Thursday, June 7, 2007

Artviva July 2007 Italy Travel Writing Competition: Rebbeca Bell

Italia Thoughts

Tuscany will take your heart, tear it up and leave you coming back for more. I promise, you will return home, aching for the cappuccino, the wine and the bluest sky you've ever seen. How it happens exactly, I cannot say, but I can attest to it myself.

Never mind the late or cancelled trains (causing you to be stranded in a town several miles from your destination), the strikes, the unpredictable store hours or internet unavailability. Upon your homecoming you will ask others, and will find that they too were sorry they left.

"Why did you return to the States?" you'll inquire, and receive one dutiful answer after another: "I came back for my cousin's wedding," one said, "I only had two weeks off from work," (a likely story) and "I spent all my money," (an easy thing to do there). And why did I return? My plane was booked and I had to catch it. Yes, another dutiful answer and one I wholeheartedly regret.

I should have stayed there, soaking up the Tuscan sun and olive oil. I didn’t even get to Venice or Rome; I spent 12 days in the olive groves. I lived like a local, stopping at the piazza café/bar for a cappuccino in the morning and a glass of el vino rossa in the evening. I made friends and, yes, even a lover. I took day trips to the nearby towns, sampled bits of local flavor and watched the Mediterranean Sea crash on the shore.

A palpable life force dominates in Italy -- a vitality that fills you up, more than you knew you could be; but then leaves you empty of all your red blood upon your return to the States. An old saying resonates: Italians have two veins; one for café and one for vino. I wonder, can a displaced Americano have this too?

“This is Italy,” becomes a phrase you will hear often. They do things on their time and in their own way. Don’t expect to change it. “Go with the flow,” may be a phrase you should recite from time to time. Especially, if oh, the last train is cancelled and you find out later from the locals - to never trust the last train. Don’t expect to find a store open between 1-4PM, that they will actually open at the time stated, or a train schedule ANYWHERE! Most Italians will be friendly with you if you try speaking in their tongue; but, especially in Tuscany, charades may be your only choice.

Aside from mere trivialities, Italy really is what you've heard:
The romance. Where else can you have a barbecue at a 500 year old villa located in an olive grove, and pluck fresh rosemary and sage from the adjoining fields to throw on the grill? Where else is the view so charming and the men so disarming? A word to the wise: do not let your guard down; you can fall in love easily. I’m warning you, upon your return to the States, your heart will feel displaced for quite some time. (Not speaking from experience, of course!)

The language. Is there any language more beautiful? The Italian spoken today was specifically chosen from the region of Tuscany because it was the closest and best sounding of all the dialects that dominated each region. In the 14th Century they realized they needed a national language and so chose the one you hear today for its eloquence and ease of ear. The wine. Even if you don't like wine, you'll like it in Italy. Not much to say here, you have to taste it for yourself; but a bit too much will not end in a headache --you won’t even get drunk! (Unless you try really hard!)
Of course, the olives. Olive groves, olive oil, olives, they are all in abundance. So fresh, velvety and delicious! Indulge, your skin will thank you for all the polyphenols and antioxidants. The trees themselves are quite captivating. Don’t expect to get much shade under these ancient beauties, their silvery leaves twist and turn to reflect the light.

Lastly, the sky. This is truly the best part. A sky so blue, so deep, so luscious, so close you could step up into it and so low, it covers the mountains like a blanket. Look to the sky every day. You will be amazed; never have I seen a sky like that. I would return just to gaze into it. Ah, to see a sky like that in Columbus, Ohio!

There is much to say, but you need to experience it for yourself. Suck the marrow out of life; it’s easy to do there. There will be stressors, like the trains, the strikes, the store closures during siesta, but go knowing that Italy will embrace you and slap your hand all at the same time.

And, you will come back for more.

Rebecca Bell

No comments: