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Report 1084: A Springtime Slow Travel Prize: Ten Glorious Days In Umbria And A Little Bit Of Rome

By Stella from New York, NY, Spring 2006

Trip Description: Ten days of exploring the beautiful hills of Umbria and a quick visit to Rome, with thanks to Slow Travel for a wonderful prize.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Rome, Umbria

Categories: Vacation Rentals; Art Trip; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 12: Prologue: Travelling and Learning

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I traveled to Italy this time around with a good friend, someone I work with and have known for years. I shared my work days with him, and a love of what we both do, which is cook for a living; we both do it for the right reason - as an act of giving and sharing. For this report, I will simply call him C. And after you read this, in case you are wondering, we did return home with our friendship in tact.

I learned a bit about myself and my friend on this trip. We are both very different people; at times that revelation made for the sweetest, most comfortable sense of balance, as well as some misunderstandings and conflict. Italy is great place to lay a foundation for a lasting, lifelong friendship. Traveling with friends, however, is a tricky proposition and should be approached thoughtfully and with great sensitivity.

This trip would not have happened without the Slow Travel Contest of 2005 and the generosity of the contest sponsors. My entry won a week's stay at Le Case Gialle, an organic olive oil estate and farm in the heart of Umbria. A Slow Travel Favorite, Le Case Gialle is everything that it promised to be and more. It was a simply breathtaking setting, a lovely property, peaceful, serene and stunningly beautiful. The proprietors, Silvana and Mauro Colonna are fantastic people, and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to meet them in this lifetime. They are warm, funny, generous and oh-so-cool. Our apartment was sweet, spotless and I want to be in it at least once every year for the rest of my life. It felt like home. I miss my huge porch that looked out over Montefalco; I miss it now as I write this. I cannot express my thanks to Slow Travel for this wonderful prize, a trip that was truly life-altering.

Our car, which was one of my prizes along with my stay at Le Case Gialle, was a brand new Alpha Romeo 147. We pounded the heck out of it, taking it into fields and forests, along lake shores and into the dirt. But where did it suffer a nasty scrape? In a parking lot in Spello.

Travelers are, more often than not, planners. We love learning the options, making the decisions, knowing where we will go on what day and what we will do each minute. After this trip, however, I can honestly say that dropping all but the most general of plans and taking each day as it comes can yield sweet surprises. I went to Umbria with no real agenda, just a list of towns we could possibly visit, some great restaurant recommendations, and a damn good laminated, fold-out map. My friend C. seemed to memorize the roads within a 25 km radius of Le Case Gialle, and it was as if he became a part of them. Every day we would take a different turn of some sort. A couple of times, we took an entirely wrong turn, but he always got us back on track. I learned that none of those turns were by accident and he always knew exactly where he was going.

Each day we would simply climb into the car and take off and wind up somewhere. We did visit Montefalco, Bevagna, Perugia, Spello, Orvieto, Trevi and Assisi. We drove into the mountains to reach Norcia and the Piano Grande, and along the way, I found out I am not suited to mountain drives. Over the last weekend, I reaffirmed my love of Rome, proving once again that my heart truly beats along with the pace of that city.

I learned that springtime in Umbria is heavenly. I learned that a tiny part of me wants to live a quiet life in the country. I learned that I am more uptight than I thought I was, and that I have a serious fear of heights. I learned that even a city girl can fall in love with the country, when in the presence of a country boy.

I was in Italy for 10 days this time around, but it seemed more like 10 months. And for the first time, when I landed at JFK, I didnít feel like I was coming back home. I felt like I was leaving it behind.

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