Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 12, 2016

In a Hurry? See Italy in a Day!

One does one’s best to travel at a reasonable pace, mindfully. You’re all travelers; you understand that the best days are the ones on which you take the time to look around carefully, with curiosity. You peered around one more corner and discovered a little gem of a museum, or simply stood for a few minutes outside a small town store and caught a priceless moment of local color.

We would all travel that way — perhaps every day — had we leisure and budget free of worry.

We’d never try to squeeze in that additional hundred miles, but stop to see some outlandish roadside attraction like the Mutant White Albino Alligator Farm or the Oregon Vortex.

Oregon Vortex Willard Nixon 0230 (640x412)

Oregon Vortex Willard Nixon 0231 (640x493)

Effects of the Oregon Vortex

Instead of pressing on to Alamogordo along a blistering two-lane between the Jornada del Muerto and the Sierra Blanca, we’d pull off to see the Three Rivers Petroglyphs on a withering day of desert wind under a brutal, white-hot sky.

3 Rivers Petrogyphs Brad Nixon 002 (640x415)

3 Rivers Petroglyphs Marcy Vincent 001 (640x441)

3 Rivers Petroglyphs Marcy Vincent 002 (640x459)

We’d veer off the direct route between the Rialto Bridge and the Accademia Gallery and, entirely by accident — because Venice is full of happy accidents for those who wander — discover the marvelous Campo Santa Margherita.

Campo Santa Margherita Brad Nixon (640x446)

Or, on a snowy January day in Taos, we’d take a chance on lunch in a rickety shack back a gravel drive: Pizza Out Back. And there, with snow coming down at two inches an hour, seated by a roaring blaze, discover one of the world’s greatest pizzas, hoping to get snowed in for a week and eat Out Back Pizza three times a day as long as the firewood and the tomato sauce held out.

Taos Pizza Out back Marcy Vincent (640x439)

Too often, we don’t take the time.

In these cases, we did, and in each case, the serendipitous discoveries were highlights of the trips.

I know all of you have had similar happy experiences.

I describe these trips to introduce the next couple of blog posts I’ll file in my continuing series reviewing memorable sights in Italy. After recent posts about Verona and Treviso, I plan to dip southward to seeing Bologna and Ravenna on an earlier trip.

Looking at my photos from those cities, I’ve been struck by how little time we spent in each place. In fact, we “saw” both towns on the same day. We were based much further south in Urbino and had a car. We were determined to see relatively “nearby” Bologna and Ravenna. It meant not only several hours of driving the Autostrada there and back, but literally passing by an entire country without stopping: San Marino. Waving at a country: That was a new one.

It’s not our preferred mode of travel. We do aspire to having quality time in a place, and avoid merely checking something off a list. It was a long day, but a memorable one. Traveling by car, especially through rural Italy, has let us make countless memorable discoveries.

You can decide after you read about our visits over the next couple of weeks if you think we made the best of our day in Emilio-Romagna. For me, they were landmarks I wouldn’t surrender for anything, and we had some experiences that fulfilled a number of those, “I simply have to see that some day” desires. Including this one:

Ravenna St Apollinaire Brad Nixon 146 (640x480)

Do you have a favorite moment when you happily seized an opportunity and swerved from your planned itinerary? I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017. Oregon Vortex photos © Willard Nixon 2017; some Three Rivers photographs © Marcy Vincent 2017, all used by kind permission.



  1. Great topic. I love the rambling road trip with spontaneous turnoffs that lead to wonderful discoveries. Like the Italian hill towns you might never get to without a car.


  2. In early 2003 we had originally planned a trip to Paris for late spring. Later on we changed that plan and spent the first part of our trip in Budapest, Hungary, before flying to France for the second part of our trip.

    Budapest is truly a tale of two cities, in more ways than one. There one sees in vivid contrast the difference between what a free people can create and what a communist totalitarian regime can create.

    The pre World War II architecture is spectacularly beautiful — of course the iconic Parliament buildings along the Danube are well known. But there are also many marvelous Art Nouveau and Belle Époque buildings as well as fascinating styles from earlier centuries.

    But then, you encounter, here and there, the dreary, boring, plain facades built under the direction of the post World War II Soviet regime.

    This is just one striking example of the difference between freedom of a country’s citizens from external rule and the oppression of an occupying power.


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