I’m so happy to have had the opportunity and the pleasure of visiting some of the amazing top cities of Italy, and discovered I am so very much in love with this destination. The sights old and new, the smells, the food, the wine, and of course the people all make me close my eyes, smile and wish I were back in this soulful place.
As I arrived into Rome, the first thing that really stood out is that even though it was October, it was 80 degrees … how wonderful! I had 3 sweaters I should not have brought along, but worse things have happened. I was on a guided tour of Italy and we started with taking a bus to a restaurant for an authentic pizza dinner. Of course, the sights were amazing on the way. The Colosseum, The Pantheon, the Government center all took your breath away. Where did the archeology and technology come from in ancient Rome? Not only were the buildings functional, but they were also beautiful and artistic.
Like the adage says, “When in Rome…” That evening we were treated to a wood-fire baked authentic pizza dinner. The smells of the fresh made sauce and the creamy mozzarella on a crispy crust filled the restaurant with deliciousness and warmth, like mama’s house, or was that the Chianti?
Day two brought our visit to the Vatican. The architecture and the art in every corner were spectacular, whether modern or ancient. I especially appreciated Michelangelo’s fresco ceiling and I was humbled at the “Touching the hand of God” painting. I was being silly but thought the Pope has a great job to be able to work and live here. Other grand pieces I enjoyed was the huge pineapple staircase outside in the courtyard and Bramante’s stepless spiral staircase on the inside.
Saint Peter’s Basilica was exquisite. I normally go to mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, MN, so I am used to a huge church, but not like this. It is about 4 times the size with gold craftsmanship and porcelain tiling all over everything, even the ceiling. The paintings were larger than life all celebrating God and his disciples. No matter what religion you are, you will appreciate the hard work people did bringing this place to life.
Next on the itinerary was driving through the classic Tuscan countryside with the tall Cypress trees to get to the College of Preugia where we were greeted warmly by Marta, one of the last of the family textile weavers in all of Italy. Her studio was a 12th century church that housed 6 full-sized looms that were big enough to make blankets. After Marta gave us a lesson of how to set up a loom and to weave, I learned that the weaving was the easy part. The tough part was the details that go in to setting up the loom precisely to create patterns that tell a story, griffins, grape vines, falcons, fountains, made me truly appreciate the Italian art in this form that was being created before my eyes.
Florence was our next stop. Again, the sights from the familiar landscape of the city made me smile. The square was so fun and alive with people, and churches and shops and street vendors. A major feature of the area is the Duomo. (The famous domed church.) With its massive size and detail, I was in awe. Florence is known for its quality leather products so of course, I picked up a couple of handbags from the street vendors. Florence is where I had my first taste of lavender gelato in Italy. I don’t know if I can have gelato anywhere else when I started at the top.
That evening was a memory I will never forget. Our group was taken to an Italian villa and farm owned by an actual Italian Countess named Giada. The villa has been in the family since the 19th century and is still producing Olives, Olive oil and wine. I was in heaven.
After a Prosecco greeting in the courtyard of the Villa, we were given a tour of this amazing building and then settled in for some of Giada’s cooking. What an honor. It was a white linen dinner that started with a handmade dish of ribbon pasta, then salad and roasted chicken that fell off the bone. She finished the meal with a fresh baked limoncello cake. Delicioso! What a lovely evening with great food and new friends.
On to Bologna! This was a city filled with charm and vibrant sights and sounds of the Bologna Marketplace. There were fresh fish markets, bakeries, fruit stands, meat shops, and fashion houses for as far as the eye could see! For lunch I had the best pasta bolognaise I have ever tasted, alfresco with red checkered tablecloth and just watched the people of Bologna go by.
Off to Murano and the Vetreria Artistica Colleoni (Murano glass Company) for a lesson in glass blowing! Blown glass is another art that is coveted in Italy. From the most delicate pieces of jewelry, to sculptures, to the most spectacular chandeliers that are famous around the world, glass blowing is a skill that is made up of technique, speed and talent. The showroom just sparkled with color and light of the different pieces that could have been purchased.
The last stop was the best for last … AAAH, Venice. Our group was there on one of the rainiest days I have ever seen and still was a glorious experience. The view of St. Mark’s Square, the canals, the gondolas, the cobblestone streets and sculptures created what every photo I have ever seen conveyed, only better. I was there and I was in awe. Everything was so beautiful, even the water taxis! The city was alive with old and new everything and welcoming people everywhere. Walking the bridges was a challenge, but so fun and I captured some great photos and memories I will never forget.
Italy was a dream! I hope that you have the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and I would be happy to assist with the planning.