You go because, really, can anything else compare?
Italy, l’Italia, the vacation destination on everyone’s bucket list.
You go because Starbucks just doesn’t cut it. A gigantic drink of dubious content, an explosion of sugar and artificial enhancers, flavorings and whatever slimy substance can be squeezed from a plastic tube. Instead you could be sitting at a intricately decorated table in a small bar in any city or village in the bel paese, under a benevolent sun, and inhale the ultimate aroma – a tiny espresso (called simply caffè in Italy), served in a petite, sturdy yet dainty ceramic cup, accompanied by a glass of cool water, and a bowlful of choices of sugar packets. Do you prefer a dash of milk in your inky black gold? Then, a macchiato will soothe your soul, with its fluffy dot of steamed milk capping your brew. And nothing, I tell you, my friends, nothing beats a cappuccino, early in the morning (and in the morning only, please please please), in your cousin’s apartment or in the local bar, while swooning after a bite of a fresh from-the-oven cornetto, a tender, fragrant pastry filled with silky cream (or jam or chocolate), that makes a croissant seem like a second-class pastry citizen.
You go because the beaches might not be the long, white strips of Caribbean pure white sand, but the sea is a gentler, kinder embrace of warm Mediterranean history, and the horizon is much closer, and it looks like clusters of villas climbing a hill, or mysterious island silhouettes where you must absolutely go. Like right now. And you can slip into that bikini even if your figure doesn’t resemble Charlize Theron’s, because nobody is judging your choice of a swimsuit, all the ladies are wearing minimal coverage and still eating ricotta-stuffed fried pizza under the rented sun umbrella. You relax on the welcoming (yes, very crowded, but it’s part of the experience) beach, follow your desires, live the moment and the hell with all the rest (for now).
You go because walking on living history makes the stuck heels and the dusty feet worthwhile. The lava stones that still support one’s steps, notwithstanding their double millennial age, smooth, solid with their noble heritage, even their cracks a hint of their illustrious past. And, yes, you can now wear your comfy, padded walking sandals, since Italian summer fashion has relaxed a bit, and those (once evil) Birkenstocks are acceptable, but please make sure that they are the newer, stylish kind, colorful and flirty (and guys, you can’t go wrong with some really cool all-American sneakers). Naturally, later, go ahead and hit the glorious shoe stores, and buy those sexy heels to show off on American smooth pavement.
You go because most cities (no, all) are open-air museums. The column you lean on near the local pasticceria was there five hundred years ago, looking pretty much the same as when ladies walked in small groups out of modesty and wore long-sleeved velvet gowns. The church in the piazza, be it in one of Rome’s characteristic neighborhoods or in a diminutive two-donkey and three-pig village in the mountains of Calabria, was celebrating mass a thousand years ago, and the faithful walked under the same massive and sublime ceiling affresco that you are looking up to right now.
You go because you don’t need to be fluent in Italian to communicate. Certo, some knowledge of the language helps, but the easy-going citizens of Italy will accept your broken sentences and enthusiastically support your efforts, grateful and proud that you actually wish to speak their beloved tongue. And they will love to practice their English on you, thrilled if you respond because you got it, yes, you understood them!
You go because Capri is even more wondrous that you expected, the gardens over the cliffs are indeed the Garden of Eden; driving down the Costiera amalfitana, clinging to the wheel as you conquer the hundreds of curves, twists and turns on that narrow road is a million times more terrifyingly exciting than Six Flags. The steaming hot, plate-size pizza in a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria in the Spaccanapoli section of beautiful Naples, is an epiphany, and that overpriced Italianate snooty so-called trattoria in midtown has no clue what true pizza is.
The wind in your hair is a caress, the sun gloriously brighter than anywhere else( reach for those Gucci shades!) and you hear music where there isn’t any.
Italy is a love song, a sensual embrace.
Just go, my friends, then tell me how you were changed.