I stare forlornly at my cappuccino as you frown at the mute gray sky from a window lightly splattered with raindrops. Last night, the wind rattled the worn wooden shutters of the B&B as we hid under the covers hoping to wake up to sunshine.
That didn’t happen, and as you sip your espresso and I butter my toast, I can’t help but feel extremely scocciata. Annoyed. As the promise of a sun-drenched breakfast on the panoramic terrace fades, I grab my camera, and we head out on our mini hike down to the center of Positano.
Location: Favignana Island, Italy
We zipped around the island on a rusty old vespa, its motor puffing out clouds of smoke. It was the best way to explore this fabulous little paradise.
Favignana is the biggest of the Aegadian Islands, located on the western coast of Sicily, and its natural beauty is powerful enough to astound all your senses. The jagged cliffs and stunning blue waters were the dramatic backdrop as we zoomed through the roads encircling the island.
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Location: Carloforte, San Pietro Island, Italy
Off the southwestern coast of Sardinia sits a tiny island called Isola di San Pietro. It has only one inhabited area – a fishing village called Carloforte. Its residents, the carlofortesi, live an uncomplicated existence fishing and minding their own business.
It’s a warm summer day in June, and we hop on a ferry from Sant’Antioco to spend a day in Carloforte, or U Pàize (“the town”) in local dialect. The first residents who colonized the island were fishermen from Liguria, and so the Carlofortesi speak an old Ligurian dialect called Tabarchino, instead of Sardinian. Despite being only 7km from Sardinia, the Carlofortesi don’t consider themselves Sardinian.
Location: Lecce, Apulia, Italy
We wander into the musty, dimly lit store in search of fruit and a brief escape from the intense July sun. There are no windows, and the entrance is closed by a worn bed sheet, which keeps the heat at bay. Baskets and old beaten crates of fruits and vegetables are strewn about the room, and pictures of the Virgin Mary are taped to the walls. A single portable fan set on the counter provides the only ventilation.
Location: Otranto, Apulia, Italy
We wake up in an old manor farm, called a masseria here in Salento, to the sound of birds chirping and golden rays of light flowing through the shutters, promising a hot day ahead. After a simple breakfast of croissants, cappuccino, and fresh fruit in the orange grove, we hop in the car for our next stop.
Most of my summers in Europe have been spent by the sea in pursuit of peace and inspiration, and nothing has been quite as inspiring as discovering the endless shades of blue that exist.
Location: Lago Patria, Giugliano in Campania, Naples
I tell your mother that your family’s house is beautiful, but she doesn’t seem to believe me. It’s too small, she says, we don’t have much space.
Your apartment building is of modest size and sits on a dusty street of sporadic loud noise and chaos, lingering evidence of its neighboring big sibling Naples, located just a few kilometers south of here. A large grey building sits right across the street, abandoned and graffitied, and I wonder if it’s as dangerous inside as it is unsightly on the outside, and what types of people lurk around here after hours. When we go out at night, we drive past stretches of cornfields lined with prostitutes, some huddled together in packs, others standing further apart from each other, all waiting to pay the bills.
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Location: Serramezzana, Salerno, Italy
Our friend comes from a hilltop town in the province of Salerno, population: 90. It is quite literally located on top of a hill, which you can only access by speeding up a winding road with just enough curves to make you nauseous.
Last summer, we stayed for a few days at his family’s house, where he grew up. His father and grandfather built their gigantic, rustic two-story house with their bare hands. Although he doesn’t consider where he grew up a traditional farm, they own a decent amount of land where they grow corn, potatoes, sunflowers, tomatoes, green beans, onions, figs, eggplants, and other fruits and vegetables.
Location: Rome, Italy
I try to make a trip to Rome every year. With the newest and fastest Frecciarossa train you can get there in 2 hours and 55 minutes from Milan. A trip that only 5 years ago used to take 4 hours (once, when commuting from Milan to Rome during my then long-distance relationship, I was stuck on the train for 9 hours. “Trainitalia apologizes for the five hour delay,” a voice said over the loud speaker as a total stranger and I exchanged exasperated looks).
“Why is your Rome your favorite city?” people ask me, “Surely there are more beautiful places in Italy!” After fumbling around in my brain, the answer is actually very simple: