Posted on by Peter Rettig

A Better Way to Travel - When Retired...

Rome ColosseumWhen I retired, my wife and I decided to head to Europe for an extended stay.

Both of us were born in Austria. My wife had childhood memories of the Italian Alps and Venice, and I enjoy remembering a trip through northern Italy with friends. I was a teenager then.

Although neither of us spoke any Italian, we decided to spend five months in Rome and take trips from there.

We prepared with Pimsleur's Italian CDs. My wife was at that time still working as a free-lance editor for Pimsleur Language Programs. (During our stay, she was able to continue her work remotely.)

We searched online and rented an apartment in Trastevere, a charming medieval neighborhood on the other side of the Tiber. We were off to Rome in September.

Rome and Surroundings

We enjoyed Rome very much, improved our Italian by taking daily Rome view from St. Peterlessons with an Italian tutor, and explored the city and its surroundings on foot, by bus, and by train.

We came to realize that staying in a foreign place for more than just a few days has many benefits.

Not only can you visit the “must see” attractions (view from St. Peter's right) at your leisure, but even more importantly, you can start to experience the “vibes” of the city: the daily bustle on the streets and in the markets; the atmosphere in the neighborhood cafés and restaurants; the conviviality of the Romans' habitual late afternoon stroll; the pleasurable local night scene: in movies, theaters, concerts, bars; the activities at neighborhood squares and parks that function as community centers.

As in most European cities, you can visit many places just using public transport. From Rome, we enjoyed easy day trips by bus or train to Castel Gandolfo, Ostia, Frascati, Tarquinia, Civitavecchia, Villa d'Este, Hadrian's Villa, and others.

Still starting from Rome, several overnight train trips - to Pompei, Naples, Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast - rounded out our Italian experience at that time.

Getting to Know a City

La Sagrada Familia, BarcelonaWe still travel by car from time to time (e.g. see our blogs posts on our recent trips to Barcelona  (w/ Gaudi's Sagrada Familia left), Southern Spain, Cornwall and London, Brussels. etc.).

However, we really like to stay in a place for at least a month, especially when we are in a larger city.

Besides our stay in Rome, we have also stayed a month each in Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona.

Recent one-week visits to Madrid and London were pleasant and filled with many activities, but they didn't allow us to absorb each city's character in a leisurely way.

We know Vienna, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich and Brussels quite well, but there are still many other European cities on our current list, such as Dublin, Prague, Budapest, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, etc.

And When You Have Time...

So, if you have time on your hand, love other cultures and languages, and can afford it - you may want to forgo the “5 countries in 7 days” kind of trip. You may rather want to choose a country or even just a city to get to know in more depth.

Regarding “affordability”: We have found that renting an apartment is not only more economical than staying in a hotel in most cases, but also gives you more space and flexibility. In our case, it often provided an opportunity to invite friends and family for a visit!

(For the more adventurous travelers, there are also apartment/house exchanges, etc).

So far, we have limited our extended stays to European countries, but we are eager to extend our reach.

Still, unless we stay in countries where we speak the local language, it would mean that we should start learning another language. And that will be another project (and another story).