Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Treasure of Italy

When friends ask us about Italy, Dr. C. and I inevitably say, the treasure of Italy is not the art, history, food, or wine which are all beyond description, the treasure of Italy is its people.  If you are stuck on a 40 person bus with a load of English speakers, and never have the experience of meeting any Italians, you miss the whole point.  Stuck in your comfort zone with 39 other people, you never experience the real treasures of Italy. 

We have been so blessed to have met my mothers’ cousins in Gubbio, their children, and their spouses. 

 We participated in the festa dei cieri in Gubbio, a celebration that has been going on for hundreds of years, and a race that my grandparents would have participated in while they were growing up in Gubbio.  
Part festival, part race, part mosh-pit

 The family also took us to the house where my grandmother was born, and the house she lived in as a young girl.  Picking wild fennel and poppies in the fields behind the house where she was born with our granddaughter Poppy and daughter Carrie were moments I will never forget.  

We also met our Famiglia Angelini who have become our adopted family in Spello, where we left our hearts yesterday. 

From the moment we met Roberto and his family, we have been invited in, welcomed as family, and we feel so at home in this small hill town in the shadow of St. Francis’ sacred mountain.

 Two years ago we participated in L’Infiorata di Spello, the celebration of flowers laid onto the streets into intricate designs.  In the evenings before l’infiorata  we were part of a team that removed petals from flowers into boxes according to color and then helped to lay the flowers into the intricate design developed by the team leader. 

Speaking poco Italiano, we were part of something that has occurred for hundreds of years on the feast of Corpus Domini (usually mid-May to Mid-June depending on the liturgical calendar) sorting flower petals, drinking wine, and eating cake (there is ALWAYS food!)

Our visits to Spello are spent sitting around the table, speaking our pidgin Italiano, eating and drinking amazing food and wine---but that’s not the draw—it’s our famiglia Angelini.  
Travel should broaden you, not duplicate your environment.  I view cruises as just one enormous house on the water, with people speaking the same language, and eating the same foods they would eat at home----you want fries with that?

Where’s the adventure, the taste and aroma of travel, or the  broadening of experience? If all you see and hear is the same thing you see and hear and eat at home, then you might as well stay home.

In the mornings we would go to the local bar and have cappuccino and cornetti (think croissant filled with nutella, chocolate, jam or pastry cream)  in the afternoons we would fare una passeagiatta (take a walk) and hang out with the Angelinis.  We don’t need non-stop entertainment when we are on vacation; we go to a place where we can relax, the pace is slow and we can just “be”.  This type vacation won’t appeal to those who want to play golf, or want to work their entire vacation seeing every church, famous monument, and recommended city.  There is a place for that, it just isn’t what we want to do on our vacations.  Being an introvert, a big cruise, huge tour bus, or group tour tends to scare me, and I enjoy the small moments that happen every day in a small hill town. 

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