A group of Halifax County residents were among a large group of history enthusiasts, who had the opportunity to tour Italy over a two-week period beginning June 24.
Sue and Abbey Bales and Paige and Les Powell III, in addition to a number of family members and friends, were part of a tour group that visited Rome, the Colosseum, Naples, the Statue of David, ruins of Pompeii, Caprio, Florence, Tuscan Winery, Pisa, Stresa, Venice, Verona and Locarno, Switzerland.
Also on the tour were Trip Womack, Les Powell IV, Kelly Payne and Aidan O’Kelly, Luke O’Kelly and Noah O’Kelly.
The 11-day tour included stays at five premium hotels, including three nights at the Grand Hotel Palatino in Rome.
After an overnight flight, the tour began in Rome on June 25 and included three days in the Eternal City, where the group toured the Roman Forum, the Circus Maximus and the Arch of Constantine, in addition to the Pantheon.
The group journeyed to the Bay of Naples, the Isle of Capri, Sorrento Coast and Florence, where they visited the Academy Gallery and Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.
The tour continued with a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and to Venice and its famous canals.
On July 3, the group embarked on a boat trip to Murano Island for a glass blowing demonstration among other activities, and on July 4 they departed Venice for Verona, which was the backdrop for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
On July 5, the group crossed over into Switzerland and the lakeside resort of Lugano, where they traveled by boat to Isola dei Pescatori for a farewell dinner.
What really struck Bales was how old Italy is compared to places she’d seen before like Colonial Williamsburg.
“What really shocked us was how old things were,” said Bales. “We think Williamsburg is old, but Williamsburg is just a baby compared to Italy. It’s so old and beautiful.”
Venice, in her mind, is cool and beautiful, and the architecture as a whole, particularly the churches, is “amazing.”
The Italian cuisine provided on the tour was good, and the Italian people, particularly southern Italian people, were very nice, Bales noted.
“Everybody was really nice,” said Bales. “We were asked to say thank you and other things in Italian, but we really didn’t see anybody who wasn’t nice.”
The city of Rome is just that, a city, and maybe too big for her tastes, but Venice and Sorrento are beautiful, and Capri is breathtakingly beautiful, according to Bales.
Like the weather here in Halifax County, the weather in Italy during late June and early July was hotter than average, and the tour group spent time adjusting to the extreme heat.
A number of meals were included in the tour, with breakfast provided on 11 different occasions, dinner on four occasions and lunch on one occasion.
“The food was wonderful, not greasy and very healthy,” Bales explained.
Ingredients seemed fresher as well, she added.
“They didn’t use much garlic, and the pizzas were our favorites,” Bales pointed out.
Overall, the tour group spent 11 days overseas, not counting time spent in the air.
“We stayed in really nice places,” explained Bales.
Hotels hosting the tour group included the Grand Hotel Palatino in Rome, the Towers Hotel in Castellamare di Stabia, the Grand Hotel Balioni in Florence, the Bellini in Venice and the Regina Palace Hotel in Stresa.