For as long as I can remember I have wanted to go to Italy. Every book I have read or movie that I have seen which takes place in Italy just pulls at my heartstrings and awakens in me this unexplainable deep connection to Italia. I feel it in my soul. (Or maybe it’s just the pizza talking!) And ever since I saw the movie Enchanted April(if you have not seen it, rent it!), I have wanted to go in the spring, though I would settle for any time of year. Italy, like Portland, is in full bloom in April and given my love of flowers, it’s the perfect combination.
After a little health scare in April of 2016 (coincidence?!) I realized that needed to finally make this dream trip happen. So I decided that come hell or high water, I was going to Italy in April 2017. That gave me a year to save, plan and train someone to run the business while I was gone.
A few weeks later I sat down with my friend Antimo, who just happens to know a bit about Italy. He grew up there. I wanted to have him help me plan my 3 week adventure. Antimo is the owner of VoomaGo, an experiential travel company www.voomago.com and has taken many small groups to Italy and other countries and immersed them into the local culture and communities to create a truly one of a kind experience. After talking for an hour or so he came up with a two week trip that sounded fantastico! I will then take the third week on my own to explore more.
Well I ended up going for a whole month and it was truly amazing. I spent the first two weeks on my own exploring Venice, The Cinque Terra, Florence, San Gemignano, Siena and Rome. The art, architecture, history, flowers, people and food were sublime.
I flew into Venice and then hopped the bus from the mainland to Venice itself. I had to walk a ways to get from the bus stop to the water taxi that would take me to my Air BNB. After walking down some narrow winding cobblestone streets and over a few small charming bridges I found myself standing on a bridge overlooking the Grand Canal with this spectacular picture postcard view. Well, I cried. There I was, finally, in this magical place that I had dreamed about for years, the golden light of early evening making everything glow. I will never forget that moment or feeling. It took my breath away.
After two weeks of crying, eating, exploring, eating, more exploring, more eating and more crying, I then met up with Antimo and a small group of fellow travelers in Puglia, southern Italy. This half of the trip was a totally different experience of Italy but equally fantastic.
We spent the first week exploring Puglia and getting to know the people, their traditions and of course their food. Lots and lots of food! There was also lots of wine but since I am not a wine drinker we will skip all that. After Puglia we traveled north and explored the Abruzzio region and on to Bologna and environs.
We experienced Italy from a non-tourist perspective by being immersed in its culture, food and people. We made pasta with his mother and award winning chef’s, visited towns and villages that are not on the tourist map, had a fantastic lunch at a restaurant in a sea cave, hugged 2000 year old olive trees, swam in the sea, climbed waterfalls, had private vineyard, Parmigiano cheese making, salami, balsamic vinegar and olive oil tours, stayed in a castle, had many meals in homes of Antimo’s friends and family and we laughed. We laughed a lot. Of course I cried too! Especially when it was time to head home, but I knew in my heart that I’d be back some day…
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