In my travels and in my daily life, the subject of Italy inevitably comes up. Someone asks what I do and almost sheepishly, because sometimes it's even hard for me to believe that I do what I do, I tell them that I design trips to Italy. It's not like telling someone that I'm an actuary or a welder - the discussion about their profession pretty much ends there. Italy is different. It's a topic that is easy to fall into because really, who doesn't love that beautiful country with its stunning landscapes, fabulous food and wine and unsurpassed art treasures? My first question in such a conversation is to inquire as to whether or not the person has been to Italy. It's a question that needs to be asked because you would not believe how nostalgic some people seem about Italy even if they have never been there.
I do have a confession to make. I am not Italian. Not a drop of Italian blood. Sometimes I feel like an imposter. Who am I to tell you all about Italy - the good the bad and the ugly. Where are my credentials? Actually, the thing is, I think I have a better perspective than most Italians who are cynical and too immersed in the day to day woes of their country to see its beauty. Or than Italo Americans who tend to be blind with pride. I went to Italy with a blank slate and a desire to learn everything there was to know. So I traveled extensively and on any occasion I could. Day trips to the coast, weekend trips to Sicily, overnight trains to the Dolomites where we would arrive just before the ski lifts opened.
What I learned is that one's exploration of Italy never ends. The real beauty of Italy is that there is truly something for everyone. From big cities such as Milan and Rome to tiny villages like Civita di Bagnoregio, San Gimignano and Assisi. There are mountainous regions perfect for skiing and hiking, and gorgeous, luxurious beaches and seaside towns (Positano, Sorrento, Portofino, Portovenere). Italy has beautiful countryside, vineyards and fabulous food. There are places that fascinate because they are so clearly influenced by other cultures: look at the Arab influences on the Duomo in Palermo or the alpine villages in the Dolomites. This is NOT what we comes to mind when we think of Italy, is it?
Over the next few months I am going to feature some of the lesser known regions and aspects of Italy to entice you and perhaps change your view about this country. Rest assured, it's beauty goes way beyond Rome, Venice and Tuscany.
I know that you, my dear readers, are very passionate about Italy and things Italian. Some have you have never been there but for those of you who have, I think that this Italy Revealed series will have you booking your next trip pronto. Buon Viaggio!