is completely foreign to Europeans, but the octopus and the beet salads were so good, I did not want to waste any of them and I’d only managed to eat half of each. My waiter assured me that of course they could pack those for me, and I thought they would make a perfect dinner later that night. Then came the chicken: two huge breasts, stuffed with cheese and tomato and accompanied by delicious fried potatoes, and the chicken was cooked to perfection. I really wasn’t able to finish that entirely, and all I could do was laugh when my waiter suggested the house chocolate cake. When he delivered the bill, he brought out two drink cups, lids, carefully taped shut, containing my two salads. Across the way my friends from Daly City had asked to take home their chicken and out came the waiter with what looked like a small Easter basket made entirely of foil, with a handle and everything! Very clever! It was all definitely an experience worth waiting for and the friendly, no pressure atmosphere was a welcome difference from Vegera the night before!
That day I wanted to stay “close to home” and relax, something that I am realizing is very difficult for me to give myself permission to do. There is a constant feeling of anxiety or guilt that I should be doing something other than lying in the shade by the pool listening to my favorite Italian music on my mp3 Walkman or just floating in the sea. I did it, but it was a struggle. I need to work on that a bit more. Another issue I’m dealing with is some sort of pinched nerve in my back that seems to connect to my left arm. I’ve actually been having problems with it since March, 2016. It comes and goes, but began bothering me again a few weeks ago, and a masseur I see regularly worked the hell out of it before I left and it felt a lot better. But perhaps due to the cramped seats on my flights and the hoisting of luggage in and out of airports and rental cars and hotels, the pain is back with a vengeance. It floats around to different locations in the left arm, but if I move my neck one way, the pain shoots down my arm and often produces a dull ache in my hand. Other times I can pick up a suitcase and I feel nothing, but if I try to adjust a pillow in the middle of the night, I get a jolt of pain that wakes me right up.
So, I called a local spa and made an appointment for a reasonably priced massage, and my masseur was a 6’6 tank of a man named Zak, who is from Montenegro, but works on Mykonos for the summer. For the first time ever during a massage I thought I was going to have to ask him to stop, because when he worked on parts of my back, the pain in my arm was almost too much to endure. Still, I know from experience that sometimes painful knots have got to be released and things will feel better later, so I bit into the pillow and prayed! Zak suggested that I might want to get an “M.R” when I got home, and I gleaned that he meant an MRI. Home is a long, 5 weeks off, so I was hopeful that the massage would work for now, and I have to say that within two days things were decidedly better. It’s still there, but I can deal with it at least.
The third night of my stay, the weather became very cool and from about 2AM till 7AM we had thunder and lightning storms and torrential rain that made me think of the tales of Odysseus. It sure sounded like Zeus was pissed off. Of course I love storms, so I enjoyed every minute, but when I went to breakfast on what was now a sunny morning, Sia greeted me and inquired about my reaction to the storm. I shocked her when I said, “Wasn’t it beautiful?!” Her face became a mask of horror and she gasped, “Beautiful? It was TERRIBLE! I hate these storms. I was afraid all the night! Beautiful?” and she walked away shaking her head and chuckling nervously.
On my last day on the island, I decided to drive out to a place called Fokos Beach on the eastern side of the island. I have to say that in general, the scenery on Mykonos is not all that dramatic except for the beaches and the town itself. Otherwise it is very dry with a lot of concrete slab buildings, many of which seem to have had construction halted before they were completed. And so the drive out to Fokos Beach was nothing special, but the beach was picturesque.
I had a late lunch/early dinner at the Fokos Taverna, a rather elegant looking restaurant that, like Kiki’s, is completely open air and only open from 1 to 7 PM. I had a seat overlooking the beach and was treated to an absolutely fantastic Greek salad and delicious moussaka (a sort of Greek take on either shepherd’s pie or lasagna!) that the owner claimed his wife had just made fresh that afternoon. On the way “home” I stopped at N’ice Cream, despite its cutesy name. It’s a place that serves homemade French and Greek pastries and is known for its gelato. I had a cocoa gelato with tiny bits of candied violets! How’s that for a unique flavor? And I took a piece of my favorite island specialty, orange pie (which is much more cake-like) to have later that night.
So as I packed my bags that night I had looming anxiety about whether my flight to Venice would actually take off due to the Italian Air Traffic Controller’s strike scheduled for Sunday. Powerless to do anything about it, I drove to the airport to return my car, and as one of the rental company’s employees went out to inspect my car, I saw her start kneeling beside the vehicle and I thought, “This cannot be a good thing.” I was right. She came into the building and informed me that there was a scratch on my rear bumper that had not been there upon picking up the vehicle. Oh brother. I followed her back out and after kneeling and squinting I finally saw what could not have been a scratch ¼ of an inch long and a scuff mark beneath it. I have no idea when or how it happened, but assume it could have been someone tapping my bumper in a parking lot. Evidently no new scratch is too small for Europcar, and I was promptly charged $200 for the “damage.” I was pissed off, but not panicked, as I have an insurance policy I buy every year for $50 that covers any excess charges incurred on any car rentals throughout the year, but of course it will mean a ton of paper work to get the refund. Grrr.
On to the airport where the airline staff who checked me in said that it appeared all was well and that our flight would depart on time. However, as the departure time came and went and no announcements were forthcoming, it became painfully obvious we were delayed. About 45 minutes after the planned departure we finally boarded, and the plane was really almost empty; I counted only 25 passengers and the flight attendants told everyone to sit forward of row 15, even though their boarding passes were for much father back. I was in an exit row in row 15 because I’d paid a few extra dollars for Volotea’s complete package of premium seat, priority boarding (we were all thrown onto the same bus and driven to the airplane, so not sure that that perk was worth it!), and a snack and beverage. I was traveling like royalty… royalty from a small, broke, pathetic nation, but royalty nonetheless! As we rolled back from the gate, we were then told that we had to wait at least a half hour for a further update, but that we could conceivably be delayed 4 hours due to the strike in Italy. This was starting to feel like the trials of Odysseus, but then not 5 minutes later saying we got an announcement that were leaving. It was hard to keep up.
As the flight attendants began the safety briefing, I had a woman standing directly in front of me at Row 15. She began to go through the motions, and I turned around to see that there was absolutely no one sitting behind me. She giggled, and said I was the only passenger seated in her section. It was like something out of a sitcom as she explained everything about seat belts, oxygen masks and life rafts to me and only me. And then, we were in the air, and soon thereafter came the food and beverage cart. When they got to me, they asked if I wanted anything and I asked what snack was included with my premium package. They looked very confused and checked their manifest and discovered that yes, Mr. Davis in Row 15 was entitled to a snack of EITHER a Snicker’s Bar, peanuts or crackers. Trying not to laugh, I chose crackers. Then they tried to charge me for a bottle of water and I then had to remind them that I was not just any passenger; I was a premium package kinda guy who was entitled to my free drink. The absurdity of it all was hilarious. Here I was bartering and arguing for crackers and water! I felt like a D-List celebrity.
And so we rolled into Venice about 75 minutes late, but I was happy to be there, and relived that my rental car was still waiting for me. Within minutes of touching down I was on the autostrada heading toward the Dolomiti, Italy’s section of the Alps. I’d made a reservation for a lakeside resort at the oddly named MAANJA Lakefront Hotel. I didn’t know whether MAANJA was a long acronym or whether it was a phonetic spelling of MANGIA! I didn’t ask, so I will probably have to live with the uncertainty, but I arrived at this very remote hotel at about 6PM and mine was the only car in the parking lot. I went inside and met Umberto, a jolly young man who was born in the Naples suburb of Ottaviano, one of the cities at the base of Vesuvio where I collected survey data from residents about their fear of risk from a potential eruption. Oddly, my friendly, personalized flight attendant on the plane had said she was from another Neapolitan suburb, Boscoreale, where I also distributed surveys, so that was an odd coincidence.
At any rate, Umberto said that the hotel had been completely full Friday and Saturday nights, but that I was one of only two guests on this Sunday evening. It was a little creepy, not unlike the hotel in the film, The Shining and I hoped Jack Nicholson was not planning to come barging through my door with an axe that night. The room was simply stunning, with very modern furnishings and an entire wall of glass looking out on the neon-aqua colored glacial lake. I planned to relax a bit and then have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant at 8PM.
When I arrived at the beautiful, glassed in dining room, Umberto greeted me wearing a waiter’s apron and getting me seated. He said he’d be my waiter this evening and laughed when I asked whether he was the chef here too, but he assured me there was someone else in the kitchen. It was a little awkward, as I was the only diner in this cavernous room, and Umberto kept going in and out of the kitchen and just kind of hanging out. I asked him for any suggestions about what to order and he urged me to try the Frico, a local standard in this part of Italy made from potatoes and cheese, as my appetizer, and that sounded good to me. The chef had prepared “frico three ways”: one fried like a giant potato chip, one baked like a small cake, and one cooked on the stove that sort of resembled a pancake. They were all good, especially the baked one. Umberto caught me taking a picture of the frico, and I mentioned I have a travel blog. Unfortunately, he told the chef and the chef came out to talk to me and was excited about me writing about them in my blog. I say “unfortunately” only because the meal sort of went downhill from there.
I made the mistake of asking Umberto to recommend which pasta to order, and he suggested the house-made gnocchi stuffed with cheese and in a brown butter sauce. It arrived on another fried version of the frico, and of course, what is gnocchi made of? It’s potato pasta and stuffed with cheese. I was rapidly experiencing an overdose of cheese and potatoes and potatoes and cheese! I think I’d have liked it better if I hadn’t had all the frico first. And then there was dessert: Umberto described something to me that sounded like a ricotta and lemon torte or pie, but he did use the word “pasta” when he described it. That can sometimes mean pastry. Well, in this case it really meant pasta: the dessert turned out to be tortellini pasta, boiled and served hot, stuffed with ricotta and covered in a watery and really flavorless blueberry sauce. The chef kept coming out to check on me, and was so nice, as was Umberto, and I did not want to hurt their feelings, but it was really an effort to finish that dessert and I cursed every calorie I was consuming. Sigh.
By now it was after 10PM, and another couple had come in and was sitting at the far end of the room. I was exhausted from a day of travel that started with my rental car fiasco, and was still on “Greece Time”, an hour later than Italy. The chef grabbed a guitar from the corner of the room, came over and said something about how giving me something else to write about in my blog, sat at my table and began to play and sing. God bless him, he was passionate about it, but frequently just stopped singing words and hummed or stopped mid-song. The couple far across the room applauded and he kept doing encores, and again, I did not want to hurt his feelings but I was ready to fall face first into the remains of my blueberry tortellini. I finally excused myself and returned to my room, where I pretty much had to sit in the dark because the ultra-modern lights were great for mood, but not very practical and I could not even fathom how they worked. Luckily I was so tired, I stopped trying to figure them out and crashed for the night.
The next day breakfast was served. The chef’s adorable dog, Lulu was loose in the restaurant and sat by my table the whole time despite Umberto’s attempts to shoo her away. My eggs and bacon were very tasty, but some of the little cakes I’d chosen from the buffet were rather dry, and Lulu was only too eager to help me finish them up. “Where were you when when I needed help with my blueberry tortellini?” I asked her. She just stared, and I know she was laughing inside.
And so I’m now safely in Italy’s gorgeous Dolomiti Alps, and will be roaming the country for the next three weeks, heading for Verona, Tuscany, the Veneto region, Venice itself, Rome, Milan and the Cinque Terre. There will be more on all of that later, but for now, you have my Mykonos story with some Italian bookends on at the start and finish. Ciao!
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