Yes! As I pack for our upcoming trip to Italy, I can barely contain my excitement and anticipation of returning to the country that I consider my second home.
There is something about Italy that draws me back, time after time, year after year; although my European ancestors were from Germany or the British Isles, Italy, its customs, its people, its food, its love of life appeals to me more than any other country I have visited. Don’t get me wrong here; I have visited many countries and enjoyed my experiences in those places. However, going back to Italy, to me, is returning to the place where I belong.
Florence is my favorite city. I could wander the streets, climb the hills, have a meal or an aperitif in any number of little restaurants or bars and be comfortable. I have mentioned in my blogs before, of the sheer pleasure of going for an evening stroll (la passiegeta) and finishing my walk by sitting on a bench in a neighborhood park, watching children at play while their parents conversed with neighbors and friends, and the “nonne” (grandparents) catch up on the gossip with other “nonne”.
From Florence, I would probably take the train up to the Ligurian Coast, to Cinque Terre. In those 5 villages, I would encounter a culture and life style that is far removed from the big city life. The residents of these towns are fishermen and farmers, most raising grapes in cooperative vineyards that produce that excellent white wine.
The villages are small, very hilly, thus the area has become a mecca for hikers. Although the area is much too full of tourists now, during the day, at nighttime, if I am able to get the room at Martina’s that I love, in Vernazza , I am able to sit on the veranda and watch the twinkle of the lights of Monterosso off to the right, the light on the castle far up on the hill to my left, while seeing the activity of the restaurants and the strollers in the piazza below me.
Soon the clock on the church immediately to my left, will chime the hour, reminding me that it will also chime at 7:00 the next morning, so perhaps I need to go to bed, sleep well and be ready for a busy hiking day, after a breakfast of the best pastries in the world, at Il Pirata restaurant, up the hill, at the top edge of the town.
If I stay in Monterosso, you will find me at the beach. I will go down to Stella and rent a lounge chair and umbrella for the day, and swim, read, relax, go up to the cafe for lunch, then repeat. When I think of going to a Happy Place in my mind, this is the scene that I envision.
In Rome, my favorite place to stay, would be near the Campo di Fiori, with its huge fruit and vegetable market in the daytime, and the open square at night, where musicians come out to entertain, while restaurants and cafes all around the perimeter, serve drinks and meals to the patrons, while the young people begin to congregate at their favorite bars. In the summertime, all this action takes place “al fresco”, in the open air.
Ah, then there is Sorrento. Nestled in the curve of the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is a place of serenity, a peaceful oasis down at the water’s edge. I especially love going down to Marina Grande, the old fishermen’s marina, where the restaurants sit facing the water, and serve an amazing array of seafood fresh from that sea that day.
However, up in the main part of the city, much activity takes place. The main street is
filled with shops of every sort, from the high-end stores to the sidewalk markets. There is the lovely Basilica of San Francisco, where one can see wood-carved doors. Overlooking the bay is the Foreigner’s Club, an edifice that caters to “stranieri”, we tourists/visitors to Sorrento. While having a huge ballroom, suitable for weddings and large gatherings, outside is a large open air patio, where one can watch the action, or quiet beauty of the Bay of Naples, while sipping a drink and having a snack.
Marina Piccolo, the main harbor, is bustling, also, with excursion boats to the Isle of Capri, and other islands in the bay, as well as trips up to Naples, an down the Amalfi Coast.
Now if I were to leave Sorrento and travel north, I might want to spend a few days in Venice. There is a city, very unique in its culture, architecture styles, way of life, for it is water bound. No traffic except on the canals, and those are bustling. Water taxis, water police boats, ambulances, floating “farmers’ markets”; all commercial vehicles are boats. I would get on a “vaporetto”, the city bus equivalent, and tour the Grand Canal. Or I might just wander through the back streets, find small neighborhoods, intimate cafes, as well as the Jewish ghetto. On the other side of the Grand Canal, I will probably go to the fish market and the fruit and vegetable stands near that, to get the makings of my dinner for that night.
Before I leave Italy, though, as often as possible, I need to go to the Dolomites. I have found that being in those mountains, whether hiking or just relaxing, is my ultimate “Happy Place”. There is find tranquility, peace of mind, that I have not found in any other place on earth. Those magnificent, jagged peaks, sometimes topped with snow, towering over the rolling hills of meadows, steep hills of evergreen trees, with hiking trails all over that accommodate the hiking interests of everyone, from short, flat walks, to rugged “mountain goat” trails. I could spend days wandering on those trails, for there is nothing to interfere with my inner peace up there.
So, I will leave you now to dream of Italy, while I finish packing and dream of Italy.
Look for posts from me. We will be in Rome in just a few days. A new adventure awaits.
Ciao for now,