Italy has been calling my name for years, yet I’ve been resisting the call. Movies first called me, especially my favorites: Bread & Tulips (Venice), Under the Tuscan Sun, A Room with a View, Beseiged, The Son’s Room, and The English Patient. Then it was the books: Eat, Pray, Love and The House at the Edge of Night. Yet, with all the enticements, I still resisted. The time never seemed right.
My husband traveled to Italy with his then-girlfriend, Kerri, in 1984. They married in 1985, after she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer; the disease led to her early death in January of 1987. I met Mike in the fall of 1987. A portion of our early relationship consisted of me listening to him reminiscence and grieve over the loss of his wife. She seemed saintly to me, and part of the reason I fell in love with him was because of how he expressed his feelings. I hadn’t met many men who talked of their emotions, and so I was entranced by his sharing.
However, the more I listened, the more insecure I became. How could I compete with a saint? I certainly was not a saint; I had never been one and was unlikely to ever become one. Though we married in 1988, our relationship was fraught with grieving on both sides, me grieving over the dissolution of my first marriage in divorce, and him grieving over Kerri. Our first few years of marriage were a struggle as we tried to come to terms with our losses while at the same time beginning a new life together.
When it came time to plan our first trip to Europe in 1999, I decidedly was not ready to go to Italy. We went to England. Neither was I ready to go in 2003 or 2006, when we went to France. Then came our separation from 2007-2014. During that time, I traveled to Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, China, Turkey, Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, India, Oman, Jordan, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Greece. Then we reconciled in 2014, just before I went to China to teach; while there, Mike came to visit me, and I traveled all over China and to Myanmar. We’ve traveled many places since we reunited. Yet, here we are 30+ years after our marriage, and we still haven’t gone to Italy, together or separately.
Now, I’m finally ready to go. My husband’s first trip seems like a lifetime ago. I’m no longer threatened by his first marriage, or his first trip to Italy. If we survived our separation, we can survive his memories of Italy, which he’s sure to have. I no longer feel threatened by them.
Lately, I’ve been growing weary of long plane flights across the Atlantic to go to one destination. It’s expensive and, in recent years, a hassle, as flights are often delayed, connections missed, and luggage lost. As Mike is still working, he can’t take time off for extended holidays. So I’ve decided this time to combine two destinations, Morocco (where I’ll go on a G Adventures tour with my friend Susan) and Italy (where Mike will join me).
I’m enticed by Italian art and architecture, from the ancient to the classical, the ecclesiastical architecture and mosaics of the Byzantine period. The Renaissance entices, with Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There is the Duomo in Florence, the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, the Colosseum in Rome.
Over the years, I’ve seen and been inspired by art from the Renaissance. In early March, I encountered Giorgione’s La Vecchia (The Old Woman), in the Cincinnati Art Museum. “Although he had a short career and created relatively few works, Giorgione is regarded as the founder of the Venetian Renaissance for his innovative approach to landscape and portrait painting in the years around 1500,” according to the museum’s website.
The landscapes of Tuscany are especially enticing. I’ve observed two dimensional views for years, in paintings and in photographs, but I can’t wait to immerse myself in the beauty of undulating hills with sun-kissed cypress trees and vineyards surrounding medieval and Renaissance villages. I have seen countless pictures on Instagram, always a source of inspiration.
Italian food is easily found on nearly every street corner in the U.S., but I’m sure it’s not as good as the original, which uses fresh seasonal ingredients. I’m enticed by the idea of sitting outdoors at a long table under an arbor, drinking wine, laughing and enjoying the experience of Italian meals. Breakfasts of caffè, cornetto brushed with orange-rind glaze and filled with cioccolato (chocolate), crostata (breakfast tarts), and doughnuts. Lunches of risotto balls, focaccia, panini and tramezzini. Antipasti of buffalo mozzarella, fried olives, and prosciutto e melone. Primo (first course) of pasta, gnocchi, risotto, polenta, and the Tuscan favorite of pappardelle alle cinghiale (ribbon pasta with wild boar sauce). Secondo (Second course) of steaks, Roman artichokes stuffed with mint and garlic, to chicken casseroles with salsify. Finally, Frutti e dolci (Fruit and dessert): formaggi (cheeses) and dolci (sweets), biscotti dipped in wine, pear and ricotta cake. And of course there are the wines: Chianti, pino grigio, pino nero, merlot, and chardonnay. Sparkling wines such as prosecco, Chianti Classico and Sangiovese in Tuscany, and Italian varietals such as Brunellos and Vermentino.
Of course, I want to see the iconic sights: The Colosseum and the Roman forum, Palatino, the Capitoline Museums, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums, The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
I want to see the five historic picturesque fishing villages and cliff-terraces of the Cinque Terre, towns like Riomaggiore and Vernazza on the Ligurian coastline.
I want to experience Italy’s dolce vita in Florence and Tuscany. In Florence: the Duomo, the Uffizi, Campanile, and the various basilicas and plazas. In Tuscany: the Leaning Tower of Pisa; the Renaissance streets of Lucca; the Gothic treasures of Siena, as well as the head of St. Catherine at Basilica San Dominico; the vineyards of Chianti; the 14 towers of San Gimignano; the picturesque valley of Val d’Orcia; and the medieval town of Montepulciano. I hope to take a bicycle ride through the picturesque landscapes.
Finally, I anticipate the olive groves, vineyards, and wheat fields scattered with wildflowers and punctuated with cypress trees and castle-topped medieval towns of Umbria.
I look forward to escaping the hum-drum existence of our lives, to experience something exotic and far removed.
I always hope to be awakened spiritually inside the glorious Catholic churches which are the centerpieces of Italian towns and cities.
Here’s another inspirational video: A tale of Tuscan romance on location by Anthropologie:
“THE CALL TO PLACE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a particular destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments. If your destination is a place you love and keep returning to, feel free to write about that. If you want to see the original post about the subject, you can check it out here: imaginings: the call to place.
Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, May 22 at 1:00 p.m. EST.
My next “call to place” post is scheduled to post on Thursday, May 23. If you’d like, you can use the hashtag #wanderessence.
This will be an ongoing invitation, on the fourth Thursday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!
the ~ wander.essence ~ community
I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community. I promise, you’ll be inspired!
I am traveling from April 4 to May 10. If I cannot respond to or add your links due to wi-fi problems or time constraints, please feel free to add your links in both this post and my next scheduled post. If I can’t read them when you post them, I will get to them as soon as I can. Thanks for your understanding! 🙂
Thanks to all of you who wrote posts about “the call to place.” 🙂
I LOVED reading about your journey to find the right time to visit Italy for your first time. What a circuitous route you’ve taken. I’m always so inspired by all the places you’ve visited, so I’m a little embarrassed at how thrilled I am that I’ve been someplace you haven’t been — yet — but are on your way. I’ve visited Italy three times (so far) and am enchanted and entranced on every visit. The first time was to visit our daughter who spent her junior year abroad in Florence. Oh, the things she taught us! I’d love to write a story about that time… you may be inspiring me to do so.
Thanks so much, Pam, for reading and for your nice comment. I’m glad I finally made it for the first time to Italy, and I hope I can make it back one day to explore other parts, north and south. I bet it was amazing to visit your daughter as she studied abroad in Florence. I hope you will write a story about it and share it. I’d love to read it. 🙂
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Good idea – I’ll work on that. 🙂
I can understand your reluctance to visit Italy. I’m sure we all have places where memories made with our significant other have put us off. I have only tasted Italy in bits. 4 hours in Rome whilst waiting for a train connection, with enough time to see the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. Half a day in Venice which certainly wasn’t enough and a few days in the south of the country in Calabria which was wonderful. Plus several hours in Sicily. I’d love to visit Florence and Tuscany and the Cinque Terre. The food and the wines of Italy are amazing. I could eat Italian every day I think! I don’t know how long you are there for, but you have a lot on your wish list. You probably need to move there for a year! Have a fab time Cathy, and I hope the Moroccan adventure is living up to your expectations 😀
I had too little time in Rome to do it justice, Jude. I should have skipped all the tourist stuff and just explored the neighborhoods. The Vatican Museums were a nightmare for me, with the huge crowds being pushed through like cattle. As for Venice, I don’t think I’d ever attempt it at high or even shoulder season. It’s too bad the huge cruise ships and large tour groups have to ruin everything. I really don’t know how the Italians can stand having all those people descend on their country. You’re so right, Italy is wonderful for its food and drink and the Tuscan countryside is amazingly beautiful. That fresh pasta – even the most simple dishes are amazing. We were there for about 16 days. It was a wonderful time, and Morocco was too, although both places had their challenges. I was getting travel weary, so I’m happy now to be home. 🙂
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You’ve answered my question on Facebook earlier today. I knew you’d told me where you planned but I couldn’t remember. I so loved Florence, Cathy! I just hope it isn’t as crowded as you found Rome, but you can always escape to the gardens up above the Pitti Palace. 🙂 🙂 And Cinque Terre is still a dream for me. Enjoy!
Thanks, Jo. Florence was lovely; we loved it, but I tire easily of big cities and love the smaller villages and the countryside so much more. Rome was thick with crowds so not pleasant to me. We did love climbing up above Pitti Palace, but I didn’t care for the Boboli Gardens. So boring! I loved the Piazzale Michelangelo best for views of Florence. 🙂 And Cinque Terre was packed, making it less than enjoyable. We enjoyed Portovenere so much more, although Cinque Terre is certainly dramatic and scenic.
Everybody tries for this bit of the year or September, hoping to catch good weather, but it’s not such a big country and all they catch is crowds. 🙂 🙂
Lots of crowds everywhere, Jo! The only place the crowds were thinner were in Umbria. And Portovenere, just off the Cinque Terre. We loved those more quiet places.
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I hope you enjoy Italy after such a long wait! Your reasons are understandable. I don’t know it that well: of the places I have seen Florence was my favourite.
I liked Florence, but I guess the older I get the more I enjoy smaller towns and the countryside. I didn’t care for Rome at all – way too crowded. And of course I was only there 2 days. If I’d had more time just to explore neighborhoods off the tourist track, I might have liked it better. 🙂
I didn’t like Rome much either. I felt as if I really should, but couldn’t warm to it. Too big.
Too big and too crowded. I wouldn’t go back unless I went in the middle of winter when no one but locals are there.
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I hope your Italian adventure is as wonderful as you anticipate. Have fun!
It was great fun! Busy, crowded, and not the best weather, but overall, a great experience. Thanks, Carol. 🙂
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