In mid November I was fortunate enough to take my wife and two daughters to Italy for an incredible two week vacation. I know it is a cliché, but it was definitely a trip of a lifetime. First of all, for those of you that have been around me know that I NEVER take two weeks in a row off. Secondly, we did not touch our cell phones and only got on-line twice during the whole trip. That, in and of itself, was a blessing. Looking at it now, it amazes me how we are all attached to our cell phones and computer in our everyday lives like an IV bag at the hospital.
After about three or four days of real relaxation, I finally started to get the adrenaline out of my system, and have a blast. We started our adventure in Rome. We had a very tight connection in NYC on our flights to Rome, that our bags missed the plane. We were having such a good time that we didn’t even care. Rome is such a magical city where the modern day life takes place right in the middle of an ancient city. Sometimes, you can’t quite believe what you are seeing. It was priceless to see our girls taking it all in that we didn’t even notice that our luggage was missing but we eventually got it about 36 hours later. We saw the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel and the Coliseum, but we had just as much fun just walking all over the city exploring.
Needless to say, the food was amazing. We stayed at the De La Ville hotel at the top of the world famous Spanish Steps which gave us easy access to all the finest shopping and restaurants. We spent hours just strolling up and down the Via Veneto the equivalent to Rodeo Dr. in Beverly Hills and doing nothing. It turns out that Europeans are really good at doing nothing. It is obvious that they are enjoying their lives. Don’t get me wrong they do work because they want the finer things in life…BUT they actually stop and enjoy life a lot more than we do in America. We stayed in outstanding 4 and 5 star hotels and ate at the finest restaurants, but were surprised at the lack of speed of service. At first we were frustrated then we realized that the service was excellent it was just not at the American breakneck pace that we were used to. It took a while to slow down, but once we did, it was liberating.
The only bad part of the entire trip was our experience at the Zilli store on the Via Veneto. I was given a Zilli jacket many years ago as a gift and was dying to buy something there. I immediately found a Cashmere jacket that was lined with Chinchilla. (Please do not be mad at me if you are an animal activist, it turns out that these particular chinchillas had died in a tragic car crash) Anyway, I was trying it on and asked one of my daughters to feel the inner-lining. NOW, if you have never felt Chinchilla fur, it is undoubtedly some of the finest, softest fur that you will ever feel and I believe that this is what all the clothes are lined with in Heaven. As my lovely, children went to feel it, the Jackass is charge went crazy yelling at me AND my children. What a pathetic salesperson. Then he muttered under his breath that we were STUPID Americans. That was a BIG mistake on his part. I had some very select “American” words for him and we were on our way out of that store. As we continued to walk we found the exact same coat at Brioni and the sales person encouraged my daughters to feel the fur. I assure you that before I leave this earth, I will buy that coat from Brioni, and wear it in to see that imbecile.
The next day we took the train to Milan after that and hit the most gorgeous shopping mall I have ever seen. It is actually hard to call it a mall. It is a converted historic building that may have been a cathedral at one time. It is breathtaking and houses all the best Italian stores including Prada’s flagship store. We spent quite a bit of time in that store, and my wife assures me that we saved a tremendous amount of money there because the products are much higher in the USA after the importing costs are added. I’m not sure I follow her logic, but it was great to see her and the girls run amuck in that place.
We then set off for my personal favorite…Venice. I can’t exactly put it in words, but Venice is absolutely wonderful. We stayed at the Ca Marie Adele, which may be one of my favorite hotel in the world. The staff takes customer service to a level that I have never experienced. We walked all over Venice. We visited the Palace of the Dogie’s, rode in Gondola’s and strolled around St marks Square. We enjoyed my birthday dinner at a spectacular restaurant called Do Forni. Now this restaurant is known as The Restaurant of Venice and to say “WOW” to the food just does not give it justice.
If you are looking for a romantic setting, look no further. Venice is The Deal. Think about what they have done with a city that is technically flooded! Talk about turning a negative into a positive. We finished our trip to Venice with a trip to the world famous Murano Glass Factory. What an amazing experiace it was to see the level of craftsmanship it takes to make those pieces. In another example of European patience, a Murano glass maker must serve as an apprentice for fifteen years before they have a chance to be elevated to a Master Craftsman. I honestly believe that the biggest reason that most people never reach their dreams is that they think very short term. I honestly believe that Nothing of True Greatness Will Come Quickly.
We were very fortunate to get an exclusive tour to see the pieces of their glass that are considered Fine Artwork. There is a figure of Moses holding up the Ten Commandments that is on my Goal Cards and will stay there until those Commandments are residing with me in Dallas, Texas.
The bad news is we eventually had to leave Venice. The good news is we were headed to Florence. We visited the famous David statue which is truly awe inspiring. Everyone should really see Michael Angelo’s masterpiece in person before they die. The detail on that statue is absolutely unbelievable. Especially when you learn that he took a defective piece of marble that two other great artists had tried to carve and gave up on, and he turned that into the incredible likeness of David from the Bible.
Florence also is noted for having the best food in Italy, and you will get no argument from us. We ate at several amazing restaurants but the hole in the wall Birreria Centrale is one you must go to when you visit Florence. The Cathedral in the center of town was built in the 1400’s and it is a marvel to behold. Right adjacent to it are the Golden Doors to Heaven. It is all breathtaking and just beautiful to see the amazing structures.
Our trip concluded back in Rome. This time we stayed at the Hotel Splendide Royal. What a way to go out. We ate our last two dinners at Harry’s Bar (the place that everyone who’s anyone must eat at) or so they say anyway, and then we conclude with the indescribable Mirabelle at the top of the Splendide Royal hotel. The breathtaking view is only out done by the sumptuous food.
Amazingly considering all of the delicious food we consumed, we did not put on any weight on our trip. That is pretty amazing is you ask me and it is all do to our life changing diet planned by our nutritionist Kira. She keeps it so simple and takes no excuses from her clients. We really appreciated her cusom teachings and suggestions on this incredible trip.
As a final thought, I will tell you that although I did learn several valuable lessons from observing the Italian lifestyle, I also realized some very profound things about life back home in America. As good as the Italian food was,ours is better. Not only that, it’s consistently better all over the place. Our cars and homes and stores are bigger and better too. Unless you have traveled abroad (and really paid attention) you cannot possibly know how good we have it. I loved visiting Italy, but I love living in America. We do focus on material things a bit too much, and do burn the candle at both ends too, but all in all, I could not imagine living anywhere else.
I truly hope that you take the time and money to do a trip like this with your family (or by yourself) before your time on earth is done. You can do anything you set your mind and your heart to. Walt Disney said it best, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”