Have you ever felt a connection to a place that is far away from where you were born?  Do you sometimes feel like some core part of you recognizes this new place, that deep in your soul, you must somehow know this place as more than just a place you’ve visited?   

Spectacular views from Piazzale MichaelangeloI have been to Italy twice in my life so far, the first glorious experience being in 2010, and then again last year in 2012.  I have seen Rome, Florence, Asti, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Lake Como, Venice, Sorrento, Amalfi, and Naples, all within the space of two short visits.  Each trip was a whirlwind of activities, places, and people.  I made new friendships that have lasted to this day, and experienced a culture and a way of life that spoke to me in seductive whispers, that calls me back like a siren’s song.

Florence, Italy
So this year, I am travelling to Rome for a month to try to improve my Italian.  The sound of the Italian language is music to my ears, a balm for my soul.  I hunger to be able to speak it, and understand it when it is spoken back to me.  At present, I can speak a little, but my comprehension leaves something to be desired. It is my hope that at the end of this month, having immersed myself in the culture, that it will indeed be better – at least a little bit!  My plan is to live like a local as much as I can, and experience life as though I was a permanent resident, with maybe a few side trips on the weekends!

Beach front on the Isle of Capri

In anticipation of my new adventure, to wet my appetite for all things Italian, I have put together a list of my 20 most unforgettable Italian moments, not in any particular order, as they were all special!Sorrento lemons

20.    The first time I set foot on the worn cobblestones of Florence.  I was instantly charmed by the energy and charm of this small, but vibrant city.

19.    Watching  lemon gelato being created from fresh Sorrento lemons at Gelateria David in gorgeous Sorrento, Italy.

18.    Riding the train and having a uniformed and oh-so-serious police officer with a large gun resting on his hip, slowly walk down the centre aisle, only to pause beside me, his firearm only inches from my head.  He then carried on down the aisle, in search of “illegals” riding the train.  And he and his partner did find someone to question, but still managed to flirt with us, mid-interrogation, as we left the train!

17.   Getting lost in the little town of Lucca, but having enough Italian to explain my predicament to a helpful pizza restaurant worker, who then gave me the desperately needed directions to get back to my rented apartment. 

16.    Riding on a crowded public bus in Naples, and managing not to get groped or robbed!

15.    Meeting the lovely Viviana, our tour leader on my 2012 Intrepid tour to the south of Italy.  She was vibrant, fun, engaging, and she absolutely charmed everyone in our group.  Grazie mille bella!  I also got to meet Lynn Amanda & Alison in Sorrentosome amazing new friends from Australia — particularly Alison and Amanda — you guys really made the trips fun! 

14.    Having a glass of white wine overlooking the quaint harbour of Vernazza, one of the five gorgeous villages of Cinque Terre.

13.    Eating the most delicious spaghetti alle vongole in Pompeii.  Now, I did throw up after, but it was no reflection on the food I can assure you!  I picked up a rogue flu and had to spent the entire next day in bed while the rest of the Intrepid tour group hiked up Mt. Vesuvius.  Bah!

12.   Getting on the wrong boat in Portovenere with my Australian friends, and ending up in La Spezia instead of Levanto.  What was truly hilarious about the situation was that the crew had all left the boat while we were all still sitting up top, wondering when the boat would be leaving for Levanto.  After about 20 minutes, comprehension dawned, and we legged it across town to the train station, and were lucky enough to catch the last train of the evening back to Levanto.  Nadia Desigual

11.    Buying my first Desigual dress in Amalfi – the entire store was Desigual clothing, the most gorgeous stuff I have ever seen, all compliments of a clever Barcelona designer.  And my love affair with this brand was born.   

10.   Flirting with a handsome southern Italian man on the train north from Naples. 

9.     Sipping red wine at the street front wine bar All’antico Vinaio in Florence and having mouth watering appetizers being prepared for us by the handsome Italian owner.  He even kindly agreed to have a picture taken with me!

8.     Eating pizza in Naples – need I say more?Firenze views watercolour

7.     Having a picnic, wine included, overlooking Florence at Piazzale Michelangelo.  The views were spectacular and the entire city of Florence spilled out below us.  

6.     Wading knee deep in the tepid waters of Lake Garda on a hot, sunny afternoon.  Gelato followed, and then a couple of hours sprawled out under an umbrella in the main square of Sirmione drinking white wine. 

5.     Seeing a sign in Sirmione stating “speed boats to rent – no license necessary!”  Really?

4.     Meeting a lovely young Italian girl named Simona on the bus to Lake Como.  She had just graduated from high school, told me all about her boyfriend, of her dreams to visit California, and that she really wanted to practice her English.  I happily indulged her in this, and had such an enjoyable bus ride!  When the bus pulled up at her stop, I gave her my Canada pin, which she accepted with unbridled enthusiasm, and exuberant thank you’s.  It was truly a wonderful memory!

3.     Getting asked out by a Roman waiter, not far from the Spanish Steps. 

2.      Seeing the canals of Venice for the first time.  I still remember standing on the Rialto Bridge, and watching the smartly dressed gondoliers expertly steer their craft through narrow canals.  I also met a great group of Australian women on my last night, and drank far too much wine, and laughed like mad.  Lynn and Capitano Ago

1.     Diving off a boat into the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, and swimming into the Green Grotto, the little brother to the more famous Blue Grotto.  Grazie, Capitano Ago!  We had an amazing day visiting the Isle of Capri, swimming, having a delicious picnic lunch on the boat, and a visit to Positano, while our captain clutched his chest and called out for “Marcello, Marcello!” ala Under the Tuscan Sun!