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

What Did You Do This Summer?

This is a new type of article I will occasionally be posting. Aside from this blog, I had been publishing a separate travel blog. From now on, any articles about our travels will appear on this website and feature thought-provoking quotes by famous people from places we’ve visited.

First, a little background for those who don’t know my history…

My husband and I were married in 1995. By the following year, we had sold bothmobile-home-156914_640 our homes and bought the first of three motorhome buses. Over the next 6 years, we explored the United States and Canada from coast to coast.

Deciding to leave this continent and see the rest of the world, we sold the last motorhome and bought a condo in south Florida as a home base. Over the following years, we spent extended amounts of time in Europe, China, India, and Egypt, and took cruises around South America and Africa, to Antarctica, New Zealand, and Australia.

With the small amount of time we were spending in Florida, this question was bound to arise…

Why Own a Home?

There are some things we do without thinking. It is the normal lifestyle, the way we are supposed to live. For most people, owning or renting a home does make sense. For us, it didn’t. We don’t have children, our parents are gone, we’re retired and our lifestyle is travel.

Due to the real estate collapse, we were not able to sell our condo until 2011. We sold it fully furnished and put our few remaining possessions in a small storage locker. I will never forget the closing date: 1/11/11. Two days later we left on our second world cruise. We have been what I call modern day nomads ever since.

Remember when you returned to school in the fall and everyone asked: What did you do this summer? Our travels took us to the birthplaces of some very interesting and wise native sons.

New England

Upon leaving Lake Placid, New York, we spent a week in Burlington, Vermont. As everyone knows by now, Vermont is the home of Bernie Sanders. It is also the birthplace of two U.S. presidents: Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge who said…

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.

We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.

Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshiped.

A brief stop in New Hampshire and then it was on to Maine for a month. With its scenic coastline, quaint towns, and lobster and clam bakes, there is no place like Maine in the summer.

p1130347While in Bangor, we saw the home of Stephen King. Best known for his horror and supernatural stories, his talents are not limited to those genres. But talent alone isn’t what made him one of the most prolific and successful writers of our time. As he says…

stephen_king_comicon
Stephen King

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.

The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool. 

Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win. 

We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.

It’s a mystery. That’s the first thing that interests me about the idea of God. If there is one, it’s mysterious and powerful and awesome to even consider the concept, and you have to take it seriously.

Canada

fullsizerender
Visiting friends in Vermont

From Maine, we drove to Canada and stayed in several lovely towns in Quebec. One was close to Vermont and we were able to drive down to see friends who have a beautiful home just over the border.

The inimitable William Shatner, now 85 and still going strong, is originally from Quebec. The star of Star Trek and Boston Legal has said…

William Shatner as Capt. Kirk
William Shatner

We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions.

I’m surfing the giant life wave. 

The conundrum of free will and destiny has always kept me dangling. 

Ottawa was the one major Canadian city we did not get to visit during our travels in Canada. So we made a point of stopping there this time. The capital of the country sits on the Ottawa River, has beautiful parks and walking paths. Tourists flock to visit the majestic Parliament Hill and to watch boats pass through Rideau Canal.

Parliament Hill Ottawa
Parliament Hill Ottawa
Rideau Canal
Rideau Canal

Comedian, screenwriter Dan Akroyd was born in Ottawa…

We must come to the point where we realize the concept of race is a false one. There is only one race, the human race.

I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction and of the worlds of the spiritual and the mystic.

You look at the floor and see the floor. I look at the floor and see molecules.

Back to the States

Upon leaving Ottawa, we made a couple of stops in upper New York State before reaching the home of my alma mater: the State University of New York at Oneonta. It was a great honor to return to receive  the Alumni of Distinction award. Making it all the Version 3more special was to have the award presented by two sorority sisters who live in Oneonta and are active at the college. And to top the occasion off, two of my former roommates, sorority sisters and longtime friends came to Oneonta to be with me. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our summer of 2016.