As a second and third generation Italian American, I became interested in learning about my family’s heritage as a young teenager. Fascinated by my soon-to-be uncle’s stories of growing up in Sicily, I became passionate about Italy and made my first trip there at 17 years old. Over the next 45 years, I would return 11 more times, mostly alone, and often for extended stays.
Due to the length of visits, hotels were rarely an affordable option. Instead, unique accommodations such as a converted goat house on a pig farm, a converted stable at a horseback riding center, apartments in historic Rome and in remote Tuscan villages, monasteries, mountaintop vineyards in Chianti, and stunning villas dating hundreds of years, made for truly memorable experiences. It also gave me the opportunity to not only see the sights, but also get to know the Italian people along the way and experience firsthand the differences between Italians and Italian Americans. Except for having the same cultural family dynamics where the family is always top priority, the differences are vast, to say the least.
My four decades of travel included Rome, Florence, Venice, Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, beautiful beach resorts in Sicily, and more than 100 villages in Tuscany alone either for as little time as to have a cappuccino to several months. I learned to follow the most scenic routes in all of Tuscany’s stunning wine country. At the ages of 50 and 60, I have saddled up and rode over 100 miles throughout Tuscany’s Chianti wine country, close enough to some of their front doors that I could ring their bell without dismounting.
Aside from “Living La Dolce Vita,” I found the most unexpected gifts where tourists rarely go. These hidden gems offer the most intimate portrait of an old-world lifestyle that could only come from God: magnificent architecture, beautiful music, art, and some of the most stunning landscapes on the earth. And there’s always the cooking! In this paradise, people live to cook, and everyone is a master chef. I am now convinced the secrets to their passions are Music, Wine, and Women!