I'm a 37-year old Seattle girl who was bitten by the travel bug on my first tour of Europe in 2004. This personal blog follows my attempts to visit as many countries as I can, as often as my budget will allow. Since starting this blog in 2007, I've also worked as a freelance copywriter for an online travel publication. This only served to add even more must-see locations to my already extended list.
Journal entry - Italy '04
One of my biggest dreams has just come true: we've just passed over the border into Italy. I'm here; I've made it. There is a lump in my throat as my environs swallow me, welcoming me as if part of me belongs here.
Buildings are a gentle balance of grandiose proportions and humble decay. They are surrounded by fields of plump purple grapes arranged in straight rows that seem to go on forever. In the distance, villas climb the hillsides, and church steeples mark the town centers. The weather is much warmer, and lines of laundry flap in the comfortable breezes. On the motorway, we are passed my a large truck overflowing with bunches of grapes. Long lines of tall trees separate the properties, mirroring the arcades of the villas with balanced uniformity. Small puffs of dust hang in the air behind tractors and trucks in the fields. Most of the homes have wooden shutters on the windows, and the red tile roofs are distinctly Italian; you'd know where you were without being told.
Venice had a reputation to uphold, and I was afraid to have high expectations. This was foolish, however, as the city on the lagoon couldn't possibly disappoint if it tried. The pictures, the movies, the songs and the poems simply can't prepare you for the magic of this place. You are first greeted by the canal, the color of balsam trees and smelling strongly of the sea beyond. Water laps up against the stone edges as gondolas and vaporettos pass by. The awaiting gondolas bob up and down, side by side together, to the rhythm of the water. Soft accordian music fills the space as it drifts out of busy cafes where people enjoy their meals. The sounds of their conversations are accompanied by the sound of boats knocking gently together in the waves. The architecture is a feast for the eyes; you almost regret having to blink. Ornate detail enrobes everything; the elegant decay of time humbles the penetant visitor. You can taste the stories in the air, you can feel the history all around you. And still, Venice opens her arms to welcome you in, and she'll keep a part of you when you go.
Tuscany also brough tears to my eyes. The patchwork hills capped by ancient towns, the fields of sunflowers, long rows of tall, narrow cypress trees, aged villas with laundry lines drying between olive trees...it's as if I've stepped into a postcard.
Rome embodies history, but to see it, to touch it, to breathe it...it's humbling. Design elements litter the city. Chunks of broken capitals, friezes and pediments sleep gently in their resting places next to McDonalds, ATMs or The Gap. Formerly grand monuments slowly melt away, stubbornly resisting the effects of their age. Fountains freely pour, spout or simply drip clear water everywhere you look. The streets are buzzing with activity, Romans and tourists alike. Every other person clutches a gelato or a panini, bought from one of the hundreds of sidewalk cafes. Locals wrestle along in the unbelievable traffic, in a hurry to relax. Vespas line the streets like a barricade, protecting the tourists while trying to cross the busy street.
Finally, Hadrian's Garden and Tivoli were pleasant surprises. Framed by fields of silver olive trees, the fountains, mazes and moss make you feel like you've landed in the forests of Shakespeare. Our Tivolian dinner was simply perfect, under the sunset next to a lit fountain. Courses of pasta and chicken flowed freely. A trio of charming musicians kept us singing and dancing until we couldn't stand. Our group has bonded, and we celebrated together like family. Shared stories of clashing cultures had us doubled over in laughter, as Italian men flirted with the ladies. I'm going to miss these people...