During these very challenging times we have found ourselves living through in the last year and a half, I, like probably many of you like-minded travellers and lovers of Italy, have come to realise that now more than ever we crave for connection, but not the digital kind. We crave not just for face-to-face connection with loved ones and friends, but also a genuine connection with people of the places we visit and suddenly we are made aware with crystal clear clarity that all the favourite memories of our best travels in Italy have one thing in common: connection with locals and our surroundings!
I bet that our memory store is full of stories of when unexpected strangers crossed our path during our travels and opened up our eyes to new experiences and enjoyment for life.
I will never forget when myself and my husband were exploring Puglia in southern Italy and were forced to take a detour off the motorway, because of roadworks and ended up travelling across a dirt road in the middle of the countryside, unsure of where we were and whether we’d be able to make it back to our b&b before it got dark. After navigating some seriously bad potholes and wondering whether we’d need to spend the night in our car, as all we could see around us was abandoned farmhouses, we eventually stumbled across a run-down house, surrounded by centuries-old olive trees. An old lady sitting outside sensing that we had lost our way, kindly invited us in and we ended up having the simplest but most delicious meal of our lives and had the best sleep we had had in ages.
On another occasion, when we were touring southern Italy on our way to exploring Sicily and visiting my friend who lived there, we stopped off at a campsite near the coast in Calabria, another beautiful, wild and largely unexplored region. At this point we were despairing to find anywhere to eat, when we came across the most unassuming trattoria. We sat outside and were just relieved to have found a place, when the most efficient waiter with a nervous twitch came to greet us and with no menu, purely based on his suggestions, he kept on producing plate after plate of one of the most memorable fish dinners we have ever had. At the same time as us there was a long festive table of young people celebrating a birthday and we watched the ‘pizzaiolo’ produce at supersonic speed nearly 30 perfect pizzas in record time!
It was one of those experiences we’ll never forget and indeed we would have never found this place even if we had tried. It proved to me that stepping off the tourist trail can bring huge rewards and that ‘getting lost’ can certainly lead to wonderful new discoveries and the unexpected. Most importantly it made me realise that without meeting and connecting with those very special people during our travels, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the kind of memorable experiences we now treasure.
If you are too craving for that kind of connection on your travels to Italy, then I invite you to join me on one of my special tours in the Spring 2022, when I will lead you to the heart of secret Italy for an extraordinary and unique experience. For more details and updates on the Runaway Italian tours, don’t forget to subscribe and you will also get insider info on the fantastic places visited on my tours.