I often say that if I were to retire somewhere in Europe, Italy would be it. After Greece, my options have a strong second contender but when we got back from a trip to the south of Italy recently, my original instinct is now as strong as ever. Italy reminds me of India: loud, cluttered, friendly. It seems like everyone is in everyone’s business although it may not be literally true, not in modern India, and probably not in modern Italy. It still feels that way because of the vibe of the place. The differences with, say, England, are striking. The first couple of days after you return, you’re like, “Where the eff is everyone? Why the eff is it so quiet?!”
In short, Italy is Irene Adler to England’s Mycroft. #who’s sherlocked #notme. Ha.
I love, love Firenze. With one of the most impressive duomos in the entire country (second only to Siena in the surprise factor), I’d vote for Florence as the city of lovers over Venice. Not that I’m looking at it with those eyes anymore (ah, whatever you say, one can’t feel that invincible at almost 40), but meandering through the Piazza Duomo one can’t help but feel a bit intoxicated, a bit above it all (even with kids dragging at your helm).
And then there’s Siena. Bella, even in the rain, even without the tourist-induced atmosphericness. A vast central piazza flanked by chic shops on radiating streets and small, homey trattorias; Siena unquestionably took my heart. Originally built as a walled city accessible through the humongous Roman gates or porta romana.
The amazing thing about Italy, and indeed most of Europe, is the historic wealth that has been preserved almost magically unharmed. I mean, see how many times people have fought over, bombed, raided these cities over the centuries and you can still view Pompeii in incredible original detail. It never ceases to stop me in my tracks with the realization at least once during a trip.
10 days split over Catania — Mt. Etna (must visit, for the hurricane-force wind, if nothing else) — Caltagirone (lovely steep steps, but can skip if punched for time) — Pisa (cheesy but definitely must-see once in your life) — Siena — Florence — Naples (only as a pit-stop) — Amalfi coast (dramatic but also a bit overrated IMO. Once you’ve witnessed drama like the Moher cliffs in Ireland, the Icelandic fjords and Santorini…) — Pompei.