This is a very long report but it’s how we wanted to remember our wonderful time.

Like most of our vacations, this one started over morning coffee and the newspaper. It was September 2004 and US Airways was advertising can’t-pass-up $375 roundtrip airfares between Philadelphia & Rome. Though the airline had just filed for bankruptcy, we crossed our fingers and booked it, hoping they would stay aloft until our March travel date.

We had already done all the usual – and not so usual – destinations on our three previous trips to Italy, so with the help of the message boards, Italian web sites, tour books and the like, we settled on an itinerary that promised new Italian enchantments (Le Marche) and a revisit to some old favorites (Tuscany and Umbria). With some mid-trip reshuffling, we ended up staying three nights in Siena (Tuscany), three nights in Macerata (Le Marche), four nights in Spello (Umbria), and the last night in Rome.

This vacation would be my eighth trip abroad with Harriet, my wonderful, beautiful and shopaholic wife who I’ve been with nearly 20 years. But even with travel experience, we made a few rookie mistakes and inevitable mishaps along the way, which I’ll describe later. Nonetheless, it was a great trip.

There aren’t many tourists in Italy in March, so all the usually crowded attractions were ours to explore alone. Another benefit of traveling at this time of year: lunch and dinner reservations were unnecessary. Plus most of the people we encountered were locals so we got a better sense of what the towns were really like without us tourists mucking it up.

A note about this posting: Our vacation destinations are chosen with two criteria in mind: scenery and food. Oh, and shopping; Harriet has to have good shopping. You’ll read a lot about these in my report. What you won’t read about are museums, art galleries and cathedrals. These types of sights aren’t what compel us to pack our bags, kennel our dog and spend eight hours sardined in an airplane seat. We prefer to get off the beaten track and go exploring, interacting with the locals, seeking out the everyday aspects of the place we’re visitiing, and simply just seeing what the rest of the world is like.

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