Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My Love Affair with Italy

The first time I went to Italy was on my honeymoon, in 1961. We were married in England and after hiring a car, we set off for a three week camping tour on the Continent of Europe. Yes, camping. On our honeymoon. We had purchased a tent and some sleeping bags, a little camp stove and other essentials and we were off across the Channel by ferry. We visited Paris, camping in the Bois de Boulogne, along the way. Then my memory gets a bit vague about our route to Italy, although I remember going through the Brenner Pass. To jog my memory, I've got boxes of slides that we haven't looked at in years, since the projector broke long ago. I suppose I should start scanning them into the computer. Sigh, another project.

The first place in Italy that I remember visiting is Venice. Of course we camped somewhere outside and took the bus across the causeway into the city itself. It was a perfect sunny day for my first visit to Venice. We rode the vaporetto (motorboat bus) along the Grand Canal and went across to the Lido and had lunch at an open-aired cafe. I do remember that most of the beach was cordoned off, as it belonged to the grand hotels, with a tiny public area. The other thing that stands out in my mind was that I was forbidden entry into the Basilica di San Marco because I was wearing slacks (remember it was 1961) so my husband, A, went in and told me how great it was and some years later, I found out for myself that it was true. We did spend some time walking around the big open space of the Piazza San Marco, filled as always with pigeons and tourists. A perfect introduction to Italy's jewel on the Adriatic, La Serenissima.

Ravenna is my next memory of this trip to Italy. I had never seen anything like the brilliant mosaics that were contained in the half dozen or so various buildings in the centre of Ravenna. The fact that they were so old, 5th and 6th century AD, was very moving to me, a girl from Australia, a country with hardly any history at all. They are as beautiful today as they were when they were first created and the artistry is incredible. We also visited the Church of San'Apollinare in Classe, from the sixth century AD, and I felt very humble as I stood in that place, so classically simple and perfect.

Finally, we reached Rome, which has always been for me one of the best cities in the world. When I was in university I had converted to Catholicism, so to go to the centre of my religion was an unbelievable experience. To see all the wonderful churches, St Peter's, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum, St Paul's outside the Walls, was a joy for me. All this was capped by seeing Pope John XXXIII, probably the most popular pope, give the noon papal blessing at the window above the square at St Peter's .

But added to this, was the opportunity to see the Forum, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Temples and all the remnants of Ancient Rome that I had learned so much about, when I studied the Latin. The visit to rome became for me one of the most enchanting experiences of my life.

This really is me, 46 years ago, inside the Colosseum.

We camped near the Olympic Stadium, site of the Summer Olympics the year before, in 1960. I remember visiting the Spanish Steps and the Fontana di Trevi and buying a pair of Italian sandals nearby. Of course, I tossed a coin into the fountain and it worked because I did return to Rome.

But how can I not mention the people of Italy who seemed to me the most friendly people that I had ever met, despite the language barrier? A noisy people, a fun-loving people, a sociable people.

And so began my love affair with Italy. It was not to be renewed for quite a few years but I never forgot that first visit to Italy. I always wanted to return and finally I did. In fact, I've probably made at least 8 or 9 visits to Italy, including three when I've attended language school at various centres. But all that is for another day. Please come back again for a further episode.

16 comments:

Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi JMB. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I have one thing in common with you...Italy and all connected with it. I haven't been...yet, but I will. When I retire properly, I want to join Dante Allegheri and learn the language, customs and some more recipes! Italian cuisine...delicious! Oh, I could go on, but I won't...lol!

Hope you come back and visit some more. I'll be back to read more on Italy!

Cheers!

Whine Lover said...

You should write a travel book, I felt like I was there, and in a much more personal level. I have been to Rome several times for work, but have never been able to explore the rest of Italy. After reading this, I really must!!

(the colosseum still looks the same ;-)

jmb said...

Hi puss-in-boots,
Stay tuned for the Italian language posts. As well as the developing connection to Italy.
Regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Whine lover,
Thanks for the kind words. I don't want to be like a travel book although sometimes I can't help it but just put out my impressions and talk about how Italy sucked me in, bit by bit.
Any news on the job transfer yet? I guess you'll post it when it happens.
Regards
jmb

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jmb. What a marvellous post and I do so identify with you! What a wonderful honeymoon you had and that is a lovely photo of you. Re being banned for wearing slacks in 1961, I empathise. I first came here in 1969 and was always being criticised for my mini-skirts [which were nothing like as mini as now!] and if it wasn't the length of my skirts it was that my bust was too obvious. [I wasn't Twiigyish, you see.] When I look back and see how innocent our clothes were then, it gives me a good laugh! I love your blog,jmb, and it's so nice to meet someone else who has an ongoing love affair with this country! Please write the next episode soon! Auguri dalla Sicilia.

Liz said...

Lovely descriptions. I too spent my honeymoon in a tent but in France; I've never been to Italy but would like to go.

jmb said...

Hi WCLC,
Every time I went to Italy for years after that I wore skirts, which is so not me. The rules seem to vary from place to place. I see still women stopped for no sleeves, especially in Florence. Amazing when you think how Italy has changed.
Regards
jmb

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
I always thought I was the only person who went camping on her honeymoon. Of course, lots of young people do it nowadays, wilderness stuff even.
I didn't put it in the post but a funny story is that everyone had tables and chairs as well as tents. Of course, we didn't. Someone even offered to lend us some at one campground, but we were too embarrassed to accept. However, the epitome was when a couple came up with a motorcycle and sidecar and produced from somewhere camping equipment including table and chairs.
Regards
jmb

Vijay said...

A fabulous post, JMB.
And what a lovely picture of your younger self!!

ipanema said...

Thanks for sharing your travels. It must have been a wonderful honeymoon.

Ah, now I can visualise you. :)

jmb said...

Thanks Vijay,
The only current resemblance to that photo is that I still have chubby cheeks! I won't go into the rest.
Regards
jmb

jmb said...

Ipanema,
I hope everyone's honeymoon is as wonderful as mine was, even with the camping.
When you visualize me don't forget to add the 46 years!
Regards
jmb

Winchester whisperer said...

Your photo is so lovely! I'm hoping to sort out my blogroll this weekend and will definitely e-mail you if it still defeats me. I've got the blogroll done as per your instructions but when I last tried to insert it I lost all the sidebars.

jmb said...

Hi Winchester,
I made a comment at your blog. Thanks for coming by. Good luck, my assumption is if anyone else can do it in blogger, then so can I. I am much more confident now with adding page elements, especially since I can remove them if I don't like them and I rearrange the sidebar at whim.
Regards
jmb

Cathy said...

JMB, what an interesting post. I agree with whine lover, it was like I was there while you were telling this story.

You were very beautiful in that picture.

jmb said...

Thanks Cathy, I'm glad you enjoyed it. The Italian story will continue soon.
Regards
jmb