Love of Italy

Love of Italy

Monday. Evening. Random Italy.

Arrivederci, Italia. We’ve once again had a blast. Sure, I love Portugal, France, and Spain, too. But only Italy can simultaneously provide all my senses with so much intense pleasure. But like with any passionate relationship, it tends to get a little overindulgent.

I first fell in love with Italy way back in 1983 when I traveled like a hobo from north to south courtesy of Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, the then famously unreliable, state-owned railway system. Even though very few Italians I interacted with in those days spoke English, communicating wasn’t that hard. Hand gestures, some stick drawings, and a lot of smiling were yesteryear’s translation apps. They worked slowly but flawlessly.

Some thirty years later I have yet to visit a country that offers as much to life’s great delights as Italy. Food, wine, art, music, design, architecture, fashion, geography, history – Italy really has it all. Yet this wonderful country of Medici, Caravaggio, Galilei, Bocelli, Armani, Fellini, and Ferrari, not to mention Modigliani, DaVinci, or Rocco Siffredi, the country’s notorious erotic star stud, is still ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the Eurozone. A haven of nepotism, bribery, and ties between public officials and Cosa Nostra, the mafia, the mob, the made men.

But maybe that’s just it. Maybe it’s the country’s rebellious character and unwillingness to trust or be subservient to authority that brings forth these amazing creative talents and extraordinary passions they so fully embody. Even some of the men and at least one woman who captained the vaporettos we took between Venetian islands had larger-than-life personalities. Watching how restaurant hierarchies work, even at simple trattorias, could be like having front-row seats at an opera. Drama queens everywhere.

Within almost every Italian man lives a Berlusconi and a Mario Andretti. In every woman resides a Maria Montessori and a Gina Lollobrigida.

Since my very first visit at the beginning of the 1980s, Italy has had 30 governments. Thirty. Yet the country is also one of the continent’s largest economies and produces some of the world’s most well-respected brands and goods. Go figure.

Just think of the fact that when Rome was in its peak era, pagan tribes in what is now Sweden were still forging their blunt Iron Age tools.

As relatively slow-paced and laid-back as Italian life is in places like Pienza, Cortina, Capri, Siena, and the villages of Cinque Terra, I’ve found that it’s in the cities where the full-throttled Italian experience is best observed, absorbed and enjoyed. Naples, Milan, Rome, and to a lesser degree Florence all offer a level of edginess that keeps the blood flowing and pulse beating.

Staying on the Venetian island of Giudecca, right across Canale della Giudecca from Dorsoduro, turned out to be another one of Charlotte’s brilliant location strategies. Giudecca is as calm and local as San Marco is bustling and touristy. But you got to have a little of both.

The last time we visited Venice, about 15 years ago, was also in April but not nearly as hot and crowded as this time around.

According to a few locals I spoke with, temperatures as well as the amount of tourists will soon almost double. Yikes!
Flying less than two hours from Copenhagen down to Venice and then taking a comfortable bus to Cortina in the Dolomites (Italian Alps) was easy-peasy and a great way to combine skiing and hiking with a few days of amazing Venetian canal culture.

The days when a delicious meal cost 5000 ($4) lire are long gone. A pizza in Venice (or Cortina) is on par with what they charge in Malmö. But then there’s the taste factor…