People often ask me, "Where are the most beautiful places in Italy?" My answer is that beauty is everywhere in Italy. It is more than a place but rather an experience, a feeling, and an understanding. The story that follows takes you back in time to moments in Italy that I will always remember fondly.
Let me start with one thing that I truly love about Italy: walking through Italian cities and towns.
I grew up in cities where people seldom walked. If I needed to go down the road to visit a friend, I'd get in the car. Short of a few groceries, jump in the car. At first, it was strange to see how Italians walked everywhere. Slowly, I grew to love it.
Maria, my wife, would send me out in the morning to buy a few things for lunch, and I'd be gone for hours. My barber was just around the corner; on weekday mornings, he was never that busy; he'd see me and invite me to the bar next door for an espresso, where I'd meet another three or four people and get caught up in conversations about life, politics, and sports.
Then I'd walk to the fishmonger, passing by a little bakery. Except I could never just walk by that bakery; the aroma of freshly baked bread made all resistance crumble, and in I'd go. I'd walk out loaded down with breads, pastries, and enough calories to cover all the walking and more.
Rosalinda, an elderly lady who'd lost her entire family in a Sicilian earthquake decades before, lived just down the lane from the fishmonger. She'd stand on her balcony and sing sad, beautiful songs for hours about Catania, her town in Sicily that forever lives in fear of volcanoes and earthquakes. I always stood and listened, even though she never failed to bring tears to my eyes.
Finally, I'd get to the fishmonger, where he'd share the life history and provenance of all his fish. He often knew the names of the fishermen who caught them. The only fish fresher than these were still swimming in the sea, he'd say. Of course we had to discuss family, politics, and life too.
Then it was onto the little corner store selling pasta, followed by the butcher and the fruit shop. Each time, we'd have to talk for ages.
Often, I'd ask for something and get told I'd gotten it wrong. They'd tell me that what I asked for was not what my wife, Maria, wanted, and you know what? They were always right.
I'd always come home with the right items, no thanks to me. Anywhere else in the world, when Maria sends me to the supermarket, you can bet I forget things, buy the wrong items, etc., etc.
To me, walking in Italian cities is the way you discover them. The sounds, aromas, and sights—these are the memories you treasure. The people you meet, the stories they tell, and the things you see—these all become parts of who you are.
There are moments in Italy that stay with you forever: moments such as simply walking down a centuries old lane in an ancient old town. Ahead, local grandmothers (nonnas) are selling pasta... as they have for centuries. The beautiful music of spoken Italian uplifts your soul, washing dances in the summer breeze and you've never felt so alive. Meet these ladies here.