OK, so the flights to and from Italy may not be the most wonderful part of an Italian vacation (unless I am fortunate enough to fly first class), but I thought it might be fun to highlight some of the favorite ways I’ve found to wile away the time there. Since I enjoy mixing business with pleasure and leading small group tours for a week at a time, some of my friends think I’m “working” when I’m in Italy. Not so! Because Italian Excursion caters to travelers who prefer to “live like the Italians” guests usually come with similar expectations of leisurely, slow-paced days.
So, besides visiting the best, yet least-known museums, notable cathedrals and un-named historical sites, our groups take the time to get to know our surroundings, as well as the people who live in the area. Some of my friends who live in Italy are aware that our groups delight in new adventures and settings to satisfy curiousities, so each time I visit I am offered fresh, new discoveries. (Well, I suppose a two thousand year old necropolis isn’t really “new” but to first time visitors it certainly is!)
On this last trip which started in September and ended the first week of October it was a wonderful surprise to “discover” the ruins at Otricoli. This small hilltown, once the main Roman olive oil port along the Tiber, boasts 500 inhabitants. There is, below the town, a private estate that allows public access to its grounds and there are numerous places on a walk through, where the remnants of this once thriving town are quite evident. There are two large forums, a necropolis, and a well preserved commercial district. I was stunned to actually find tracks in the stone where doors once slid back and forth!
This site has been carefully preserved even though there is still farming going on between some of the ruins. We spent most of a day wandering around, picnicing on local specialties like sheep’s cheese and prosciutto, snapping photos and admiring the Tiber. We took our time reading the signs and studying the architectural renderings that showed the schematics of the original buidings at each spot. Oh, and we were the only people there that day except a couple of men fishing off the river.
Of course, one of the most favored passtimes on these trips is savoring the food and wines of Italy. I never pass up an opportunity to spend an evening with Sergio and Alessandra Mottura in Civitella d’ Agliano. Their boutique hotel and organic winery serve an elegant six course meal, with as many wines, paired to each course. From an award winning sparkling wine to the most amazing dessert wine I’ve ever found, this meal is cooked entirely by local women with seasonal, local and organic ingredients, including the meats or cheeses. I usually call all of my friends living in the area and invite them to join our group for the evening and because it’s in such a remote area, we usually stay the night in this elegant setting.
Yes, our tours include walking in the woods and medieval gardens, wandering the halls of castles and museums, shopping, sitting and sipping cappuccino, eating, wine-tasting, cooking and artistic pursuits with notable teachers. Time stands still when our focus is on the present moment, so everything we experience becomes a snapshot to take out later and recall.
[boilerplate plate = excursion]