IF THERE IS JUST ONE WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN SOMEONE ASKS ME TO DESCRIBE ITALY, IT’S “EXQUISITE.” FROM ITS LONG MEDITERRANEAN COASTLINE WITH SPECTACULAR VIEWS OF SOME OF THE MOST VARIED AND SCENIC LANDSCAPES ON EARTH, TO ITS CULTURE STEEPED IN ART, FAMILY, ARCHITECTURE, MUSIC AND FOOD, TO ITS ANCIENT RUINS—AND HOME TO SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS STRUCTURES IN THE WORLD, INCLUDING THE COLOSSEUM AND THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA—HOW COULD ITALY NOT BE DESCRIBED AS EXQUISITE?
First Stop: Rome (Roma)
Consider the swirling traffic and exuberance of life in the Italian capital city and it’s easy to believe “all roads lead to Rome.” The city can overwhelm you with its millennia of history, unrivaled art collections and neighborhoods that feel like small villages. When you combine the enviable marriage of carpe diem (seize the day) and la dolce vita (the sweet life), you’ve got a city that will knock you out with excitement.
Longing for the sweet taste of red wine and real Italian pizza, we dropped our bags off at our Airbnb and made our way down the street to a quaint little restaurant. That was our first taste of homemade Italian pizza, but not our last.
After tours of the Catacombs, the piazzas, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and Vatican City—one must see Michelangelo’s magnificent frescoes of the Sistine Chapel—we consumed more wine and pizza.
Next Stop: Assisi
The humanity, humility, and love for nature of one man—the patron Saint Francis—infuse the small, pink-hued Umbrian hill town of Assisi. We viewed more gorgeous artwork by master’s such as Giotto, who’s remarkable frescoes depicting St. Francis’s life cover much of the lower and upper basilica built in St. Francis’s honor.
The beautiful, unique doors (yes, every single door of every single entryway was different) caught my eye at each place we passed. The view, the cobblestone streets, the delightful afternoon I spent photographing all of the doors, and the afternoon I spent people-watching while sitting at a sidewalk cafe “all” made me adore Assisi.
Under the Tuscan Sun
Next was our most pleasant stay at an agritourismo (family farm stay for tourists) in Tuscany, near Florence. Our host family welcomed us into their home with stately furnished private rooms, made us scrumptious homemade meals consisting of simple ingredients grown on their farm.
One night we had wild boar and homemade wine. The other guests, from such places as South Africa, Canada and Germany, were delightful. We shared stories as we sat around the immense butcher block table next to the enormous fireplace used to cook food.
We took day trips to other little towns around the area in the tiny red Fiat convertible car we rented and ate glorious food at Michelin 4-star restaurants. A visit to any country cannot be complete without a horseback ride, and Tuscany was the place for us. We rode horses through the picturesque countryside and drank more wine. We also visited the Cascate del Mulino hot springs: a delightful, relaxing moment of the trip.
Pick up RochesterWomen magazine November/December 2018 issue to read Part II of “La Dolce Vita!”
Dawn Sanborn is a professional photographer, art teacher, world traveler and believes exactly what the Italians do: wine, cheese and pasta are an important part of meals. For Italians, food isn’t just nourishment, it is life. La dolce vita!