While I’m glad to be home, 10-days in Italy just wasn’t enough time. Yes, this was an educational trip for BabyGirl so I knew there would be long days filled with history and art and lots and lots of walking. But the beauty. Oh, the beauty. This country is gorgeous. Not just the buildings, but the ancient roads, the bridges, the fountains, the marble and stone and tile work. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Italy, just say YES and figure out the rest afterward.
With a rich history that continues to shape modern history, everywhere I looked there was something that caused me to say WOW or That’s Amazing! I stood upon ancient grounds and saw modern marvels that were at least a thousand years old. And I took in some of the most spectacular art the world has ever seen.
Yet, it was the simple things that impressed me the most. Simple foods, simple homes. The simplicity of a life lived for pure joy and not to impress others.
While Rome and Florence and Venice have their place in history, and the hearts of millions, it was Pompeii and Burano (a small island in the Venice archipelago) that was a feast for my eyes and my brain. Two small villages steeped in history, one reliving its past and another hold on to a past quickly slipping away. Both places you should visit. Both places I wish I had more time to discover.
Almost 2,000 years ago an entire civilization was covered in ash from the volcano Mt. Vesuvius. It was a local man trying to tap a well who unearthed the amazing city below the earth’s lush groundcover, Pompeii. This is an archaeologists dream. A city that has brought insight to early Italian civilization and continues to give us a further history of who we are as people. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pompeii, I wish I had more. If you ever get to Italy, Pompeii is a must-see! Walk quickly past the stands hawking Pompeii-emblazoned junk made in China and spend that money on a good guide or audio-tour and umbrella to shield the sun so you can truly enjoy your walking tour.
Up north, along the Adriatic coast, Burano is a colorful fishing village holding on to a slow world while boatloads of tourists traipse through their narrow alleys and young people embrace technology while losing patience for the art of lacemaking. The story goes that the small fishing village, a 25-minute boat ride from the docks of Venice, painted its houses in colorful hues to help lead tired fishermen home at the end of a long day. It is an island known of lacemaking, just as its neighbor Murano is known for glass blowing. There are still a handfull of women who make lace, by hand, to create gorgeous masterpieces. A large tablecloth can take a year to make and requires nearly 100 pieces of lace that are then sewn together to make it look as if it was done in one piece. The island is also known for a cookie that is not too sweet, but perfect for dunking in a coffee (or tea) any time of day. The Busola is their signature pastry. I thought it was delightful and had a plain one as well as one dipped in chocolate. BabyGirl didn’t care for it so much, preferring her gelato.
In walking the narrow alleyways of Burano, your eyes are treated to a multitude of plain buildings awash in bright colors, like those below. You can’t help but be happy. And because you can walk from one end of the island in 10 minutes (at a brisk pace), you have to slow down. The shutters, bright colors and fabric door covers beckon you.
While Italy isn’t really all that large (as compared to driving across the US), it is very diverse and every road is filled with history. This was just my first trip and yet I will not cross Italy off my list of places I want to go. There was just too much I didn’t get to see. But of what I did see I know I want to return. The people were gracious. The food was simple but delicious. The colors are a sensory rainbow.
Go to Italy. Find a way. Eat ramen noodles if you have to, but go. Italy was never high on my list of places I want to visit but it surely won me over. Until next time, Ciao!
All images by Sara Hawkins