I travel to discover schools of life that feature in no textbooks. On a warm spring day, I woke up to the rustling of olive trees and what sounded like Italian jazz. The delicate aroma of fine coffee wafted into my room, and blended into the warm smell of ceramics. From behind the wood and glass door, with garden tools in one hand and a cigar in the other, buongiorno chimed Enrico, and invited me to a breakfast of wood-fired hot bread, olive oil from his olive groves, fresh fruits from the garden and strawberry cake made with stone-ground flour! Thus began my rendezvous with the dreamy countryside of Umbria – and a lesson in the Italian way of life. We broke the ice in broken Italian, English, Spanish and the common love of good food, and I soon figured that we were on somewhat similar life paths: Enrico was a painter by passion, but decided to keep his 9-to-5 job to pay the bills; I had quit a 9-to-5 job to try to make my passion pay the bills. I journeyed through his vivid imagination …
While boarding my flight from Barcelona to Delhi a few days back, the familiar heartache crawled its way back to find me. My month-long adventures in Spain were ending; I already missed the gorgeous olive countryside, the long lunches, the longer siestas, the best sangrias in the world, and the cobbled streets of sleepy old towns that first made me fall in love with Europe. Admittedly, getting upgraded to business class on Turkish Airlines helped nurse the pain, but it wasn’t until I started chatting up my co-passenger on my second flight from Istanbul to Delhi, that I knew I was on my way to new adventures. Before you start getting ideas, this isn’t about that Bollywood story where girl meets boy and the rest is predictable!
“Experiencing a country through its cities is like judging a book by its cover.” ~yours truly. Welcome to Gargnano. An unassuming little village on the northern shores of Lake Garda in Italy, away from the touristy towns of Desenzano and Sirmione. Here everyone knows everyone else. Two days is how long it takes for the locals to know me, despite my broken language.
Time stands still. I gaze at the colors of the lake. The waters are transparent, but they reflect the green of the marine life beneath and the blue of the sky above. The combination forms the shades of an artist’s palette.
Cinque Terre is the collective name for five villages perched upon hills by the Italian riviera. The landscape here is truly unique; on a raised stretch of land by and above the azure waters thrives a whole civilization.
It’s hard not to fall in love with a country so beautiful, a people so full of warmth and energy, a language so passionate, and what’s probably the best food on the planet. When you travel, sometimes the most unexpected of places feel like home. That was Italy for me.