Posted by Palma Hansen – Palmabella’s Italy
Our first visit to Italy was anything but SLOW! We spent 21 days in nine cities, a whirlwind trip from Lake Garda to the Amalfi coast. Without the photos, I would barely remember where we went! The good news: it was the beginning of a love affair with Italia. We returned two years later, and slowed down some, but again, spent too much time in our rental car, and covered many, many kilometers.
Our Italian romance continued, with a little more time to settle into an area, find a favorite café, and build more time to relax into our itinerary. When I think of our relationship with Italy, the metaphor of “falling in love” seems to fit. Our first trip together in 2001 was like introducing my husband, Brad, to a friend. I grew up in an Italian family, and lived a very Italian lifestyle as a child. I cook Italian food, speak the language conversationally, and understand much about the culture.
We “flirted” our way around Italy, like a tasting menu; after sampling, we wanted and needed more. On subsequent trips, we began really getting to know a few regions, and building an “intimacy” with a few of our favorite areas. We learned the foods and wines of these regions, and saw examples of different architectural styles, different landscapes, and heard different dialects. We were hooked! We went from a trip every other year to trying to get to Italy at least once and sometimes twice a year.
We now have a deep commitment to our relationship with Italy, and “living Italian” when we are at home. Besides the food, wine, and scenery, the joy for us is the Italian people and their warmth, pride, sense of family, and gusto for life. Many tours miss the opportunity to mingle with the locals and bring travelers to out-of-the-way places.
After several trips, we realized we needed to spend more time in each area we visited. Knowing we would be back, we didn’t have to “do it all” on each journey. We discovered the satisfaction and enjoyment of thoroughly exploring one area at a time and getting away from throngs of tourists. In 2005 we joined Slow Travel and found a like-minded community of travelers, extraordinary resources, and lasting friendships. We also learned to stay in apartments or vacation rentals as part of our travel experience. We love to explore new neighborhoods, eat local foods, try local wines, and recreate regional dishes when we get home.
We have traveled to Italy several times with friends. We enjoy a combination of favorite places and new adventures, and have now explored 11 of Italy’s 20 regions. We love the planning, the discovery, and sharing with others. Because of our annual trips, correspondence, and many get-togethers, we have made welcoming friends all over Italy. They have become another wonderful resource when planning our travels. The couples we have traveled with have left all the details to us. We have taken them to places they never would have found on their own. We have helped them to experience “our Italy.”
Last year we did some cooking for 18 travelers on Gail’s Great Escapes, becoming an additional resource of local information and “how to’s” for the guests sharing the villa that week. Given the positive experiences of our friends, of Gail’s guests, of fellow Slow Travelers, and our desire to share the wonders of Italy as often as possible, the natural next step was to start our own small group tour to Italy, the first of which occurs this July. You can read more about it on our website, Palmabella’s Italy. For details of our travels in Italy, see Palma’s blog, Palmabella’s Passions.
We think Slow Travel Tours is a great resource. We have personally met many of the people, and have found them real, sincere, and incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about sharing the joy they find in travel with others. We are honored and privileged to be among them.
Palma Hansen is an Italian-American who enjoys cooking, music, art, and all things Italian. She and her husband, Brad, have been exploring and enjoying Italy travel since 2001. They live and work in Palm Desert, California, and are looking forward to sharing their love of Umbria with travelers who want to experience the wonders of Italy in a slow, personal, and casual way.