Bella, Bella Italia … it steals your heart away.

There is a land far across the sea. A once upon a time place filled with tales of times gone by. A land of palaces, castles and ill-fated lovers, whose sagas from the past bring tears to the eye, romance to the heart and touch the soul.

It is a place like no other, a country of contrasts with bustling metropolises, quiet villages, floating cities, lush countryside, sparkling blue lakes, snow-capped mountains and romantic islands. Its name is Italia (Italy), and the rubble of its Roman ruins has built a history of art, music, religion, power, corruption and wealth, beyond belief.

A journey there takes one back into a time of powerful leaders, when Popes, Cardinals, Emperors, Caesars, Kings, Queens, Dukes and Duchesses reigned. Entrance into centuries past when the genius of artists, musicians, inventors and scientists prevailed. An era when innovators with names like Charlemagne, Constantine, Michelangelo Leonardo Da Vinci, Marconi and Galileo were commonplace.


Buildings rise no higher than the tallest church steeple in this land. Apartments are the mode of living in the cities, while lush  villas dot the countrysides outside the towns. Laundry dangles from clothes-lined balconies, and flower and foliage bloom everywhere … on tree-lined streets, in window boxes, interior gardens and atop the roofs. Wisteria vines elegantly drape their lilac flora on walls, gates and overhangs, while waterfalls cascade in elegantly sculptured structures all around.

Each city hosts a multitude of piazzas (plazas), most named for the churches predominate there. As in the past, they remain the central gathering place for locals and tourists alike, complete with fountains at their center and open-air markets, shops and restaurants on the perimeters. Street musicians, artists and pantomimes provide the entertainment, while gypsies stroll the streets, awaiting opportunity.

Driving in the cities can be dangerous to one’s health, for rules of the road are ignored there. No one uses designated lanes. Mopeds dart in and out among the cars, occasionally crossing over center-lines to rush ahead of traffic. Horns honk incessantly, and pedestrians have no rights nor right-of-way. Crossing the streets is an at-risk challenging adventure, and policemen are seen but not heard from, as the mournful wail of ambulances sing their warning throughout the towns.

Road travelers through this country are in for a treat. When stopping for gas they can take a break and eat in the Auto-grills. These roadside eateries serve food in stations, cafeteria style, with offerings of antipasto, pasta, salads, lunch meats and cheeses, fresh breads, vegetables, fruits and deserts. Hot foods are visibly cooked to order, and wine, beer, soft drinks, coffee and cappuccino are readily available. No McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell or El Pollo Locos are offered to weary roadside warriors in this place.

Italia is a country where warm, friendly and helpful people reside, inhabitants who speak of their heritage with knowledge and pride. It is home to a culture whose Italian chic decrees that clothes worn should give the impression of wealth. A land where women use leather, silk, lace, fur and gold for fashionable adornment, while men drive wildly, wear jewelry proudly and flirt openly.

Housing a populace who loves to eat and drink, mouth-watering cuisine and fragrant wines abound everywhere. On the streets wares are shown in cases of glass – pizza, pasta and sandwiches on thick Italian breads. Pastries like tiramasu, sweetened, cheese-stuffed cannoli and ice cream (gelato) are displayed in colorful, multi-flavored mounds to tempt the palate. The aroma of freshly brewed cafe, cappuccino. and even American coffee, permeates the air, while signature after- dinner liqueurs of Limoncello (lemon) and Fragolino (strawberry) provide the final touch.

Religion is an integral part of everyday life in this land. Church bells housed in magnificently decorated towers mark the time and call the people to worship. Biblical heroes and stories are beautifully depicted in sculptures and frescoes inside and outside museums and churches, on monuments and government and public buildings. And religious articles and artifacts are touted everywhere.

Bella, bella, Italia. Beautiful beautiful Italy. To be there is like living in a fairy tale for a time. A tale full of history, humanity, beauty and spirituality. A dream from which one hopes not to awaken. There is a legend there that if one throws a coin into the Trevi Fountain it assures one’s return. It’s a small insurance for a very large reward. For a return to the place that has stolen one’s heart, is to regain the heart Italia has definitely stolen away.

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