ITALY – a Land to Love and Linger In

Who doesn’t love Italy? It is among the top 5 most visited countries in the world. Even those who haven’t been there love Italian food, Italian wine, Italian cars, authors, designers and opera singers. 

I just felt so happy, it was like the sun came out of the clouds for me.
I love Italy. 
Bruce Sterling

We have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in Italy and are happy to be back again this May 2017. This is the 3rd year we have leased a car to spend months traveling around Europe. If you are to be there for any length of time, leasing is much more economical and practical. You get a brand new car, fully insured with GPS, standard or automatic. Check it out at europebycar.com.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In the past, we have sailed along the Italian coast on various cruise ships, and taken excellent land tours of both northern and southern Italy. Consequently, we have visited most of the great cities in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Assisi, Naples, Perugia – and many of the historical sites. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country.

Now we seek places off the beaten path. We cruise to Europe in the spring and return to Florida via cruise ship in the fall on repositioning voyages. It is the equivalent of flying business class but includes 2 weeks of room, food and entertainment. I choose the ship based on the dates and ports of departure. This year we sailed Celebrity Reflection out of Miami to Civitavecchia, Italy. Cruise lines now charge $75 per person from Civitavecchia to Rome city or airport and vice versa. There are other options: A train if you are not overburdened with luggage, a taxi or a shuttle. I arranged a shuttle with NCC Plus for $70 for the two of us. They were fantastic. 

I will write about our time in Italy in my next blog.  In the meantime, some things you may not know about this beautiful country…

Rome was founded in 753 B.C. and gave birth to the Roman Empire. At its height in 117 A.D. the Empire was 2/3 the size of the United States. It reached from Portugal in the east to Syria in the west, from Britain in the north to the northern deserts of Africa.

Today the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana) is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. It has 7,600 km or 4,720 miles of coastline. 

Two countries – Vatican City and San Marino – are nestled within its borders. 

Famous authors include Dante, Petracrch and Boccaccio. Pinocchio (meaning pine nut) was also penned by an Italian.

Famous designers: Valentino, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and Prada.

Famous car makers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. 

Italy produced the first operas and claims Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, and Pavarotti as native sons.

You may have the universe if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verdi

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy proudly boasts of achievements in poetry, painting and architecture by many famous artists: Raphael, Michelangelo,  Donatello, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Famous scientists and mathematicians: Da Vinci, Galilei, Volta, and Fibonacci.

As of 2016, Italy was the world’s top wine producing country.

It is the largest exporter of olive oil. (While Spain is the la
rgest producer, Italy blends olive oil imported from other countries making it the largest importer and exporter.)

The home of pizza, pasta, risotto gelato and espresso.

Italians created many delicious cheeses including parmigiano-reggiano, gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella, asiago and provolone.

There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world. Matteo Renzi

Italy has some problems

Italy lives with the threat of three active volcanoes – Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli – and devastating earthquakes. They suffered several this past year.

High unemployment, high aging population and low birth rate (lowest in Europe).

Nevertheless, there is so much to love about Italy and the warm-hearted Italian people. It’s good to be back.

I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy. Ennio Morricone

Lessons Learned from a Nomadic Lifestyle

We tend to think of our physical journeys and our soul’s journey as two separate things, but they are the same. The urges of our soul motivate our choices and the things we do impact our souls.  They are intricately entwined. 

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. Miriam Beard

Physical travel has literally been a big part of my life’s journey.  My husband had recently retired when we married in 1995. He yearned to travel. At the time, I was more of a home-body.  The perfect answer: a motorhome. For the next 6 years, we lived and traveled full-time all over the United States and Canada. Then it was time to see the rest of the world. We took countless small cruises, sailed around the world twice, spent extended periods of time in China and India, and toured all over Europe and the U.S.  

So much of who we are is where we have been. William Langewiesche

When we sold our last motorhome, we automatically assumed we needed a home and bought a condo in Boca Raton, Florida. We rarely used it so we sold the condo on 1/11/11, and officially became nomads. It has been 6 and 1/2 years now; a journey of the soul as much as the body. 

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. 
Lillian Smith

A nomadic lifestyle teaches you…

The Simplicity of Life 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Clothes  

It is amazing how little we actually need and use in day to day living. Outside of clothing required for work, we tend to wear the same clothes over and over. Take a look in your closet and notice how many items you don’t wear often, don’t really like, don’t fit anymore. Clothes and shoes that are just taking up space. 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Food 

Occasionally we rent an apt. for a week or a month and make our own meals. On the road, we choose hotels that serve breakfast. In Europe, we often opt for half board – breakfast and dinner are included. Otherwise, we generally have a late lunch, and at night we snack on the cheese, crackers and fruit we usually carry with us. 

You Don’t Need a Lot of Things 

We do carry a laptop, phone, and 2 Ipads. In the States, we can find pretty much whatever else we need at the Dollar Store – such as nice wine glasses and mugs. 

The Gifts of Travel

Humility  

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. Gustave Flaubert

Travel is humbling because you realize how little you know. And what you do know might, just might, be wrong. Perhaps my country, my culture, my religion isn’t the best one or the one that is right for everyone. 

To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
Aldous Huxley

Awareness

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. Bill Bryson

The brain loves novelty. It is more alert and alive when presented with new experiences. 

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. W.B. Yeats

Acceptance

Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends. Maya Angelou

When you can’t communicate with everyone around you because you don’t speak their language, you learn to reach out in other ways, with a touch with a smile. And then people reciprocate in kind. We have found that natives usually go out of their way to welcome and help a visitor.

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home. James Michener

Courage

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. Andre Gide.

Entering unknown territory can be fearful or exciting. Physiologically, those two sensations are the same within the body. Depending on what you label that feeling, you will be open or close down. Fear rejects and closes the energy field. Courage vitalizes and opens the energy field. 

Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown. Gaby Basora

Growth

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust

New experiences change us. A life without change tends to become static and close-minded. This is where the merging of the soul’s journey and the physical journey can be most easily seen. We are larger people, more aware, more accepting, more adventurous for having stepped into a new experience.

Furthermore, travel offers an opportunity to recreate yourself. 

When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
William Least Heat Moon

People will see you as you are when you encounter them. Travel teaches us not only who we are but who we can be. It forces us to break through self-imposed boundaries and extend ourselves.

Even those life journeys that do not turn out well have gifts for us. We learn through mistakes. We grow through trials. 

Not until we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.
Henry David Thoreau

In all things, we find what we are looking for. We get what we give. Nowhere is this more evident than in our travel experiences.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. Ralph Waldo Emerson

PLEASE NOTE: We sail back to Europe on April 22, 2017. Future blogs will be about the 6 months we are spending overseas. You can subscribe and follow on www.gerioneill.com

The Funny, Silly and Strange Things We Say

One hot summer day a fox was strolling through a vineyard. He spotted a bunch of juicy, green grapes. That would be just the thing to quench my thirst, he thought. He jumped up to grab grape-1129346_640some but missed. Backing up, he ran a bit, jumped higher, and missed again. He backed up farther, ran faster, jumped higher, and missed again. The fox walked off with his nose in the air saying, “They are probably sour anyway.” And so, from one of Aesop’s Fables we get the phrase sour grapes, meaning we’re inclined to denigrate what we can’t get.

Every day we use expressions that originated in ages past. They stand the test of time because they convey universal truths in a few colorful words. We know exactly what ‘sour grapes’ means without hearing the whole story.

SOURCES OF CLICHES AND PHRASES

Two of the greatest sources of common idioms and clichés are the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays. Along bible-998150_640with the Oxford English Dictionary, they were primary influences in the development of the English language. The King James Version was first printed in 1611 and many of the expressions therein are still used today…

—Fall from grace—
Forbidden fruit—
A drop in the bucket
—Eat drink and be merry
—Salt of the earth
The blind leading the blind——

More phrases in the English language come from Shakespeare than any other individual. Not all originated with him, but he expanded their usage. Even those who never read Shakepeare unknowingly quote him…

—Night owl—
Primrose path
—Truth will out
—The game is up
—Vanish into thin air—
Wild goose chase

PHRASES FROM THE PAST

It is impossible to know the exact origin and meaning of many expressions we commonly use, but to the best of my knowledge, I’m going to tell you the naked truth. The naked truth? Where did that come from?  According to a very old fable, Truth and Falsehood went swimming together one day and Falsehood stole Truth’s clothes. Truth refused to wear Falsehood’s clothes and had to go naked.

You can probably figure out the meaning of high and dry if you realize it’s a nautical term – another rich source of clichés. wreck-687568_640 High and dry referred to beached ships – high out of the water and dry because they had been stranded for some time. The phrase has come to mean: stranded with no rescue in sight.

The words Bah humbug became popular with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but existed long before that. It is an old English term meaning scam. A Christmas grouch might say the same thing today in these words: “Christmas, what a ripoff.”

In card games, an item called a buck was once passed from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If someone did not want to deal, he would  pass the buck to the next player.

Many clichés seem nonsensical to us today like son of a gun. The popular explanation for that is… Hundreds of years ago, ships were often tied up in port for a lengthy period of time.  Wives and ladies of easy virtue were permitted to live aboard with crew. Consequently, it wasn’t unusual for a child to be born on the ship and the best place for that was the gun deck.  If the father of a child was unknown, the baby was entered into the ship’s log as son of a gun.

LIFESTYLES OF LONG AGO

Many common sayings came from the way people lived in earlier times. The wealthy had slate floors but most people were very poor. Their homes had dirt floors so they were called dirt poor. When it rained, water seeped below the door and the floor became very slippery.  Thresh/straw was spread across the entrance to absorb water. A piece of wood was placed on top of it to keep it in place. That was known as the thresh-hold. To be sure bride didn’t trip or slip on the threshold, the groom carried her over it.

With dirt floors and thatched roofs, little bugs and critters found a ready-made home. Insects and droppings from above were a prodoll-732611_640blem. To keep them from falling on a sleeping person, the preferred bed had four tall posts a sheet could be hung over. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

Mattresses on those beds were secured to frame by ropes.  Pulling on ropes tightened the mattress, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

During the day, cats and dogs often napped on the thatched roof. Rain made it slippery up there and the animals could slide right off.  It would be raining cats and dogs.

On special occasions or when times were good, the family would splurge and buy some pork. It was hung where it could easily be seen thus proving to visitors that a man could bring home the bacon. A piece would be cut off and shared with guests. Then they would sit around and chew the fat.

At one time, the funny, silly and strange things we say today made perfect sense. We’re still saying the words though we’ve lost their meaning. Evidently, we inherit more than DNA from our ancestors.