Saturday, February 9, 2013

Saturday Sojourn - The (Italian) Road Less Travelled with Susanne Bellamy

Buon Giorno.

When we started planning our trip to Italy several years back, expectations of what we would do and see included the standard list:     Rome – Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Colosseum, Vatican; Florence – ‘David’, the Duomo, Boboli Gardens; Amalfi Coast – Blue/Emerald Grottoes, Capri, coastal towns etc

Add in the usual sites and sights and we probably visited them. “Veni, vidi, vinci” and all that. However…travelling with hubby (who regularly climbs in Nepal), there was no chance we’d just do the usual tourist thing. We walked, and stumbled into the best parts of our holiday. They were the impossible to plan bits that made our trip unique. If we hadn’t ‘misplaced’ the entrance to the Boboli Gardens in Florence, we’d have missed a wonderful little family restaurant and a very different view of the Gardens from above as well as the Leonardo machines exhibition.

In Amalfi, we escaped the lower town where tourists milled around shops and waterfront and found a path that led into the hills above. Past grove after grove of lemons (Limoncello, remember?) we climbed stone steps, met a bare-chested man leading his horse, discovered an abandoned farm house, and shared a rustic meal beneath ancient trees. It was peaceful and cool so high above the coast and so rural, a slice of real life. We climbed until boulders and my sandals barred our way but if I’d thought to change my shoes that morning, I swear we’d be climbing still.

On Capri, while most everyone hung around the shops and cafes of the upper terraces by the funicular station, hubby and I meandered past lovely villas set in sub-tropical gardens of bougainvillea and hibiscus on the way to Tiberius’s Villa Jovus. We even spotted a set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarf gnomes, the only Italian gnomes on our entire trip. We and three other people made the trek to the ruins of the high set pleasure palace. At the lookout we paused to appreciate the stunningly beautiful setting before realising this was the spot where Tiberius, one of the nastier Roman emperors, amused himself by pushing those who displeased him off the leap. So few people, so much history and chills down my spine. I loved it.

On our last night in Amalfi, we attended “Amalfi”, a light opera sung in Italian and sur-titled for those of us unlucky enough not to speak the language. Stone walls soared into arched ceilings of the former ship yard now maritime museum. Lights dimmed and wonderful young singers recreated a slice of Amalfi’s history plus a love story with an HEA – what more could you want. It was magical. Yet the audience totalled maybe forty people for this unique experience.

There were many ‘moments’ in our trip. We enjoyed the ‘high end’ experience of being the sole travellers in the Club Car with our own personal attendant on the 300 km/hour train trip from Naples to Rome; and we appreciated the grounding experience of being alerted to the pickpocket trailing us by a young African man we’d shared a doorway with during a Palermo downpour. Humbling, and it shattered a stereotype in the best possible way.

Frost’s poem, “The Road Less Travelled”, could be our travel mantra. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the Colosseum and the Pantheon and Pompeii and the gazillion places I’ve waited so long to visit. But getting off the beaten track offered us our most memorable experiences. One day, some of them may reappear in a story, disguised of course. Even my racing into the men’s toilets by mistake in Florence. Then again…


Susanne's debut book is available now from Lyrical, download from Amazon.


Serena Tatti Story Editor said...

Hi Susanne,
I LOVED Italy when I was there. I was only young (15 and again when I was 16) but I could imagine living there. We mainly went up north, where my family hail from (Trieste) and it's beautiful there. And apparently it's kept up with the times but still kept its charm. Oh you made me want to go back :) Cortina D'Ampezzo would probably suit your mountain-climbing hubby. We were there in early January in a year when there wasn't much snow. I've never seen so much snow! And I also loved Vicenza, though that was because it reminded me of Melbourne (I was young and homesick). Maybe next time you should try going further north :)

Thanks for having Susanne as your special guest blogger, Jess!

Sue said...

We wanted to spend more time in each place, Serena, so chose four main areas for our first visit - Rome, Tuscany (where we had a car), Amalfi and Palermo. I would have dearly loved to visit the Italian Alps, Venice, Como and Trieste. But I have a reason to return another time to see more of Italy. There's method in my madness! And I do recall you offering to come!

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