To fully experience all the magic of Italy is an assault on all your senses. There are so many wonderful flavors, chimes and colors that enrapture you as you walk the majestic cobblestone streets. You feel the rich history and the magnitude of centuries of existence as the prominent world leader in art and culture here. The diversity of Italy offers something for everyone: epic cities like Rome and Florence, the fashion and financial center of Milan, the unique canals of Venice, the tranquility of Lake Como, the madness of Naples, the beauty of the Mediterranean seaside including the islands of Capri, Sardinia and Sicily. Wherever your adventures in Italy may take you, you are guaranteed an overwhelming sensory overload so read on to allow me to explain further as I’ve just returned from a fabulous trip in Italy…
The sights of Italy are breathtaking. The magnificence of the prolific Renaissance era is inescapable with the vast number of churches, statues and architecture that is seemingly infinite. The vibrant pastels of all the palazzi (buildings) with various hues of soft yellow, burnt orange and bright red color the landscape. Narrow alleyways burst open into grand piazzas full of life. Artisan shops with impeccable craftsmanship handed down by generations catch you by surprise everywhere. And, of course, the cafes, gelaterias, trattorias, ristorantes and pizzerias are irresistibly inescapable. Some of my most precious moments are getting lost in the maddening, dysfunctional patterns of the streets, only to emerge to discover amazing new sights off the tourist traps where the locals go to escape the frenzy.
Every city has their Duomo (central church) but often other churches in the same city surpass the Duomo as a place in worship and patronage and offer incredibly relevant art, creative architecture and important tombstones. For example, the Duomo in Florence is spectacular and beyond description but it is the neighboring Santa Croce Church where monuments for Michelangelo, Dante, Galileo and Machiavelli were granted. In Rome, arguably Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece, the statue of Moses, is positioned in a random church far from the Vatican. Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is in a monastery minutes away from Milan’s massive Duomo. There are so many treasures to explore in addition to the primary landmark.
The sounds of Italy are omnipresent from every direction. Gorgeous church bells ring on the quarter hour resonating through all the cobblestone streets. A stark contrast to the chaos of Fiat horns blaring, Vespas racing and weaving through traffic, horses clip-clopping and the eerie sounds of the high pitched sirens from the ambulances and carabinieri (police). A mix of languages from all corners of the globe -especially German, Arabic, English and Chinese – is typically heard everywhere as you bump into people in the crowded streets, yet all drowned out by the passionate chatter of Italians yelling and singing. The vitality of the many open markets is an unforgettable experience that perfectly represents an Italian gathering at its best with competing vendors joyously screaming their discounted offers for fruits and vegetables. All of this – this orgy of sounds – is pure madness and yet it is the unchained melody that stays in my memory long after leaving my beloved Italy.
The smells of Italy are inescapable. The robust espresso permeates the streets. You catch a whiff of all the incredible aromas of bakeries with their fresh croissants and biscotti as you pass by on narrow alleyways. The pizzerias continuously seduce your palate and the tantalizing prosciutto and formaggi (cheeses) will tempt even the most disciplined vegetarian. Freshly made paninis are on every corner and garlic wafts heaven ward. The greatest mystery of all may just be how Italians stay so slim. Perhaps it’s the second hand smoke, the occasional nasty whiffs emanating from the sewers, or the nonstop exhaust of the endless traffic that keeps everything in balance. But it is this collision of scents that is the pure beauty of Italy. It truly represents every day life in these vibrant communities.
The constant feeling of romance, culture and energy of Italy surrounds you. Street musicians playing songs of amore on guitar and violins. Mimes, magicians and street entertainers performing on street corners. The gathering of people in crowded restaurants and open piazzas. Friends sipping cappuccinos and lovers sipping chianti in outdoor tables lining the busy streets to watch the people. Children throwing coins in the fountains. Everything is conducive to a sense of community, to a feeling of belonging to something larger than self. The passion of the people is infectious, all surrounded by centuries of rich history and cultural beauty to create a magical experience.
Bell’Italia…it has captured my heart and touched my soul.