Sunday, February 17, 2013

Introduction and Passeggiata

My greatest love is, and will always be my wonderful wife Marion – until my last breath.  But a little over 25 years ago I began another great love affair - with a country across the Atlantic – Italy. 

It’s a place where the senses truly come alive – a place where life seems to slow down just enough so that you really feel like you’re living!  With each visit I have found something new to love, something new to learn – and I’ve always left, with a reminder that it’s some of the simple things in life that really make it worth living.

As family and friends have come to learn, I’m always willing and eager to assist with travel suggestions.  I also take great pleasure in sharing some of my wonderful experiences – some of the things I’ve learned.  So although my blog – “Let’s Make Sense” is all about personal finance and investing, I hope you don’t mind, if every once in a while I digress by Speaking of Italy.

An Evening Stroll

During the early evening hours and before dinner, many Italians go for a walk - “andare a fare una passeggiata.”  Couples - young and old, families and friends take to the sidewalks (and streets) of places like Rome, Orvieto and Cortona for a pleasant stroll.  La passeggiata (the walk) is one of the great Italian traditions – very different from what you might expect here in our country if you were going for a walk.  

For a few hours each day (weather permitting) everything seems to slow down - no one’s in a rush or in a hurry to get somewhere else – just taking some time for an evening stroll.  Young couples walk hand-in-hand, friends take some time to catch-up, seniors passionately discuss politics - it’s as if they’re celebrating the end of another day!  A little later – it’s enjoying time with family and friends over dinner – and some great wine! 

Today there are far too many things that demand our attention – too many distractions – too many things that occupy our time.  La passeggiata reminds me that some of life’s greatest pleasures can be simple – so simple that they often slip under the radar.   So if, and when, you have one of those days (good or bad) – do as the Italians do!  Take your sweetheart by the hand; call a friend, brother or sister and celebrate – andare a fare una passeggiata!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Civita di Bagnoregio - A Walk in the Clouds

Italy’s quintessential hill-top town is located just 60 miles northwest of Rome.  Medieval Civita di Bagnoregio is perched high up on a hill over-looking the Tiber River Valley in the Lazio region.  Founded over 2,500 years ago by one of Italy’s ancient civilizations (the Etruscans), Civita is connected to its more modern sister town (Bagnoregio) by a pedestrian bridge.  As you begin your ascent along the bridge making your way to the town’s ancient entrance, you get the feeling that you’re going back in time – that your about to enter some mysterious place that belongs in a fairy tale.   Occasionally the town sits above the morning mist – so it looks like its resting ever so gently on a cloud.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of this small gem is that there are no cars, no trendy shops, and no busy streets.  With the exception of a handful of locals (and a few cats) it’s basically uninhabited – nobody’s there!  For this reason, it’s known as “il paese che muore” – the dying town. The population has been dwindling for years – leaving its tranquil confines frozen in time.  

I visited Civita with my wife Marion last spring, and while it’s been gaining some popularity, we saw no more than a handful of visitors during our weekday visit.  Walking through the ancient passage way into the town – it felt like we were in a dream.  With its interesting architecture, silent stone alleyways, peace and serenity – Civita can be a welcomed respite from some of Italy’s more touristy towns.  It has a small bed and breakfast, along with a restaurant or two - but just beyond the town’s small piazza is an ancient olive press.  We sat in a charmingly rustic room while enjoying some fantastic bruschetta (toasted in a stone oven) and red house wine!

Our visit to this amazing little town will always rank as one of my all-time favorites - not just because of what I saw, but because of what I felt.  Our lives are filled with crowded supermarkets, restaurants and movie theatres – busy offices and city streets.  But for just a few hours during a beautiful spring afternoon – it was just the two of us – in a magical setting – a make believe place.  It was truly a walk in the clouds.