TRAVEL: Everyone should visit Italy at least once
ITALY is one of the countries on the bucket lists of so many travellers - even though it has suffered a number of heartbreaking disasters lately.
But intrepid seniors do not let a potential calamity of nature turn them off their travel plans, do they?
Everyone should see Italy just once if it is possible within time and budget restraints.
The first time you visit Rome and set eyes on the coliseum will be embedded in your memory forever.
The same goes for St. Peter's.
Even if the Trevi Fountain is packed with tourists, and it will be, and you will find it hard to snap a selfie without a dozen others in the background, and you will, it won't take away from the spine-tingly thrill that you are there, right there at this world famous landmark.
The first time I entered the Plazza del Campo, the historic centre of Siena in Tuscany, I experienced a feeling of mouth slack.
My jaw dropped considerably, not quite to the ground as many a colourful writer would embellish, but it definitely did drop as I took in the sight of arguably Europe's most renowned medieval square.
The breathtaking architecture of the shell-shaped piazza, the soaring Torre del Mangia, that slender tower rising from the square, the Fonta Gaia, the fountain that first brought water to the square, halted me on the spot.
Our Siena visit was just days before the famous Palio di Siena, the bare-back horse race around the periphery of the piazza where thousands of people cram into every centimetre of space on the ground and hang off the surrounding balconies to watch and cheer.
There was much ceremony and colour during our pre-Palio visit, many celebrations with groups of young men draped in brilliant colours, carrying flags, beating drums.
We sat at one of the cafes around the edge of the square for aperitvo and tried to keep our jaws from gaping too much at the absolute Italian splendour of it.
The first time on the Amalfi Coast was another jaw-dropping experience.
The huddled towns of Positano and Amalfi clinging to the cliffs, the death-defying ride on the local buses around the hairpin bends of the coastal mountains that plunge to the sea, it was all so thrilling, despite the hundreds of steps up and down to the beach; allowed us to eat the drink more, there is always a positive side.
The Cinque Terra was another first that offered a buzz beyond words as we walked along the cliff faces to each of the five villages, stopping for refreshments in each one, wondering if we had the stamina to walk on to the next.
We did, but only after fortifying gin and tonics.
Even though it took an entire day and there was much climbing and puffing and cursing along the Cinque Terra towards the last town of Monterosso, it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of all our travels.
Now if I am fortunate to visit the Cinque Terra again, I would take the train or boat between villages - a much more senior-friendly option.
Florence is another Italian joy never to be forgotten.
The art, the culture, the food and wine, the leather markets.
Ensure you reserve your tickets before you go to the Uffizi Gallery in the Piazza della Signoria and avoid the three hour wait in the queue.
Even if you have to queue it is worth it just to stand before Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
The same ticket-savvy rule applies to the Accademia Gallery where you will stand beneath a naked David and hold your breath in enthralment.
Then there are the hundreds of charming small villages and pretty seaside towns in Italy waiting for exploration.
Best you plan and then stay as long as time and money will permit.