♥ Reflections on My Italian Journey ♥
September 4 – October 27, 2016
“Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.”
– Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun
♦ Four regions: Liguria, Tuscany, Puglia and Sicily
♦ 53 perfectly remarkable days
♦ Over 50 cities and towns including the birth towns of my grandparents (nonni) in Tuscany and Sicily
♦ 6,000 photos taken
♦ Almost 200 miles walked
♦ Planes, trains, vans, automobiles (yes, I drove in Italy for the first time!) and a sailboat ride
♦ 15 hotels, agriturismi and B&B’s
♦ Two fabulous tours including the successful inaugural tour in Liguria and the fifth in Puglia with fun, fun, fun guests and amazing tour partners…and…
♦ Innumerable superb and simply spectacular historic sites, cathedrals, piazzas and more
♦ Countless espressos, glasses of vino, gelati, and at least 7 cannoli
♦ Oodles of hugs and extraordinarily emotional and magical moments
♥ And, first and foremost? The warm and wonderful people, people, people! ♥
♥ Leaving ♥
“If I lived here,…I have a feeling this place would take me.”
– Frances Mayes, A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller
I know I’m not in Italy anymore… an overpriced 4.50 euro cappuccino (which is also horrible – too hot, too weak, too frothy), surrounded by the low guttural growl of German instead of the soft melodious murmur of Italian, and it’s cold and drizzly outside…
No, I’m not in Italy, I’m in Frankfurt’s airport waiting for my connection to Los Angeles…the long exhausting road home…the road to post-vacation blues…
The dream realized. All of the planning, organizing, agonizing, reviewing, checking and double checking every detail, every reservation – flights, trains, connections, accommodations…resulting in? Perfection!
A wonderful collage of group travel with my tours coupled with independent/solo and travel with friends…
Reconnecting and new connections established. Delights to all of the senses and the full gamut of emotions – heartache, frustration, gratitude, appreciation, wonder, joy, delight…you name it!
“For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery… back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.”
I’ve written before about my two year quest for dual citizenship and how it triggered returning to my roots and my reflections on being raised Italian American. This self reflection has occasioned deeper understanding and fully embracing of self, the self I have always been.
These reflections took on an even more profound appreciation and recognition with visits, not only to the small towns in Tuscany and Sicily where my nonni were born and that they left to make the journey to America but, to enlightening visits to two museums (in Genoa and Lucca, both of which I will write about in future posts) documenting the millions of Italians who also courageously took that voyage at the turn of the century.
I never knew my grandparents. Two had passed before I was born, one lived and passed in New York, and one passed when I was a small child. I only have a few black and white photos…
But visiting their birthplaces and these museums added a new dimension, a new reality to what their lives were like, the obstacles they overcame, the hope and courage that inspired and drove them to make that difficult voyage. I am in awe of them…
Oh, how I would love to have just a few minutes to share my profound gratitude to them and to both parents who have passed as well…to embrace and thank them for the from the depths of being for the immeasurable gift of who I am …a very lucky gal…
Betwixt and Between
Feeling neither “here nor there” in the past, I can say that, with each return to Italia my sense of feeling more at home there than here incrementally shifts… And yet I have no illusions on what living there is like and, like any relationship, one must be realistic and accepting, warts and all.
Beppe Severgnini says it best in his must read, La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind:
“First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It’s alluring, but complicated. It’s the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.”
♥ So, for all of the allure and beauty there is the challenge and frustration…but my passion, roots and that craving, that irresistible attraction calls…
♥ I guess it’s a love and heart calling because, for me, Italy will always personify la dolce vita. And, for that, I feel grateful and determined to return again…soon…
Over the coming months I’ll be writing and sharing more about My Italian Journey 2016 as I plan my 2017 travels back in spring and fall…perhaps you’ll be joining me? I hope so…