Essays about life in Italy, traveling in Italy, and more
Pauline Kenny, August 23, 2003
Instructions for Visitors
For the last part of the trip, I was glued to a book I found in the "free book" area at the hotel in Sperlonga - Helen Stevenson, "Instructions for Visitors", Black Swan, 2000. The book is about a village in southwest France, near the border with Spain, where this woman lives for a few years. It is written in a mixed format of a guidebook and a novel about a disastrous love affair. She talks about the town, the cafes, the restaurants, the shops, and about her affair with a local man. She overuses metaphors like "a bee going from flower to flower" - but after a few chapters her style settles down or I just got used to it and I enjoyed the book immensely. Next year France!! I feel like we have done Italy a bit too much in the last few years and am ready for a change.
Note from August 2003: I liked the name of her book so much, that when I reorganized SlowTrav I made "Instructions for Visitors" sections for each country. These are the sections where I write about how to "live" in a place. Not a "Survival Guide" - because you will survive easily - but Instructions for Visitors who want to know what do to, how to fit in, how to (try and) behave like a local.
Topped out on Italy
I am always topped out on Italy by the end of our time there. On some trips we have been cheering as we left Italy and drove into Switzerland. It is this feeling that makes me realize that I probably do not want to live in Italy. I love traveling there, but after a month I am usually worn out by the country and the way of life. Don't get me wrong, I love Italy, we go there nearly every year. And in 2003, we are not going to France as I said we would in 2002, we are going to Italy. This time to Liguria. (But very soon - we will go to France.)
We loved our vacation in Switzerland with all the outdoor time and exercise. While we are having great fun in Italy, it has all been too much driving, too much eating and too busy for us. Our life at home is very quiet and this time here has been overwhelming. We will need a vacation from this vacation.
I read books about people who had Type A lives in the USA or Australia and they move to Italy to slow down, but I just don't see it. First of all, even according to their own descriptions of their lives, they don't seem slower in Italy. And Italy seems to promote a Type A life. I know many will disagree with me, but that is how I see it. In the US I live life pretty easy and relaxed, but in Italy I feel the pressure from having to get to the shops before they close, having to eat in a limited time window for each meal, the driving if you are based in the countryside, the crowds of people. But it is a fabulous place to visit and is probably a great place to live if your lifestyle fits more in with the Italian way of life.
Changing needs for vacations
Steve and I talked on the last week of the trip about how our needs for a vacation in Europe have changed. In our early trips we were full of energy and eager to see the art, the architecture. Now all we want is to sit in the caffes, stroll around the town. We did not like Florence - it was too busy and crowded and noisy. There was so much art in one place (for example, in Santa Croce) that we could not get interested in it (that is ironic, isn't it?). I would much prefer to drive to a town like Citta della Pieve and see one good fresco than go to Florence and see all the art it has to offer. Is it because we are getting older? Or because we are both exhausted from work this year (other years when we took trips we had not been working as hard)? Or because we really don't know anything about art?
This is the end of this trip report
It is August 23, 2003 - three days until we leave on our 2003 trip (eek!!), which follows a similar format to the 2002 trip. Fly to Zurich, 2 weeks hiking in Gstaad, drive to Liguria, 1 1/2 weeks in Levanto, a few nights in southern Tuscany, a few nights in Rome.
It took me forever to get this trip report done. I would start writing and then would realize I needed to update the web site and would do that or that I needed a better overall format for all trip reports and I would work on that.
Plus the last year has been a busy time for SlowTrav. We converted all the restaurant reviews and hotel reviews to go into the database, I researched and picked photo gallery software for our new www.slowphotos.com, we moved to a new web host, we implemented a do-it-yourself listings section (replaced in 2003 paid Classified Ads), I did a big reorganization to the Italy section content.
When we found out we were going to be mentioned in a New York Times article (tomorrow, August 24) I pushed myself to update a few last sections on the site. I redid the restaurant menu section with a new menu in euro and Steve redid the Language Lessons for the euro, instead of the lire.
This year's trip report will be better (or at least faster)
For the 2003 trip, I have set up a blog so I can post directly to it each day. Then when I get home, I can put my photo essays together (I finally came up with a good format for that) and copy my blog to the trip report section and I will be done!
Thanks for reading. I know it was long winded, but getting down all the details is good for me - reminds me of what we did and how I really felt about it at the time. It also makes me go through my material and update the web site.
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