La Vita è Bella -Savoring the Colors, Flavors and Atmosphere of Italy

Life is Beautiful

In this guest post Barbara Saks shares her memories of her eight weeks in Italy. Passing through the country sides of Umbria and Tuscany to the urban jewels of Florence and Turin , followed by a leisurely trip to Lake Maggiore and  Bergamo, all the while savoring the colors, flavors and atmosphere of Italy. Her trip started and ended in the eternal city, Rome with an unforgettable wish that is sure to come true. Photo above: Author Barbabra Saks in Italy


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World traveler and lover of all that is Italian, this article was written by Barbara Saks


The secret is to hold the coin in your right hand with your back to the fountain and throw it over your left shoulder, thus ensuring a return visit to the eternal city of Rome. As I close my eyes and make a wish, memories of the past eight weeks rebound as if it were yesterday.


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A perfect itinerary

Orvieto in Italy’s green heart of Umbria is the perfect beginning – an ancient city perched on top of a labyrinth of caves and tunnels, and a cathedral dating back to the 1200s with a magnificent facade that is considered one of the finest creations of Italian gothic architecture. This was our home for five nights, where we feasted on amazing produce from the local market – figs that tasted like honey, scarlet tomatoes with a flavor to match, ravioli filled with roast artichokes and some wonderful local wines.

After a brief train trip we arrived in the Tuscan city of Arezzo, a city filled with magnificent architecture, narrow lanes, beautiful piazzas, great shops, friendly locals, and a fantastic market where we purchased the best Parmesan cheese I have ever tasted.

The Arno River (Ponte Vecchio) in Florence, Italy

Florence then became our home for two glorious weeks. A very special highlight was a pilgrimage to the home of Giacomo Puccini in Torre del Lago where the Maestro composed so many of his memorable and remarkable operas.

The next stop was Mantova – another gem that is not widely written about, but so very beautiful, with three lakes surrounding the city. My diary lists feasts of the local specialty – pumpkin filled ravioli, gnocchi with walnut sauce, and fresh Burratta (from Puglia). A tortellini cake that tasted of marzipan and had the crunch of crisp pasta encased in a light pastry was extraordinary and unforgettable.

And on to Torino, a city that certainly didn’t disappoint. Our visit coincided with an exhibition of the Shroud of Turin that was last seen in 2000. This added a wonderful sense of elation and celebration to the city. The list of museums is endless and a visit to the helpful tourist office allowed us to allocate our time wisely.

Torino is a multifaceted place with many churches, a huge and wonderful outdoor market and historical buildings. It is rich in art with palaces, piazzas, and over 18km of porticoes that house designer shops alongside elegant cafes from the early 1900s. The Roman quarter is filled with narrow cobbled lanes still housing the remains of medieval towers.

But, I saved the best ‘til last! Eataly is housed in a vast converted factory, where we spent several hours indulging in fish, cheese, meat, pasta, beer, wine, gelati, chocolate and vegetarian delights.

Isola Bella of Lake Maggiore, Italy

Under a blue sky, we took a two hour train ride for some much needed tranquility and found it in full measures in Stresa. Sitting at Lake Maggiore’s edge, this glorious town gave us a sense of peace and joy every day. The air was fresh, clean and pure.

Taking a ferry ride and visiting the three magical islands of Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola Pescatore was a highlight. These islands are too beautiful for words – the strutting peacocks, the formal gardens, the isolation and tranquility, beautiful palaces and a sense of being somewhere that will remain in our memories always.

With renewed vigour we ventured on to Bergamo, a lovely town just east of Milan that is divided into upper and lower parts. Boasting a richness of Renaissance architecture and 6km of city wall, our brief stay in the upper town was full and enjoyable. We experienced two of the best meals here – cabbage rolls filled with minced vegetables, bread and polenta; and swordfish cubes, rolled in breadcrumbs and served in a rich tomato and caper sauce with pasta.

Arriving at Rome’s Termini Station felt like coming home. I love this city more with every visit. The highlight for me was the ancient Roman road, Via Appia Antica, which was constructed towards the end of the 4th century BC and is still intact and lovingly preserved.

And so I place the coin in my right hand, throw it over my left shoulder and release – it’s time to go, but I will return.

 


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This article was written by Barbara Saks and can be licenced from Partica
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