Thursday, September 14, 2017

Italy: the Country of My Heart - Part 1


Colosseum in Rome - Opened in 80 AD


I was sixteen the first time I visited Italy. It was at the end of a summer spent studying French language and culture in the lovely town of Evian on the banks of Lake Geneva. After completing final exams, our group of intrepid American high-schoolers boarded a train for Rome and one week of exploring Italy before flying back to the U.S. I came from a small town in the midwest. I didn't know much about Italy other than what I'd learned in school and that wasn't a great deal. I wasn't prepared for the echoes of history on every corner as I walked through Rome or the genius of Michelangelo as I gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the incredibly life-like statue of David in Florence. I was entranced. Well, as entranced as any sixteen-year-old can be. It wasn't until I returned to Italy - 37 years later - that I realized how profoundly the country had imprinted itself on my soul.

Trevi Fountain - Rome

This summer, I had the opportunity to once again travel to Italy, returning to some familiar sites while visiting others for the first time. Nada's Italy, a boutique tour agency in Charlotte, NC designed our tour and, I have to tell you, it was the best tour I have ever been on. If you ever think about visiting Italy, do check them out. Nada (who grew up in Italy but now lives in the U.S.) and her staff designed a first-class experience and were there to help us any way they could throughout the entire process. I can't recommend them highly enough. Visit their website at nadasitaly.com or contact them at info@nadasitaly.com for more information. Be sure to tell them I sent you!


We were a small, but excited, group who boarded a flight to Rome on a warm evening in early July: ten of us ranging in age from 8 to 75. Two more people - a couple from Florida we had yet to meet - would join us in Rome. My friend, who arranged the tour, flies so much that she has a special status with the airline we were flying that allows her to board before anyone else. It also allowed her family (the other nine of us) to board with her. That was probably the closest I'll ever come to knowing what it's like to be rich and famous. 


The airline employee assigned to her gathered us and took us to a place in front of the line waiting to board, then roped off the line behind us. First Class passengers behind us were giving us "the look" and I heard more than one person whisper "Who are they?" as if trying to figure out who the celebrity was. Have to admit: it was fun! :)


There's a masterpiece everywhere you look at the Vatican.




Our tour kicked off with a walking tour of Rome. The sites we visited were all places I had been before but walking the ancient city of Rome never gets old and with each visit - and guide - I always learn something new.









After one day in Rome, we headed south to our main destination: the Amalfi Coast. This was the part of the trip that had me most excited. I had visited Naples before as well as Capri, Sorrento, and Pompei but I had never ventured further south. I couldn't wait to see Positano, Ravello, Amalfi, and the other southern Italy destinations I had heard and read about. Nobody told me I had to risk my life to get there!

See those cars on the side of the mountain?


The views are incredible but the narrow two-lane highway that hugs the edge of the mountain cliffs? Terrifying! Imaging being in a 16 passenger van (a luxury Mercedes van but that's not the point) coming out of a curve when you come face to face with a big Greyhound style tourist bus. There's not enough road space to pass so the smaller vehicle (us) has to back up along the edge of the cliff and get as far off the road as possible (lucky me, on the water side, had a great view of the sheer drop-off) so the bus can get by. I was taking photos with my right hand and hanging on for dear life with the left! But it was all worth it when we got to Positano.

Positano


We spent the next eight days in Positano with several side trips to various points of interest. Here are a few highlights.



There's so much history and beauty along the Amalfi Coast. Also wealth. Unbelievable wealth.
The photo to the left is an ancient tower from which locals kept watch for invading pirates. Some are thousands of years old and they still dot the coastline all along the Amalfi Coast.













Another Amalfi Coast staple is the profusion of color from beautiful tropical flowers.













One of my favorite activities while we were in Positano was boating on the Mediterranean. We went out twice: once for our trip to Capri and again, for a cruise south along the coast. Both times, we were able to explore beautiful grottos, swim in the sea, and drool over the uber-expensive yachts that dot the coastline. Here's one that had its own helicopter!





Something else the Amalfi Coast is known for is their huge, sweet lemons. I mean, look at the size of them!











One of the products they make from those lemons is Limoncello. It's served cold, in frosty shot glasses, and packs a punch. Think lemon moonshine. I loved it! Being waited upon by Maurizio didn't hurt either. ;-)









The colors of the Mediterranean are breathtakingly beautiful, a palette of jewel tones from deep midnight blue...














...to exquisite turquoise and aquamarine.












This was my third visit to Capri but the first time I've circled the entire island by boat. The views are stunning and the boat ride over and back was so worth it. The island on the right is home to Capri and Anacapri.









My first time going through the arch on our way to Capri.


















View from one side of the Gardens of Augustus on Capri.


















View from the other side, looking back at the arch we boated through.













One of the many artistic displays on Capri. That's not a real person, folks.













Our water transportation. What a fun time we had on this boat with our awesome captain, Paolo.












I was charmed by this garden and watering can fountain in front of a parfumerie on Capri.
















Bidding farewell to Capri. Legend says if you wave goodbye to the boy on the cliffs that you'll one day return. We all waved!






More of my Italy journey to come in Part 2, including fabulous food, Greek ruins, and a mozzarella farm where the water buffalo are treated to classical music and a daily massage. 

Tell me what you did this summer?

Did anyone take a vacation? Where did you go?

Have you ever been to Italy?

What would be your dream vacation?



PJ's Birthday Month Giveaway


Two randomly chosen people who leave a comment before 11:00 PM, September 15 will receive a book from my conference stash and a 2018 bookmark calendar from Italy. (U.S. only)




46 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Amalfi sounds great except for the narrow road thing. LOL. We went to AZ the end of March to see 2 Dodger Spring Training Games and are going to Col in a few weeks to see our son. Have been having some construction done, so that killed July and August. Happy Bday, PJ. Thanks for the giveaway.

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    1. I love the sunsets in Arizona. Some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. Have fun in Colorado! I have a friend who moved there two years ago and the photos she shares are stunning.

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  2. PJ, thank you for this wonderful post. I'm going to bookmark Nada's Italy and start planning a trip!! Happy birthday, my friend! xoxo

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    1. Vanessa, you and Randy would love traveling with Nada's company. They know how to do it right!

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  3. Oh, I loved this wonderful and beautiful post. The photos, the sights, the history and the gorgeous areas are fascinating and memorable. Lucky you. I love Italy for those reasons. Such a warm, interesting,extraordinary country filled with wondrous sights and culinary delights. Your vacation is my dream vacation for sure. I have been to Italy but not that far south which I would love to visit. This summer we went to Amsterdam which was lovely.

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    1. I highly recommend the south of Italy! It truly is an extraordinary experience. I hope you get there one of these days.

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  4. No vacations here sad to say. I would love to visit Italy but especially Sicily. All my ancestors came from there. I've heard so many stories from my grandparents. My niece was able to visit a few years back and I enjoyed visiting through her eyes :)

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    1. I've never visited Sicily. How fun it would be to explore areas where your ancestors lived. That's how I feel about Scotland. One of these days, hopefully!

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  5. Such a wonderful experience that you enjoyed. Italy beckons from your photos and special areas which are spectacular. Yes, I have to say that would be my dream vacation, Positano, Amalfi, etc. Perhaps next year as I was not well enough this past year with medical problems.

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    1. I'll be sending good energy your way, petite!

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  6. I only went camping this summer; no other vacation :(; I went to Italy when I was 11, long time ago; dream vacation? Maybe to the Shetland Islands or Scotland. Thanks for the chance :)
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

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    1. I haven't been camping for years. My late husband and I used to camp all the time. I loved it!

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  7. Thank you for sharing your pictures. No vacation here this year but my dream is to one easy visit the Almalfi Coast, so this was awesome. My family comers from Calabria. Next to Scotland it's been a dream for awhile.:)
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. Scotland is on my dream list too. When are you going?

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  8. My only vacation this summer has come through the pages of books which have taken me to England, Scotland, France, New York, and various small towns from New England to California. If I add the vicarious visits to Italy and Florida that I have enjoyed through your generous sharing of photos, PJ, I've had quite a summer without ever leaving my hometown.

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    1. Isn't it wonderful to be able to visit faraway places through the books we love? After visiting Positano in 2016, Roxanne St. Claire set a book there (JAMES). Even though this was my first visit to Positano, I recognized so many places through her descriptions in the book. Alas, I did not find a James of my own, but I sure had fun looking! :)

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  9. Thanks for all the beautiful pictures. Capri looks beautiful. Did you feel the number of days you picked were perfect or do you wish the tour was a bit shorter/longer? I didn't go on vacation this year.

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    1. We were in Italy 13 days and that's just about perfect for me. I had a fabulous time but by the last day I was ready to come home.

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  10. We took a cruise on the Danube this year and it was great. I've been to Italy once, but haven't been to the Amalfi Coast or Capri. Oh my, those photos! What gorgeous shots. I'd love to visit there. Happy Birthday month, PJ.

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    1. Every friend who has taken a Danube cruise has raved about it. So glad to hear you enjoyed yours!

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  11. I went on a tour of Scotland. Like you, we had some dodgy roads to deal with too. Our bus driver had to back up a 54 passenger coach on a little narrow road so as another bus could get by us. The lady in the bus trying to get past us had her hands over her face. I was hanging on for dear life and praying that we wouldn't collide. We had about one inch between both busses.

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  12. I went to Alabama twice with a stop in Tennessee--college orientation and drop-off for middle son. That's as exotic as I got.

    Looks like you had the time of your life!

    denise

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    1. I remember the first time I visited Tennessee. I was nine years old and, growing up in Michigan, it sure seemed exotic to me! *grin*

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  13. It is obvious you have had a remarkable trip. I know that, 'cause your pictures are wonderful. I have never been to Italy, but it is one of the places I wish I could see. Thanks for this post, and I look forward to the next one.

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    1. I hope you make it there one day, Annette.

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  14. In August we went to Seattle for our oldest daughter's wedding. The picnic was at Golden Gardens Park. It was off of Puget Sound. The sailboats on the water, the sun setting. The pictures didn't do it justice. The weather was wonderful. A good time was had by all.

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    1. I've only been to Seattle once, when I was twelve. I'd love to return someday. Sounds like a beautiful wedding!

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  15. I just got back from a week at the Isle of Palms SC (just north of Charleston) with family.
    I took my niece to Italy in 2000 on a Perrillo tour - we started in Milan, went east to Venice, then to Florence - unfortunately we had to leave the tour early as my Mom went back into the hospital and we were advised that we needed to get home. We had a half day in Rome but missed going to Sorrento & Capri. My niece got married in May and she and her new husband are heading off to Italy next week on their delayed honeymoon - they are starting in Rime & then onto Sorrento & Naples. I'd love to get back to Italy someday, but wasn't invited on the honeymoon (lol).

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    1. I love Isle of Palms! It's only a four hour drive from me.

      I'm sorry you had to cut your Italy trip short. I sure hope your mom was okay.

      September is a beautiful time to visit Italy. I hope your niece and her husband have a wonderful time.

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  16. Italy sounds like a wonderful place. I've never been but my brother just visited this Summer. After his return to this side of the pond I went to visit him to FL with the nephews and we all went to Orlando and St. Agustine. We had lots of fun.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Florida. Orlando and St. Augustine both have lots of offer!

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  17. Thanks for sharing those beautiful photos! I was fortunate enough to visit Italy, Cinque Terre and Tuscany. It was glorious. Loved the food, the art and the views. Did not take a vacation this year. We moved to Michigan from the west coast, in order to be able to help my mother-in-law. My dream vacation would be an extended stay in the Swiss Alps. And from there we would take forays into France, Italy, and Germany.

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    1. Do you have a favorite region of Italy? I loved my time on the Amalfi Coast this summer but I have to admit, Tuscany is still my favorite.

      I grew up in southwest Michigan. Hope you enjoy your time in my home state!

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  18. I don't know where the summer went, but it sort of disappeared. We accomplished none of what we usually do in summer. My flower beds are still just weeds. No vacation, that will start next week. We prefer to vacation in the Fall. Your vacation was fabulous. Will have to plan a similar trip some time in the near future. Next year we are working on a bucket list trip and driving the Trans-Canadian Highway then up through the Yukon and throughout Alaska. We were supposed to go this year, but health issues got in the way. My dream trip is to spend a month or two traveling throughout Ireland, Scotland, and England. My husband's is Australia and New Zealand.

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    1. My summer flew by too, probably because I was only home for about two weeks!

      Your Trans-Canadian/Yukon/Alaska trip sounds fabulous! That's a region I've always wanted to visit. So much beauty.

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  19. Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. Never been to Italy. Did family trips with our daughter, Pa, Vt. oriented towards children. Going away this weekend for our anniversary; grandparents babysitting - to Mohegan Sun.
    Natty's Mama

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    1. Happy Anniversary! I hope you have a wonderful weekend. :)

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  20. I could look at photos of Italy all day! After our spring trip my husband and I are already planning a way to get back - this time to visit the Amalfi coast. The rest òf my summer was filled with work until we managed to squeeze in a short family get together in Colorado because we hadn't been together as a group since Christmas.

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    1. I know, Glenda. Every time I look at them I'm right back in Italy reliving it all over again. :)

      I hope you make it back to Italy again. I think you'd really enjoy the Amalfi Coast.

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  21. We toured Italy a few years ago, and we saw all the same sights that you did. What a beautiful and fascinating country. We went to England and France last year, stayed in the US this year, and are planning a Scandinavian tour next year.

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    1. I'm looking at Scandinavia for next year too, Cheryl! My niece and her family moved from Japan to Stockholm this summer so my Japan travel fund has now become my Sweden travel fund. ;-)

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    2. We are going to Sweden (home of my maternal ancestors), Norway, and Denmark.

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  22. I have been to Florence and Rome when I was in my 20's I hope to go back sometime!

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  23. Went on a cruise to Boston and Nova Scotia. Have another one planned for the end of October. I think Italy would be a wonderful trip.
    Patty B43

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  24. I wrote a post but somehow it got lost when I thought I published it. This was our summer of visiting family. June we drove from MN (our home) to Chicago to visit my mom's family. In July we flew to NYC in order to go to Long Island to spend time with my brother & his family. My older son was nearby in NJ visiting his girlfriend and spent some time with us too. I also got to meet Jeannie Moon for lunch - which was awesome!! In August we flew to Oregon to visit in-laws of my hubby's (his brother's widow). We were there for the eclipse. In October we fly to Amsterdam and then to Paris for a celebratory trip (our 35th wedding anniversary).

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