Departing La Spezia we stayed in Parma for the night before taking a 25 minute train to Fornovo. Here, Andrea, the Son of my Godmother, picked us up. I last saw him in 2010! Boy turns man. And that was the start of two full days of, well, let’s put this in absolute terms: Eating, drinking and catch-up chatting. A big difference for Vivie and I as our regular days consist of exploring and achieving circa 20,000 steps. But not for these last two days and boy, we were thankful with dry 33-35 degree heat upon us! Not nice.

The Five Lands are well known as old seaside villages along a small part of the Italian Riviera coastline. In fact, odds are you’ve seen the iconic images of the colourful, vibrant little villages online or in books. Additionally, Cinque Terre is both a national park and UNESCO protected as an area of “Outstanding Universal Value”. It’s, therefore, no surprise that people come from all over to witness, hike, and enjoy Cinque Terre - ourselves included.

Florence is very much a city that you could enjoy over a weekend and feel contented you had accomplished your sightseeing target. If you haven’t been here, I would add it to your short European city-break list. Admittedly, it’s best known for its art scene as it’s regarded as the home of the Renaissance period but don’t be put off by that, enjoyment can be fulfilled in other ways. I’ve been here twice and still cannot justify paying 40 euros to see a some art museums along with Michelangelo's ‘David’. Does that make me a philistine?

With that crazy 24 hours now behind us (last-minute flight, relentless Covid checks, and tests, then there was the flight itself), we have very much enjoyed adapting to the slower Mediterranean way of life. Although the time zone transition hasn’t been fun. We stayed up past 2 am Rome time (9 pm US time) and woke at 11 am local time.

The difference between the US and Italy was so immediately noticeable, starting with hospitality. We were offered cakes, chocolate, water, tea, and of course, coffee during our stay. It would be a rarity to receive one of the items for free in the States! Then there’s the charming streets, the people, the way of life, all so contrastable and in a much better way. La dolce vita.

We know we need to leave America, both for financial reasons and the fact we’ve been here long enough. Due to only minor changes between the UK and Europe over the months, I was running out of imaginative ideas.

Leading up to three days between Thursday the 20th, I thought I had an ace up my sleeve in the form of Portugal. This was a perfect plan as it would allow a 10 day stay there to then come back to the UK without needing to self-isolate and follow those infuriating rules and believe me, they are infuriating. Sampling policies in 7 countries make that an informed opinion.