Okay, I’ll do my top 10 list too and you can tell me what you think. I love Italy and these are the kinds of things that bring me back again and again. See you there in 2010 I hope.
1. Finding the right train
Having just gotten off my long flight, I made it quickly to the center of Rome. At Termini Station I made a call to Susan, who was already in Lenola, her ancestors’ village to the south. Sure, I’m sure it’s the right train. I’m looking right at it, and it says the right city. I’ll be there real soon. I boarded the train and began to relax. Maybe I should ask if this one gets off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Person One didn’t know. Neither did Person Two. Persons Three and Four were sure it was wrong and waved me off the train. Outside, some helpful Trenitalia guys steered me to the right train just moments before it pulled away. Maybe the travel gods are with me again!
2. Seeing the Amalfi Coast in a new light
I’d been to the Amalfi Coast several times, but this one was something very special. It was October. The sun was still radiant and the days were still warm. Our host in the area showed us some amazing holiday properties, moving smoothly from town to town and cheerily meeting with each owner. In the evenings, we would have dinner in Massa Lubrense or Sorrento and compare notes.
3. Assunta the new Clics model
Actually, these are the cheap Clics knock-offs you get for a couple of Euros at the market in Fondi. You know, the kind of glasses that click together with a magnet in the middle? Assunta is Susan’s great-aunt and doesn’t speak a word of English. But she does know a good deal when she sees one.
4. Discovering Casole Orcia
There is something hauntingly beautiful about the val d’Orcia. This place in particular has a spirit to it that is hard to put into words. The air is so quiet and it flows past you continuously. The terrain is surreal and sublimely beautiful. Pienza is on the horizon so close you can almost touch it. Someone needs to go back and take the pictures the place deserves. You have to experience it. Look here.
5. Watching Giovanni Grow
The highlight of Sabina and Emmanuele’s Umbrian wedding two years ago was the traditional ‘serenata’ where the groom and a few score of friends surprise the sleeping bride-to-be and sing to her as she swoons from her bedroom window, still in her nightgown. She still maintains that she was completely surprised. Last year, darling Giovanni came into their lives and his sweet face will bring us back to Perugia for years to come.
6. Meeting Cecilia
Cecilia shows a lot of pride and an extraordinary sense of style when she shows you through Casale Cecilia, which overlooks Lake Trasimeno. I was very impressed with the place because it’s both elegant and family friendly, and the road leading to Cortona is just below.
7. A Casual Sunday in Sant’Arcangelo
This is Veronica. Her parents Francesca and Giuseppe live in the village of Sant’Arcangelo on Lake Trasimeno. It was a warm and lazy Sunday and after a luscious meal it was maybe time to for us to go home. No, it was time for a walk by the lake. Along the way we saw the end of a soccer match, the trout hatchery and her favorite spot–the pier that overlooks the water. I can still feel the fresh breeze off the lake.
8. Our Pranzo with Irene
Spending time with Irene is like watching a live action movie about Irene. She has so much energy that you think you might get exhausted thinking about all of the projects she and her family have going around the Gelsobello Estate near Barberino val d’Elsa in Chianti. But instead you find that her energy is contagious. They operate one of the most charming little getaways in Tuscany and are involved in wine and olive oil, but that’s not enough. Irene also has also just opened a cooking school on the premises and partners with Cecilia (see memory #6) in a wedding services business. Oh, yes, the pranzo (know in some cultures as ‘lunch’). Just a homemade Bistecca Fiorentina (Florence style steak), accompanied by the best wines and followed by the finest regional torta you could imagine.
9. Strolling Firenze with Claudio
Claudio is a native Florentine and flows through the city’s streets as a native should. We met at the Piazza della Signoria and decided to let him show us his favorite coffee bar. Along the way, he runs into some friends and chats briefly. After coffee, he takes us to see his flat in a park that is just across the Arno, in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. We take in the view from his terrazzo, looking into the city from what looks and feels like a plush countryside grove.
10. Delia’s Roma
There isn’t much about Rome that escapes Delia’s quick mind and limitless historical curiosity. A Romana by birth, she has raised her family and worked as a teacher and editor surrounded by Rome’s treasures. When we are in the area, we always take off and make our way through the city’s streets, museums, monuments and parks. She takes us by the arm and generously shares everything she knows about everything, and we are delightfully enriched every time. This year while under her spell we explored the famous via Margutta near the Piazza del Popolo, made famous in Roman Holiday, where also lived Federico Fellini.
Buon capodanno e tanti auguri per un 2010 felice e sereno!
Find Yourself in Italy