What is it about Italy that fascinates you? Is it taking a gondola ride through the canals of Venice? Is it seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Vatican City? Is it eating pizza in Naples? Is it walking across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence? You wouldn’t be wrong if you said yes to all of the above.
These are only a few of the things that have intrigued me and continue to draw me under its spell; years later and I am still fascinated with all that Italy has to offer.
My first taste of Italy came in 2001 when I backpacked through Europe for three months. Italy had to be on my ‘must see’ list because of what I envisioned it to be; amazing food, history, architecture and of course having to see the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain. After setting foot in this country for the first time, I realized there was more to see than what I thought.
- Walking through the ruins of Pompeii and seeing where these people lived before the city was consumed by Mount Vesuvius.
- Imagining what it must have been like to live in Pompeii during this time.
- Seeing the Coliseum for the first time after getting off the metro. I am not sure where I thought it would be but I didn’t think it would be in the middle of the city.
- Walking from the Coliseum to the Roman Forum. Seeing the ruins of these buildings and imagining what they must have been like when they were first built.
- Sticking my hand in the Mouth of Truth; the saying goes that if you tell a lie than it will close on your hand.
- Throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain in hopes that I would return to Rome one day. It must have worked since I have returned more than once.
- Feeling like ‘where’s Waldo’ when standing on the Spanish Steps.
- Seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel for the first time and being in awe of how much time and detail went into it.
- Having brought our own lunch, we sat on the outskirts of St. Peter’s Basilica.
- Knowing that we were in the place where the Pope resides and where he gives his speech on Easter.
- Taking the Vaporetto (motorized bus-boats) to get to the island from the outskirts of Venice if you were not staying on the island itself.
- Stepping foot on the island for the first time; walking over bridges to get from one area of the city to another area.
- Not having a description for the smell of the Canals; didn’t feel clean.
- Walking to Piazza San Marco and seeing all the pigeons inhabit this area.
- Rows of Gondolas lined up along the canal off of Piazza San Marco.
- Narrow passageways where you couldn’t miss all the shops that sold Venetian masks.
It would be three years before I made my way back to Italy. This time I wasn’t alone as my mom and a friend of mine made the trip with me. It was great being the tour guide and showing them around some of the places I have visited. It was even more interesting to use the phrase book I brought along with me to help us get around. I actually managed to find the restroom for my mom and the Spanish Steps as well by speaking in Italian. I know the pronunciations were off but I loved that I didn’t resort to speaking English but attempted to speak the language of the country we were seeing.
- Taking the hop-on hop-off shuttle bus that enabled us to see more of the city.
- Seeing Ponte Vecchio for the first time.
- Walking to the Accademia Gallery to see the David statue and being surprised that it was bigger than I thought it was going to be.
- Finding this one house in the entire city that embodied what I thought villas looked like when I envisioned living in Italy. Yes, I have dreamt of living in a foreign country.
Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands of the Venetian Lagoon
- Visiting a glass factory in Murano where I got to see the glass blowers on-site create these works of art. I didn’t leave the island without buying something for myself and for a friend’s upcoming wedding. Who can say they received a gift hand-picked from another country for them?
- The hand crafted lace of Burano.
- Walking around the island of Torcello and seeing how each island is different from the other ones. No two islands are the same.
- Taking the bus from Florence to Pisa only to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
- Missing out on the opportunity to have a photo taken of me where it looks like I am holding up the tower. Wishing I had thought about it on the day we were there.
- Talking to some guys who ran a fruit stand outside the gates of Pompeii.
- Seeing the city through the eyes of my mom and friend since neither had been to Italy.
- Getting used to eating dinner late at night. Rome has an afternoon siesta where places close at certain times and then open back up later in the day.
- Eating Gelato and knowing ice cream will never be the same when I get back home. Gelato is amazing.
- Watching my mom get her photo taken with two ‘guards’ outside the Coliseum.
- Being disappointed that there wasn’t any water in the Trevi Fountain on the day we visited. Telling my mom that she should still throw a coin in the fountain.
- Craning our necks to look up at the Sistine Chapel and hoping we didn’t get trampled on since there wasn’t any room to move around.
- Taking a Gondola ride through the canals.
- Feeding the pigeons in Piazza San Marco.
- Trying to hold up the walls when we were walking through one of the narrow passageways.
- Taking a photo with my mom in the middle of Piazza San Marco; I am on one side of this lion and she is on the other side. The same photo was taken of me a few years earlier during my backpacking trip through Europe. It was classic to replicate the photo; this time with my mom.
It would be nine years before I saw Italy again; my love for this city still intact as it was the first time I laid eyes on it. Again, I wasn’t alone on this trip as I took my nieces with me. One of them had graduated from high school and Rome was on her list of places she wanted to see.
- Wanting to see this place since I heard that it would be the perfect place for lunch. Never finding the roasted pork that I came all the way to Frascati to sink my teeth into but finding a great cafe nevertheless for lunch.
- Walking along the cobble stoned streets, window shopping until we came to the top of the town for an amazing view of the buildings beneath us.
- Perfect place to spend the day away from the hustle and bustle of Rome.
- Getting rained on as we left the Trevi Fountain trying to make our way back to the metro stop.
- Ordering Gnocchi with asparagus sauce for the first time. Loving the scenery since we were down the street from the Coliseum and could see it from where we were sitting.
- Finding a park across from the Coliseum where I could do my daily walks + runs while I was in the city.
- Finding the best place for buying meat and yes, goat cheese, down the street from where we were staying.
Without a doubt, I haven’t seen all that Italy has to offer. I still want to hike through the Cinque Terre and explore more of the Tuscany region. I want to find my own ‘off the beaten path’ destinations that haven’t been run over by tourists.
What is it about Italy that you love? Is it that one special place you found that isn’t over run with tourists? Is it the history of the place you visited? Is it the driving along the Amalfi Coast? What is it about this country that whispers to you that you need to visit it again because you didn’t get enough of it the first few times you were there?