Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Travels through Italy

I've been thinking about the different countries I've traveled to since I moved to Norway in 1989. After so many years living in Europe, the countries add up; besides traveling around Norway, I've been to Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Czech Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Belgium, England, Scotland, and Ireland--in some cases several times to a few countries (France, Italy, Denmark, England). Hopefully I'll get to Spain and Portugal in a few years; I especially want to visit Spain because I took six years of Spanish (high school and college) and I'd like to have the chance to use this beautiful language after all these years. Australia and New Zealand are also on my bucket list, as well as a few countries in South America. I also want to do a cross-country trip across the United States, most likely in a few years.

In 2005, my husband and I decided to visit Italy. My paternal grandparents were born in southern Italy--Caserta and Ischia to be exact--and our plans were to meet my sister and her husband on Ischia and to explore the island and experience the land of our ancestors. Our first stop was Venice, where we stayed at a Victorian-style bed and breakfast establishment on the Lido for one night. I don't remember the name of place, but it was beautiful. We took the canal boat along the Grand Canal, and I took a lot of photos from the boat, many of which came out quite well. We walked a lot around the city, and it struck me how easy it was to lose your sense of direction while walking around. The city was also a bit eerie in the evening; I was reminded of the film with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, called 'Don't Look Now'--a brilliant yet creepy film in many respects, especially the scenes where Donald Sutherland wanders around Venice in the evening following someone he thinks is his (dead) daughter. We enjoyed a good dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the side streets, and then listened to some really good jazz at one of the outdoor restaurants on St. Mark's Square. The following day, we drove further to Perugia to visit Loretta, a colleague and friend who works at the University there; we spent several days with her and her family. We managed a trip to Assisi together and a visit to the Papal Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. We then made our way further south and west to Caserta, where my grandmother was born and where we stayed for two nights. We visited the Reggia--the Royal Palace of Caserta that was built during the 18th century. It was a lovely place with gardens that seemed to stretch for miles; we walked the length of them and I took some nice photos of the statues and waterfall. The luxury of the Reggia and its gardens stood in stark contrast to the rest of Caserta, which I would not describe as luxurious. Its inhabitants were friendly and hospitable and I was glad to have seen it, to have seen where my grandmother grew up before she left her country behind for the United States. We took the car ferry from Naples to Ischia, and drove to the Hotel Pithaecusa in Casamicciola Terme (northern part of the island) where we stayed for several nights. My sister and her husband arrived the day after we did, and we met up with them at their hotel on the southern part of the island, close to Barano, the town where my grandfather was born. We spent two days exploring the island, eating very good meals, swimming in the warm ocean, and drinking wine in the evenings. We did not have the time to delve into our family history or to track down family records. It was enough to have seen where our grandparents came from; it made me understand why they left Italy in the early 1900s for a new (and presumably better, at least financially) life in the States. There were not many opportunities for them at that time--my grandfather could have become a fisherman or a sailor. He did become a sailor, but studied to become a pharmacist once he arrived in the States, and that is what he worked as for the rest of his life until he lost his drug store in the Great Depression.

Time moves on; it's been nine years since we visited Italy for the first time. We were back in Italy in 2008, this time in Rome, and that was also a pleasant visit. However that trip was somewhat marred by the theft of my computer, camera, wallet and passport on the train that took us from Budapest Hungary (where we had been to a scientific conference) to Rome. So I have no photos from that trip to Rome, unfortunately. We stayed at a hotel outside of Rome, on the beach, and commuted into and out of Rome during our stay there. We visited the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and the Trevi Fountain and ate some wonderful meals. I would like to visit Rome again, this time without the stress of having to rush to the American Embassy to obtain a temporary passport, and without the horrible feeling of knowing that my personal possessions were in the hands of thieves. I do not want to visit Budapest or Hungary again; while I harbor no resentment toward the thieves, that experience made me feel vulnerable and less safe, and took away my desire to travel there.

Here are some photos from Venice, Caserta and Ischia:


beautiful building on the Grand Canal

a canal in Venice

another canal in Venice

our hotel on the Lido in Venice

The Royal Palace of Caserta--the Reggia

Trond in the Reggia gardens

waterfall at end of Reggia gardens

sculptures in the Reggia gardens


hills of Ischia

Parrot eating a grape outside a shop in Casamicciola Terme

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