5,000km round Italy
So it was Italy, after all. Our yearly late summer vacation. All the plans we had made fell through due to Corona. Our imagined great tour of Denmark-Sweden-Norway got cancelled when Norway went orange and didn’t allow Dutch people in anymore. So we thought, maybe Sardinia – which quickly went orange, too. Or Crete, orange, too. What remained open for travel was Italy. Italy being the country that had started early and violently with suffering from the virus and thus had meanwhile become an “old hand” at dealing with it. And Italy is certainly a wonderful destination ALWAYS, even if we had only been there last year.
So a big round-trip of 5,000km it was, 18 days and 17 overnights.
Starting with a little detour to Strasbourg and Geneva and then:
And looking back, what were the absolute highlights?
Surely one of the highlights was the early morning walk in a cold but sunny Geneva . There were hardly any people in the streets, everything was quiet and as if freshly washed after a night of rain.
Cinque Terre in Northern Italy was just as picturesque as expected, but not really a highpoint: there were too many tourists even at this time of year and under the present circumstances. And really the biggest problem was the parking. All those quaint little coastal towns are totally sealed off from traffic and there are big paid parking lots right outside the villages (often full even now). What a drag!
Naples I LOVED, much to my surprise. I had hang-ups about it, not being quite safe, a crazy big city with little to show for – but what a revelation: a spookily beautiful old-town, the Quartiere Spagnolo, where we stayed in an alley and a building that seemed old and seedy and read to fall apart while the apartment we had rented was practically luxurious and up to all modern standards. I just loved roaming the small streets and exploring the old town and the waterside … and we ate really well and walked and walked and had the best time.
Amalfi was a bit like Cinque Terrre: gorgeous qua landscape/seascape, but touristy. At least it was possible to escape the hustle by hiking high above the little town.
Taranto was just a night stop and ended up being a very pleasant surprise. Very photogenic (took some of my favourite photos of the whole trip here) and just a good feeling about the town.
Santa Maria di Leuca
We then made it down all the way to the “heel” of Italy, the point where the two oceans meet: the Adriatic sea and the Tyrrhenian sea – not that this is discernible to the eye.
Santa Maria di Leuca, such a long name, and I had never heard of the place and would have never chosen to go there, but the husband loves to go to extreme points like something “southernmost”. And it was such a relaxing couple of days. We stayed in a simple accommodation, a kind of pilgrims’ hostel right next to the pilgrims cathedral and monastery and had to hike down 280 steps to reach the village and the beach! Breakfast on the piazza in front, simple caffé latte and a small sweet pastry … aah, that's the life! On our first night the town seemed a bit dead but on the Saturday night the lungomare was lively and the restaurants full (with locals, very few tourists here – and of course masks everywhere as all over Italy!)
After S.M. di Leuca it was already heading North again, the vacation “waning”. We made a great stop in Alberobello, where the “Trulli” (those wonderful round little houses with pointed roofs, gnome-like homes) are and I expected a high density of tourists again. But no, the place was already quiet, with a feeling of “summer-is-over, the place belongs to the locals again”. Restaurants didn’t do much business and we found a favorite that we frequented for dinner, lunch, dinner (it’s always nice when you do that, even as a short-time guest you are recognized and get to talk to the owners and find out about their lives).
Then we moved on to visit the place where I had lived a couple of years 30some years ago and which I have visited since more than 50 years ago: Cupra Marittima, a totally normal little town on the Adriatic coast in the province of Le Marche (if you imagine Italy as a leg, it’s practically in the hollow of the knee, about the level of Rome but on the other side). Some 5,000 inhabitants and maybe 10 times as many in the summer, i.e. in the months of July and August when it is high season and the hotels are full (with mostly Italian families) and the restaurants and beaches nicely crowded. It always feels good to go back again and see a few select friends and I can’t quite believe how long my relationship with my Italian “home” dates back. And we also explored the breathtakingly beautyful hinterlands of Cupra ...
Then there was a night in Verona, meeting a lovely woman who is involved with modern art from Nepal like me and whom I had only known via Facebook before, and some good walking about a charming city on the river Adige with lots of bridges and great medieval architecture.
And our last night was spent on Lake Garda, just a short drive up from Verona, where I wanted to see another “memory place”: Gardone Riviera where I spent a family vacation in 1970, as an almost 15-year-old. And down memory lane it was because we managed to locate the building of the hotel we stayed in back then. It has long ceased to be a 4-star hotel (1963-1977) and is now a somewhat run-down residence with some of the studios being rented out but an absolute gem of a lobby, a total time capsule with all the furniture intact just like it was in the seventies!
So I ended up not really picking out just a few highlights but something was wonderful about each and every stop of our trip. Something to be intensely grateful for, this great chance to travel this wonderful country even in the times of Covid!
There were some place we visited only briefly, but they were too beautiful not to show here:
... and Italy not quite so beautiful :-)
Beata, all-round encourager:: of art and artists of Nepal, of a preschool in Kathmandu, of the great work of encouragement based on Adlerian psychology and the Theo Schoenaker's concept!