by Anne Batty
There is a land far across the sea. A once upon a time place filled with tales of times gone by. A land of palaces, castles and ill-fated lovers, whose sagas from its past bring tears to the eye, romance the heart and touch the soul.
It is a place like no other, a country of contrasts with bustling metropolises, quiet villages, floating cities, lush countryside, sparkling blue lakes, snow-capped mountains and romantic islands. Its name is Italia (Italy), and the rubble of its Roman ruins has built a history of art, music, religion, power, corruption and wealth, beyond belief.
A journey there takes one back into a time of powerful leaders, when Popes, Cardinals, Emperors, Caesars, Kings, Queens, Dukes and Duchesses reigned. Into centuries past when the genius of artists, musicians, inventors and scientists prevailed. An era when innovators with names like Charlemagne, Constantine, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Marconi and Galileo were commonplace. Italia Today
Buildings rise no higher than the tallest church steeple in this land.
Apartments are the mode of living in the cities, while lush villas dot the countrysides outside the towns. Laundry dangles from clotheslined balconies. And flower and foliage bloom everywhere, on tree-lined streets, in window boxes, interior gardens and atop the roofs. Wisteria vines elegantly drape their lilac flora on walls, gates and overhangs. While waterfalls cascade in elegantly sculptured structures everywhere. Each city hosts a multitude of piazzas (plazas). Most named for the churches predominate there. As in the past, they remain the central gathering place for locals and tourists alike, complete with fountains at their center and open air markets, shops and restaurants on the perimeters. Street musicians, artists and pantomimes provide the entertainment. While gypsies stroll the streets, awaiting opportunity.
Driving in its cities can be hazardous to one¹s health. For rules of the
road are ignored there. No one uses designated lanes. Mopeds dart in and out among the cars, occasionally crossing over centerlines to rush ahead of traffic. Horns honk incessantly and pedestrians have no rights, nor right of way. Crossing the street is an, at risk, challenging adventure. Policemen are seen, but not heard from, as the mournful wail of ambulances sing their warning around the towns. Road travelers through this country are in for a treat. When stopping for gas, they can take a break and eat in the Autogrills. These roadside eateries serve food in stations, cafeteria style. With offerings of antipasto, pasta, salads, lunchmeats and cheeses, breads, meats and vegetables, fruits and desserts. Hot foods are visibly cooked to order. And
wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee and cappuccino are readily available. No
McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell or El Pollo Locos for weary roadside warriors in this place.
This is a country where warm, friendly and helpful people reside,
inhabitants who speak of their heritage with knowledge and pride. It is home to a culture whose Italian chic decrees that clothes worn should give the impression of wealth. A land where women use leather, silk, lace, fur and gold for fashionable adornment, while men drive wildly, wear jewelry proudly and flirt openly. It houses a populace who loves to eat and drink. Their mouth-watering cuisine and fragrant wines abound everywhere. On the streets their wares are shown in cases of glass pizza, pasta and sandwiches on thick Italian breads. Pastries like tiramasu, sweetened, cheese stuffed cannoli and ice cream (gelato) - displayed in colorful, multi-flavored mounds - tempt the
palate. The aroma of freshly brewed café, cappuccino and even American coffee permeates the air. While signature after dinner liqueurs of Limoncello (lemon) and Fragolino (strawberry) provide the final touch. Religion is an integral part of everyday life in this place. Church bells housed in magnificently decorated towers mark the time and call the people to worship. Biblical heroes and stories are beautifully depicted in sculptures and frescoes inside and outside museums and churches, and on monuments and government and public buildings. Religious articles and artifacts are touted everywhere.
Bella bella Italia. Beautiful, beautiful Italy. To be there is like living
in a fairy tale for a time. A tale full of history, humanity, beauty and
spirituality. A dream from which one hopes not to awaken.
There is a legend there, that if one throws a coin into the Trevi Fountain it assures one¹s return. It is a small insurance for a very large reward. For a return to the place that has stolen one¹s heart, is to regain the heart Italia has stolen away.