Saturday, October 24, 2015
Published October 16. 2015 4:32
At the end of September I returned from a 10-day vacation in Italy a few pounds lighter than the day I left. It’s a mystery to me because I ate what everybody else ate and just as late. Try sleeping peacefully after a thanksgiving-like huge Italian meal every night. Wine at every meal, two bottles of water on every table, gas or no gas, (aka fizzy or flat), and 10 days of non-stop travel. From the Swiss Alps to Venice, Florence, Rome and the Vatican, we hoofed many miles a day. I’m thinking that the wine, water and walking was my secret weapon. Actually, it was probably the water and walking because I not a fan of wine.
My husband and I don’t travel much, (Lake George five years ago), so flying over the pond to Europe was a big deal. Because I was told Italians don’t hang out in blue jeans and t-shirts like we do, I bought a whole new travel wardrobe. It now fills my closet as a reserve for job interviews, weddings and funerals.
The last time I saw so many cigarette smokers, cigarettes cost 50 cents a pack. In Italy you can turn your lungs black for 10 times that now. Like here, you’re not allowed to light-up in restaurants, so running a gauntlet of outside smelly smokers is the norm. Unlike here, your dog, (not only a service dog but your pet), may accompany you to dinner in restaurants. The ones we saw were always well behaved, not so with some children, but that’s another story.
We started out in the north of Italy. The breathtaking mountainous vistas and villages looked exactly like every WWII movie I’ve ever watched. On the train to Switzerland the scenes were so spectacular that even though we weren’t in Austria, I half-expected to see a young Julie Andrews break out in “the hills are alive with music.”
I cannot express how beautiful Turano and the Italian Alps are. As a microclimate protected from the harshness of the high regions by the mountains, the valley was lush with palm trees and an autumn harvest of every fruit imaginable, plus miles and miles of vineyards clinging to the mountains on steep slopes almost to the tree line. My husband’s grandparents were from that area. No wonder their gardens, grapes and wine making here became family tradition.
To elaborate on the jaw-dropping scenic sights, or the magnificent artistic and architectural monuments to Italian creativity, would only serve as redundancy in regards to travel brochures. Visually Italy is indeed everything everyone says it is, spectacular, beautiful and very old with a modern mix far ahead of many.
The only serious negative I can come up is the life threatening, aggressive and absolutely maddening way Italians drive. Two-way city streets are as narrow as a driveway. Even though cars are tiny, trucks and buses are not. Put a bunch of buzzed-by-expresso Italians behind the wheels of a Fiat, throw in a couple of full-size tour buses, a handful of delivery trucks, half a dozen insane scooter-drivers, (who make the white line their lane), toss in the six of us in a nine person van with a GPS which assumed Rome, N.Y., was Rome, Italy, and you have a mix that would curl every insurance agent’s hair. It had me whimpering in the back seat.
Maneuvering the narrow mountain roads wasn’t that bad, it was worse. Imagine driving down from the summit of Mt. Washington in two-way heavy traffic at 60 mph, with scooters whizzing by, and you get a sense of how lucky I felt to be alive when I sat down to a late night dinner every night.
Italy is spectacular, we loved it. And I have the memories and wardrobe to prove it.