Five weeks from today, our Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul pilgrimage will depart from JFK airport bound for Rome. The 40 of us will spend 13 days making our way from the beautiful spa town of Montecatini to Florence, Siena, Assisi, Rome, Naples, Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense (the small town where my grandfather was born), and finally to the Isle of Capri. I know how fast these next few weeks will go with start-of-school events and work deadlines to meet before leaving. It’s going to be here before I know it.
Although our itinerary is jam packed with lots a great sites — duomos and art, monasteries and agriturismos, wine tastings and cooking class — there’s also plenty of time for wandering around on our own. I have yet to sit down with some guide books for Florence or Capri to see what I might want to do when I have a few free hours. Rome is no problem. Having spent 11 days there four years ago, I’m eager to get back to some of my favorite spots when the walking tours, Masses and museums are done.
I know some of the pilgrims — those who may not have been to Italy before — may be a little nervous as our departure date approaches. To them I can say only one thing, based on my own Italy experience: Let it go. (And if you need to sing that to the tune of the “Frozen” mega-hit, be my guest. In fact, I encourage it.)
Seriously, do not go to Italy and expect United States. It is vastly, wonderfully different, and that’s a good thing. You wouldn’t want to travel all that way for more of the same. The food will be different (and fabulous, every meal). The hotels will be different. The schedules will be different (meaning a shop’s posted hours are totally useless because they will open when they feel like opening). Let go of all your pre-conceived notions. Let go of all your worries about food and clothes and jet lag and throw yourself into Italian life. It could make the difference between a totally glorious and never-to-be-forgotten adventure and a tense, worry-filled trip. You’ve got “only” 13 days. Revel in every single one of them.
When I went to Rome alone four years ago, I couldn’t speak the language, had never been to Italy before, hadn’t traveled out of the country since college, had no one there to meet me at the airport or even share a cab to my hotel, and had 10 days to see everything I wanted to see and still get to my daily (all-day) sessions and lectures at Santa Croce University. I quickly realized I could either stress the entire time or let it all go and take a chance. I opted for the latter, and what a wonderful experience it was. I left a piece of my heart in Roma.
Here’s a story I wrote about that experience, in case you want a taste of what’s ahead. (Read all the way through to the third page on the website for travel tips.) And, if you’re not joining us on the pilgrimage, be sure to follow this blog and our Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul Facebook page (by clicking HERE) to see photos and hear about our adventures — spiritual and otherwise.
Ciao, for now.