What is it about Italy that makes this Celtic-heritage redhead eager to spend precious travel time there?

Speaking little of the romance language… rolling out a buon giorno, a buena sera, a prego and grazie…somehow these words see you through your journey. You point at a menu and stumble out an American version of the name, misinterpreting the accent, yet the Italians understand. You pull out a map and indicate the street you’re trying to find and the passerby helps you along your way.

Is the attraction the light, delicate pasta?

Ravioli sage & butter

The elegant ravioli or tortellini melt in your mouth before you tear into them with a bite. The fresh salads and aromatic herbs tantalize your tongue, while the clarity of the wines and boldness of their flavors satisfy.

 

 

 

 

Or could it be the simple togetherness?

Ladies on a Bench

The oft times too curt and casual habit in my country of diving in to ask an employee where the peanut butter is, falls quickly away as you wander through Italian stores. Here, you are gently welcomed by a person uttering a greeting to match the time of day. You learn to respond in kind and venture out a polite inquiry of, “English?” Only then do you move forward with your question. You are locked into an encounter of connectedness with a person you may never see again. How vital that one-on-one moment is in this day of divisiveness.

Perhaps it is the brightness of the smiles from a wide age range of locals?

Smiling red hat lady

At times they can look overwhelmed and serious (most likely wondering what the tourists are doing there). What you’ll discover is that if you make eye contact and volunteer a smile, you’ll receive a broad grin in response. Isn’t it great that a universally known gesture is a smile?

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe it’s the crystal clear coastal views stretching from Genoa to La Spezia.

Rapallo - sea side

The Italian Riviera lands captivate your vision and retain little pieces of your soul long after you leave. The fresh air from the Ligurian Sea fills your nose with crisp, salty aromas and brushes hints of the conjoining Tyrrhenian, and farther away, Mediterranean Seas against your skin.

For this architecture-lover, the churches draw me in—every time, in every town.

Sanctuary of Montallegro

I wander in awe, light a candle for those lost from me, sit and pray for friends facing struggles, and close my eyes to ponder the people who have worshiped here for hundreds of years.

Ah, yes to traveling in Italy…

Italy, from the food to the people to the age-old structures, is a complex country that is best enjoyed simply. Savor the length of time you’re given to eat your lunch or supper. Look at the people taking pleasure in life and be aware that they are living their daily routines with delight while you are on holiday. Marvel in the rigid trail you’re hiking that was, maybe, could-have-been, built by Romans as they traversed the heavy woods.

This country, younger in its unification than America, is best taken in wholeheartedly. Embrace it, relax into the pace, and let the myriad parts of it seep into you, erasing stress, experiencing life in the moment you’re living it and truly realize that communication and community between peoples come from seeing each other, truly seeing each other, when the words between us differ.

Next: Delectable, Tantalizing Italian foods not to miss