Monday, May 22, 2017 | Category: Travel Stories, Travel Tips, Travel Writing
I am not a great cook, I am not a great artist. But I love art and I love food, so I am the perfect traveler — Michael Palin
It keeps getting better, Italy. And I’m pretty sure that’s not just a comparison to what’s been going on in the good ol’ USA these days. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s hard to argue the fact that we are of late an enormously divided people who wake up to unsettling news each and every morning.
For a little more than three weeks, Tim and I have been back in Italy, answering endless questions (“Is it really true?”, “Did you learn nothing from us with Berlusconi?”) and trying to focus on showing our travelers a good time and enjoying the food, wine, vistas and slower pace that rural Italy offers.
And our travelers! Every tour has its own special ambience, and this year was no exception. Our “Taste of the Mezzogiorno” group was seven enthusiastic people strong and included one fellow who had never even been to Italy before. I love the fact that he was introduced to the South first, before being overwhelmed by Rome, Florence and Venice. Now he understands about the “forte e gentile” Abruzzese people . . . about the strategic importance of the beautiful blue Adriatic . . . and about the rugged communal life of the interior.
On this tour we tried to show off three ways of life in three different regions: small city life in Sulmona (Abruzzo), a jewel of a port city in Trani (Puglia), and the remarkable sassi settlement of Matera (Basilicata). Along the way we stopped in Ortona, saw trabocchi along the coast, were wowed by Polignare a Mare and got a close-up look at the trulli houses of Alberobello. It was a lot of driving and, once again, my eternal gratitude extends to my husband, Tim, for driving a nine-person van up and around the surreal switchbacks of southern Italy.
In each region we ate local food, visited local wineries and learned about history and culture from knowledgeable local tour guides. I think it’s a great way to experience the authentic (an overused word, I know) Italy. Our small groups receive warm welcomes, hear good stories, make friends and even get an occasional invitation to someone’s home. It cannot be beat.
This fall we are doing something a little different. By popular demand from former travelers, we are going to Venice. I said I would do it only if they agreed to see Vicenza, as well. So we go off on a non-driving tour of two great Northern cities, and then Tim and I will return to Sulmona, where our hearts are.
Our next tour of the Abruzzo region (and who knows where else?) will be in May 2018. Think about it if you’re up for a small group experience like no other. Watch this space and my Facebook page for more details.
Tim and I go back to Salem, Massachusetts in a few days, where we know a thing or two about witch hunts. We’re looking forward to Venice in the fall . . .