Although struggling with the carbon footprint of flying, our traveling curiosities won out and we flew to Italy, embarking on our first European travels.
As we travel, our eyes are always wide open, taking in the sights, smells and sounds that surround us. Viewing the beautiful countryside was quite easy given their extensive train system powered by electricity. While large wheat fields in the plains meet their pasta needs, it appears most of their food comes from small farms and residential neighborhoods as they flourish with produce, vineyards and olive tree groves growing everywhere. With their tradition of cooking with fresh local food comes wonderful cuisine – the Mediterranean Diet – much to our liking! And it’s GMO free! Like most European countries, Italy has banned GMO (genetically modified organisms) products. We loved all the fresh produce, pasta, seafood, olives, and pizza, and topped off most meals with a new flavor of Gelato, after all, it has less milk-fat than ice cream!
Remarkably, I didn’t see any Styrofoam (polystyrene) food containers. We were served to-go food in paper sacks or #1 plastic containers and coffee in paper cups. Petrol isn’t subsidized by the government which makes it more expensive; wonder if Styrofoam isn’t used for that reason? As for grocery bags, I rarely saw reusable cloth bags. Instead single-use plastic bags were rampant in the stores and littered the countryside and waterways. As for plastic water bottles, they too were rampant. While dining out, the only water available was bottled water. Hydration is essential, so I had to lift my plastic-water bottle ban. As for recycling, public recycling was quite common with ever present co-mingling of trash and we noted ample recycling opportunities for the locals with larger recycling bins along multiple alleyways. Feral cats fended for themselves everywhere.
We especially enjoyed hiking from village to village along the Cinque Terre National Park mountain pathway overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The fertile Tuscany valley and fortress walled cities are stunning, the Amafi Coastal area and architecture in Florence beautiful, the ancient ruins of Rome and Pompeii thought-provoking, but it was in captivating Venice where we gave pause. We clearly saw the challenge of this city over 1500 years old, threatened by rising ocean levels from glacier melt and warming ocean thermal expansion of the Northern Adriatic Sea. Sadly, their recent multi-billion dollar system of floodgates around the city will only delay the inevitable.