The Italian East Coast, fishing villages, the Dolomite mountains, waterfalls, mountain lakes, hidden towns, hitchhikers, and freshly picked fruit were more than enough to make me fall deeply in love with this country.
My friend and I rented a car on a Thursday evening. To save a good 100 euro I chose the manual car option even though I had only ever driven manual twice outside of a parking lot, and that was four years ago. The roads were windy, narrow, steep, and dark, and it was pouring rain. Manual driving was a lot more complex than I remembered, or actually I had never learned all of the complexities of the stick shift. After a necessarily tight learning curve, we made it to the northeastern coast in no more than a few hours and a couple stalls.
We road tripped in my typical style, with no plans other than to let the spirit guide us and the wind blow us. It's amazing that in just one evening we traveled from the historic city of Florence to Lido delle Nazioni, a beautifully quiet stretch of beach and wildlife refuge. The first night we slept in the car in front of the beach. Nights in the car are very familiar and quite nice actually, even in the little Fiat. Friday morning including lounging on the beach, swimming, napping, reading, and soaking up the sun, long walks and connecting with the Ocean.
We then drove through the wetlands of Isola Della Donzella and headed north toward the mountains. We stumbled upon the small town of Nove, a ceramic hotspot in Italy. What seemed like the whole town was gathered in the streets for an international ceramic festival that evening. After strolling around, we ended up in the mountain village of Valstagna that night, again sleeping in the car, this time high in the mountains above the valley river.
The next morning was one of the most incredible of my life. I got up early, walked out of the car, and discovered that I was surrounded by some of Nature's greatest gifts- fruit trees! The cool mountain air naturally chilled the figs hanging plump and perfect from the trees. The berries were smiling beside the rocks. And the grapes! The grapes were so sweet they made my hands sticky. Heaven really does exist and it was right there in those moment, just as it always is right here in this moment of now.
From there, we traveled to Lago del Mis, hiked to a waterfall, swam in the springs, walked for hours like water nymphs barefoot up the creeks and ponds, discovered naturally growing air plants, and expressed so much gratitude to all of Mother Nature. Then, on our way driving through the mountains we picked up an Italian couple that needed a lift down to their mountain home after their day hike. The hitchhikers, Fabrizio and Andre invited us into their home for coffee, biscuits, and Italian liqueur. Their full time home is closer to Venice, and they offered to show us around town if we visit. We exchanged contact info and plan to take them up on their offer! I love these kind of meetings!
We enjoyed dinner and the rest of the evening in the amazing little town of Fiera di Primiero and then headed to Lago di Garda, a very large lake surrounded by many mountain towns. Here we spent the night, enjoyed the next morning in the coastal towns and rocky beaches, and headed home to Florence.
The magic that gives so much life to these places cannot begin to be captured in photographs. Near the coast it's the tractors carrying tomatoes, or the trees growing out of abandoned farmhouses, or the occasional pheasant in the field on the side of the road, or the reflections of the cranes in the blue canals of the land, or the enchanting green that seems to make up all of Italy. In the mountains it is the smoke from the chimneys, or the chickens in the yard, or the sound of cowbells from the hills, or the clouds hugging the mountain peaks, or the cool air, or the creeks, or the bell towers on the hill, or the little villages nestled into the mountains as if totally untouched by the worries of the world. Italy is so full of magic it makes my heart sing.
I hope you enjoy the photos. If possible, scroll through them slowly, perhaps one breath per photo, soaking up as much of the wonder as photos can offer.
Thank you to Life, to God, to Love, to Nature, to One and the Same and to All for dancing with me in this wonderful life.
Peace and love always,