When my dad died unexpected 4 years ago I realized that I had spent too much time working too hard, missing out on the more important things in life. I had missed too many important occasions: time with family, friend’s weddings, birthdays and baby showers; all because I was working and couldn’t miss a meeting or I was on one of my many business trips. Shortly after his death I changed jobs and promised myself to have a better work life balance. So over the past 3 years I slowly started to make changes to my life: making an effort to spend more time with the people I care for and on things that matter in life.
And so when my friend Andrea told me last year to mark my calendar for August 27, 2010 for her wedding in Spoleto, Umbria, I didn’t have to think twice. I would be there. Earlier this year I started planning my trip to Italy. I had never been to Rome. I took Latin in high school and had always been fascinated by the stories of the old Roman Empire. Also as a recovering catholic, I felt I had to see the Vatican at least once in my life. So I decided that after the wedding I would stay in Rome for a couple days. Another thing I would be able to check of my bucket list.
I arrived in Spoleto on Wednesday before the wedding. We stayed in Hotel Clitunno in the old town and from the first evening I fell in love with the beautiful little town.
Still relatively unspoiled, it feels like time has been standing still here and life is still slower and less complicated. Shops still close for siesta in the afternoon; instead of our efficient supermarkets you still find people buy their groceries at the local butcher, cheese shop and bakery. It was August so holiday season but most people, except for the Irish crowd that had descended on the town for the wedding, were Italian. The day before the wedding I enjoyed walking around the town, sitting down at one of the squares for a cappuccino or a slushy and watching the people in town, the way they were living every day life in a little town in Italy.
I walked over the famous old bridge, the Ponto della Torre.
It was the perfect wedding. And it was not just a wedding, it was a three day celebration. It started with the family dinner the night before in a beautiful setting outside with wonderful food. The official ceremony was in the Duomo del Pietro in Assisi.
We didn’t have time to look around the town of Assisi, and I will have to go back some day as from what I have seen it is a beautiful old town. And thanks to Unesco it will be kept like this as it is a world heritage site.
The reception and dinner was in an old mill a couple of miles outside Spoleto. They always say it’s all about location, and for this occasion, the location couldn’t have been more idyllic.
Anti pasti and Prosecco in the front of the mill, were followed by a dinner in the back of the mill to the sounds of the river, calmly floating on both sides of the garden and the light of tens of paper lanterns hanging from the trees.
After dinner we danced till late in the warm Italian night first to music played by the Italian band and later to the playlist from Tony’s ipod. The celebration ended with a 3 hour lunch on Saturday, the after day the wedding, after which I went back to the hotel and lazed away the rest of the afternoon outside in the hotel courtyard, not being able to eat another thing.
Hotel Clitunno is a gem of a hotel. While offering all the comfort of a modern hotel (including air conditioning) they have managed to keep its traditional Italian atmosphere with beautiful furniture and decorations. The outside sitting area they have created offers a nice place to waste away a warm afternoon with a book or have a night cap (or two) before going to bed.
After walking Rome for 3 days, I realized that my Rome is not the famous attractions like the Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps. Of course when in Rome, you have to see them, but my Rome is the tucked away piazza’s you find by surprise when turning a corner, the narrow cobblestone streets, sipping a cappuccino outside in a local café on a little street corner, watching the people go by.
Strolling around a local market on Tuesday on another nameless piazza or simply sitting on a bench in the Gardens of Villa Borghese with the sun on my face, letting the world go by for an hour or so; eating a straciatella gelato from a corner store, drinking a glass of Pinot Grigio in the afternoon at Sloppy Sam’s on the Piazza Campo Dei Fiore;
having dinner outside at 9.30 at night at Piazza Farnese with only Italians surrounding us; Prosciutto with buffalo mozzarella, home made gnocchi with walnuts and gorgonzola. For 3 days I was drinking in Roma. I smiled at the people, loved the looks while walking the streets and the “ciao bella”. Rome is alive, Rome is warm.
Italy and Roma: I will be back, you can count on that.