As I drive from the far north to the far south over these weeks, I truly get to see, and more importantly, experience, Italy in all its diversity. I know I’ve written of this before, and I can guarantee I’ll write about it again. But, it’s true. Italy is incredibly diverse.
Close your eyes. Go ahead, close them. When I say the word Italy to you, what do you picture? The Roman Colosseum perhaps. The winding canals of Venezia lined with colorful buildings. The hills of Toscana covered with grapevines. Be honest.
Now, let me tell you some of what I’ve seen so far. Please do come and take this journey with me…
I’ve sat in an ancient outdoor arena in Verona with thousands of other Italians and listened as everyone sang along with a beloved female pop star.
I’ve run the flat lands of the Valpolicella vineyards watching as the workers begin the vendemmia.
I’ve walked along Lago di Garda, climbing up the mountains that surround the north end of this lake.
I’ve hiked to beautiful mountain valleys, across pastures filled with happy cows, their bells clanging in the wind, in the Alpe di Siusi.
I’ve hiked to the top of a rocky mountain that gave me 360 degree views of the Dolomiti and the Zillertal Alps.
I’ve hiked to vistas and valleys with views of the Senes and Fanes Dolomiti.
I’ve wandered the cobblestoned lanes of small villages, watching as the Italians carry on with their daily lives.
I’ve entered beautiful churches of all sizes, each with its own unique artistry.
I’ve seen fields of corn, their stalks two meters high.
I’ve driven through areas filled with apple orchards
I’ve been in awe of castles perched up on cliffs.
I’ve driven the autostrada, gripping the steering wheel tightly as the Italians whiz past me.
I’ve seen the flatlands of the Emilia-Romagna region give way to the northern mountains of Toscana then become the gentle rolling hills we often see in pictures.
I’ve heard church bells ring in small towns, waited for cows to cross the road in the mountain valleys and meandered through forests rich with the scent of pine.
I’ve witnessed the sunrise over the vineyards, the mountains and the villages and seen the sun set over these same places, never ceasing to be amazed at the beauty.
I’ve gazed at the stars, so many, on a clear cold night in San Vigilio di Marebbe…and on a clear warm night in the hills of the Val d’Elsa.
I’ve experienced so much of this incredibly diverse country – diverse in its geography, its culture and its people.
And I still have weeks to go!
So when someone says Italy, don’t think just about Roma, Venezia, Firenze, Toscana – yes, all beautiful places. Think beyond that. When I hear the word Italy here’s what I see. Small towns nestled in the mountain valleys or perched on a hill. Mountain peaks that take your breath away. Rows of grapevines dotting the flatland as well as the hillsides. Rivers running through cities. Forests filled with evergreen and deciduous trees, the sun streaming through creating intriguing shadows. Gnarled hands of vineyard workers. Warm smiles when you say, “buon giorno.”
This is Italy!