When I was thirteen, I visited Europe for the first time. Our first stop was Venice. I don’t have perfect memories of our time there, but I do remember how much I loved it. It was so unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced before. We spent an afternoon wandering the city’s narrow streets, away from the crowds on St. Mark’s Square, and every turn yielded yet another adorable square or picturesque bridge. Most of the time we had no idea where we were. It was marvelous.
Some thirty-odd years later, I returned, and I was happy to discover that Venice is still magical. The crumbling mansions that line the canals are still mysterious and somehow beautiful in their decay. Every bridge still offers a perfect camera shot. It is still positively atmospheric. For pure random-wandering value, it tops the charts.
I also appreciate that Venice’s history is a story of survival. It was founded by people who were escaping the barbarians on the mainland (they survived because the barbarians didn’t have boats). Then the city survived centuries of turmoil and war. And now it’s fighting for survival against rising seas.
I know (though perhaps do not entirely understand) that not everyone loves Venice. I imagine it would be hard to enjoy in the middle of the summer heat and crowds. Or maybe it’s just a little too damp for some people.
If Venice isn’t for you, that’s okay; Italy offers something for everyone. If you want to marvel at human genius, go to Florence (a sixteen-foot man carved out of a misshapen block of marble and a church dome that defies gravity are worth ogling). If you want to be humbled by the impermanence of manmade creations, head to Rome (do you think the Romans ever thought, even for a second, that their massive stone structures would one day be reduced to rubble and buried, forgotten, for centuries?). To be awestruck by the power of Mother Nature, visit Pompeii (you can still see graffiti scribbled on the ancient walls, a Roman version of “Nero wuz here”. Fun fact: humans have not changed at all in 2,000 years.) If it’s wine and cheese and prosciutto you’re after, plant yourself in Tuscany: Cortona or Siena or the unpronounceable San Gimignano. If you want to enjoy sea breezes while enveloped in a haze of lemon, go to Sorrento (the lemons are as big as footballs, and they turn most of them into liquor).
When you travel a lot, it can be hard (and maybe a little unfair) to pick favorites. There’s always something to enjoy everywhere you go. But I’ve learned that a place won’t make my favorites list unless I have an emotional connection to it. Florence has better art. Rome has better ruins. Naples has better pizza. But Venice has my heart.
Feeling the urge to visit Italy yourself? I can help make that happen! Contact me to discuss your own Italian getaway.