In search of crowds, traffic and the real Mediterranean

Travelling at the end of the Italian Holidays I thought might be a challenge for our ‘Best of the Med’ group, but it’s all been far too easy.

I am fast losing all credibility as a World Journeys host as the people and the places are not living up to their expectations! To add to the annoyance, they are exceeding all expectations!

Driving from Milan to the Cinque Terre was pleasant. Our first Italian driver was charming, courteous, spoke excellent English and drove at a steady 100 km’s all the way. Very few drivers overtook us, nobody shouted, tooted their horn or stepped out in front of any oncoming traffic. It was all very uneventful. The most exciting part of the trip was the comfort stop at a service station that would have shamed any of our Gourmet food stores with the variety of fresh produce, good coffee and deli items on offer.

Three days later I advised we would be unlikely to get such a good trip again en-route to Lake Como. It was the last weekend of the holidays, everybody would be returning home. So then with the same driver there was not a hint of traffic and nothing but fellow courteous drivers on the road. Even I was starting to question the words coming out of my mouth.

Next up was Venice. “We will never be as lucky a 3rd time” I confidently say, with our driver politely nodding, seeming to agree with me. An hour later, I realised the driver spoke no English and he will continue nodding at me for the next three hours. There is a lot of traffic but it’s all heading in the opposite direction resulting in yet another perfect road trip! “As soon as we hit the outskirts of Venice it will all change” I confidently predict. Desperate to regain credibility, I start to pray for back logged traffic and angry drivers tooting horns and yelling furiously at each other – the Italy we all know and love. An hour later, we arrived, and despite my blameless life, my prayers for traffic and a more eventful trip haven’t been answered.

Time for a very pleasant walk around almost deserted lanes and Campos that afternoon. I foolishly tell everybody it’s just the exclusive area World Journeys have booked our hotel in, and in St Mark’s Square we won’t be able to move because of the crowds! Needless to say the Square is remarkably quiet which is a first for me, even our lovely guide Catherina agreed it was very unusual. The queue to get into St Marks is reasonably short and moving. I don’t feel as important skipping to the front of the line now!

I realised I had got it pretty wrong so far, I decide to keep everything sufficiently vague for the rest of the morning and leave it all to our guide who has the group hanging off her every word. We go out for a very reasonably priced lunch in an almost deserted Campo, and aren’t charged the customary service charge (which I had pre-warned the group of!).

Late that afternoon we head by water taxi to P. Roma for our van transfers to board the ship – again our drivers are charming and careful as are all the others on the road that afternoon. In a last desperate attempt to say something right, I advise we have been very lucky so far – and even though we have delayed boarding till late to avoid most of the crowds it will still be busy! Famous last words – three minutes later our tagged bags are on the conveyor belt, we complete a quick form before entering an empty Terminal, then go straight to our own check in desks. We are all on board in our cabins within 15 minutes of arrival!

I have two more weeks left to regain credibility – surely the Greeks will know they are bankrupt and the French will expect us to speak their language.