Now that we are back, it is time to think back and discuss impressions that characterized our Italy and Croatia trip. Since we were covering, for the most part, new territory here, there are many first-time observations which can be made. In the interest of organization, I will begin with a place by place list, accompanied by our feelings about these locations:
Lucca — A bit disappointing! I was expecting another classic/beautiful Tuscan town, similar to San Gimignano or Siena. Lucca was not as charming or beautiful.
Cinque Terre — We tried to visit all five towns in a single day, which was probably too ambitious, although we certainly got a flavor for the region. We were expecting to like Vernazza best, because of the reading I had done prior to the trip, but, instead, we both liked Manarola and Monterosso al Mare better. We were disappointed that we could not walk the Via Amore (it has been closed since the incredible rain storms of 2011 caused widespread mud slides and devastation).
Lake Como — We were both pleasantly surprised in Lake Como. We had stopped briefly in 1997 at the town of Como, but moved on because it looked seedy. This time, Como was a delight, with a beautiful Duomo and lovely main square. Bellagio was all we had hoped it would be — a charming town, very walkable and fun.
Bergamo — Bergamo Alta was a true delight. We thoroughly enjoyed walking the narrow cobblestone streets and soaking up the ambience in the main square.
Milan — A visit to the city center was not in our original plans, but, when we had a free afternoon, Lee asked if we could go there to do some shopping. Wisely, we took the Metro (very good, very efficient) and revisited the glorious Duomo and some of the other city sights. We truly enjoyed returning and were glad of the opportunity.
Lake Maggiore — Another disappointment. Stresa had very little to offer. We stayed for only about an hour and headed back to Milan.
Ljubljana — What a delightful city! Because our hotel was right in the pedestrian-only city center, we walked and walked and walked. The architecture is beautiful and the city exudes enthusiasm and warmth (probably because of the university).
Zadar — We stopped here, briefly, on the way to Split, and thoroughly enjoyed this walled town, even though we did not see much of it. The streets were well-worn marble slabs, easier to walk on than cobblestones, and the vestiges of Roman occupation were everywhere. We would return here in a heartbeat!
Split — Diocletian’s Palace was interesting but it is totally modernized, with shops everywhere. Only a few of the original elements are still recognizable. The Old Town was nice but not as charming as some of the other towns that we visited.
Trogir — Trogir was a delight! Here was the truly charming small town that we thought we might find in Split.
Dubrovnik — They don’t call this place the “Pearl of the Adriatic” for nothing. It is a true gem! Unfortunately, the ride in and out from Split was too long and difficult so it took some of our enthusiasm about Dubrovnik away. It is probably still my favorite place from the entire trip.
Brac Island — We were again very disappointed with our excursion to Brac and its main town, Supetar. Supetar had little to offer and virtually no charm. Thankfully we found a nice restaurant, and our meal salvaged the day for us.
Plitvice Lakes National Park — Nature did us in here! The unusually heavy rains recently in Croatia caused flooding, closing down much of the park. We also needed much more time than we allotted for this excursion, so we were only able to see a few of the many lakes and waterfalls.
Zagreb — This might have been the most pleasant surprise of the entire trip. Both of us loved the city. It has elegant architecture and oozes charm even though it is a fairly large city. It also helped that our lodging was inside the pedestrian-only zone and that we could walk everywhere.
Verona — Verona turned out to be a great way to end our adventure. The city has many Roman elements, many beautiful churches, stately architecture and gorgeous squares. We loved it!