I call myself an Accidental Italian. I have no Italian heritage and did not even visit Italy until I was twice as old as many students living and studying there. But like many, I am more enthusiastic about Italy than many of its residents. In this blog I am sharing with you some of my insights, secrets and experiences.
Italy is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Its awe-inspiring landscapes, art-filled cities, charming hill top villages, picturesque coastline, friendly people and fantastic food beckon one and all to visit and fall in love. I, too, was lured to this romantic country some 20 years ago and I am still “innamorata” with Italy. I fell in love on my first visit. My husband and I rarely vacationed without our children. Suddenly, when they were grown, we had to replace our traditional Hawaii in the summer and Colorado skiing in the winter with something new. So, we decided to be adventurous and take a hiking trip in France. However, we were told that trip was full, but there was one to Italy that same week – so that’s how I became an Accidental Italian. I fell in love the minute that I stepped out of the bus on the sands of Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre. I had never seen such beauty. The enthusiasm that our guide had for Italy, its beauty, its culture, its people and its food was contagious. That week was not long enough and I anxiously awaited our next vacation when we would explore another region of Italy.
Our next trip was to Rome, the Amalfi Coast and ending in Venice. Two weeks this time! On our last night in Venice, I couldn’t sleep so turned on the TV. Back then, there were no channels in English, but there was a concert on with the most handsome and charismatic singer. I had to stay awake until the end so that I could see the credits and find out just who this was! Claudio Baglioni. The next day at the airport I spied a record shop and was searching for one of his cd’s. I spent too much time there and heard my name announced over the loudspeaker – my plane was departing! Later found out that he was an icon in Italy and that I could get his music from Amazon.
Our next trip was hiking in Tuscany. It was so exciting to be walking the ancient Roman roads through the rolling hills and verdant vineyards of Tuscany. I was amazed by the bright yellow ginestra (scotch bloom) that flowers everywhere there in the spring. We stayed in small, quaint hotels in hilltop top towns, like Montepulciano, Pienza (I can still smell the cheese) and Montalcino. We ended in Florence, where we only spent one night. Again, the trip was too short and I vowed to return again to Florence and Tuscany.
But that was it for organized group trips. I had gone to our local junior college to learn some Italian, so my next journey was to be a house-hunting trip! Inspired by others who bought property in Italy, I decided to search for that idyllic house in the Tuscan countryside with olive trees, grape vines and a swimming pool. Little did I know what a difficult task that would prove to be!
I made several trips a year for over 3 years in search of my dream house. I was shown dilapidated villas in the center of town, a property where they were selling only half of the house, a house in Greve which the caretaker was trying to sell without the knowledge of the owner, a deserted farmhouse that had been overtaken by weeds and wild animals, and an unfinished farmhouse overlooking a gas station. None of which matched my criteria. I was beginning to get discouraged. Finally, after viewing over 40 properties with almost as many real estate agents, we found, through a friend, the perfect property. We then restored it, hired a vineyard director and have been renting the villa and making wine and olive oil. You can read about our farm, Podere Erica, on my Villa Rental page.
Over the 20 years that I have been visiting Italy, I have seen many changes in the name of progress. I fear that the simple and genuine life I seek in Italy will become the rat race we Americans know all too well. So, I am hoping to preserve a little of that simple life and share it with others who seek La Dolce Vita.
Whether you have the opportunity to visit our little corner of paradise called Podere Erica, or you experience Italy vicariously through this blog, I am excited to be sharing with you some of the things that I love about Italy.