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One Year in Italy: 12 Months of Memories

Time Flies!

“Time Flies! Stop lying around and write something, will ya?” (Photo of a detail from the facade of Santa Maria dell’ Orazione e delle Morte on the Via Giulia, Rome)

Living in a new place, especially for an extended period of time, fills me with a sense of duty that I have to write everything down, commit every moment to memory, take a photo every day if not every hour. But eventually, that initial motivation turns to dread and an overwhelming feeling that I should be more mindful of my surroundings rather than living behind a lens or a computer screen.

The latter reason is why I have not written as much as I should have over this past year in Italy. Plus, I’ve just done so much in these 12 months! I’ve traveled all over Rome and its region Lazio, from the beaches to the lakes to hill towns in between, and have visited six other regions (with a goal of getting to all 20 before my time here comes to and end). Over the past year, I have also taken more than 7,000 photos — so much for not living behind a lens!

Despite that photo stat, I have been paying attention with my other senses: smelling the roasting chestnuts in winter, the jasmine bushes in spring, and the cool, damp aroma of underground spaces; listening to the rumble of trams, the clinking of cups and saucers, the fleeting bits of Italian conversations overheard in the markets and shops; and tasting the foods of each season. Touch has been more elusive, as Italy is full of things you want to touch but cannot — smooth marbles and mosaics and frescoes, tufts of moss growing out of crevices high on a Roman wall.

Of course, readers visit this blog to see Italy as much as learn about it. So, I wanted to share 12 photos over this past year, one for each month, to mark my transition from year one to year two. These are simple photos — most taken with an iPhone 5 — but they are special reminders for me. Read below for details.

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Italy’s A3 Autostrada Near Completion 50 Years After Project Began

It’s been called the “shame of Italy” and for good reason. The A3 autostrada, a 443km highway that is to connect Salerno to Reggio Calabria, has been under construction since 1966.

Faulty construction and mafia meddling by both the Camorra and ‘Ndragheta factions have caused numerous delays during the nearly 50 years since the project began, reports The Independent. It has become the “symbol of how public works are in Italy,” according to Stefano Zerbi, spokesman for Codacons, Italy’s national consumer organization.

When mobsters aren’t creaming off millions from the road building thanks to dodgy contract work, it seems they’re ensuring that the route doesn’t impinge on their other activities. About halfway, the route curves back on itself awkwardly. This detour is said to have been done at the request of a local Mob boss who didn’t want the motorway coming too close to his villa.

This week, Prime Minister Renzi declared that construction of the A3 will be stepped up in the hopes that the project will be finalized by the end of 2015. However, no completion date has been set.

Read more: Fifty years on, work on Italy’s ‘eternally unfinished’ highway enters final stretch

Seven Longobard Sites Newest Additions to UNESCO Heritage List

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Saint Michael at the Sanctuary of Saint Michael in Apulia

Last month, UNESCO inscribed Italy’s newest World Heritage sites: The Longobards in Italy. Places of the Power (568-774 A.D.). Treated as one entity, these seven sites stretch from as far north as Castelseprio, a small village in Lombardy where is located Santa Maria Fortis Portas and the castrum with the Torba Tower, to as far south as Benevento and its Santa Sofia church complex. All of these sites represent, according to UNESCO, “the high achievement of the Lombards, who migrated from northern Europe and developed their own specific culture in Italy where they ruled over vast territories in the 6th to 8th centuries.”

While the Longobard sites are the newest ones to be recognized by UNESCO, they are among the least well known of the many UNESCO buildings and sites in Italy, which now leads the world with 45. To learn more about each of the “Longobards in Italy” sites, including where they are, how to visit them, and the treasures they contain, visit Italia Longobardorum, the website of the group responsible for formally submitting these sites for UNESCO World Heritage consideration. You can also click on the links below for the individual sites:

Five Favorites: The Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast Santa Croce
With its rough coastline, deep blue ocean, and color-drenched markets and hillsides – think bougainvillea, oleander, lemons, and orange blossoms – the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana in Italian) is one of the most sought-after seaside destinations in Italy. Similar to Liguria’s Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, just south of Naples, is a series of cliff-side towns linked by culture and geography. Typically, the Amalfi Coast is listed as one entity. But if you’ve heard of any of its towns separately, most likely you will know of Ravello, Positano, and Amalfi. The nearest cities to the Costiera Amalfitana, Sorrento and Salerno, act as bookends to this luscious, Mediterranean zone.

The Amalfi Coast evokes so many gorgeous images for me, so I’m very excited to be able to share more information about this area in a new Five Favorites post by Laura Thayer. Laura runs the excellent Amalfi Coast-focused blog Ciao Amalfi!, which is a chronicle of her life in this wondrous little nook of the Italian peninsula. Her following five favorite reasons for loving the Amalfi Coast are personal but I think they hold some solid tips for anyone who wants to travel there.

View more Five Favorites posts here.

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Five Favorites: The Amalfi Coast

For most people it only takes one quick glance at a photograph of the rocky and dramatic shores of the Amalfi Coast to make it a dream destination. Life’s twists and turns—much like the serpentine roads that wind along the coastline—have brought me to a new life on the Amalfi Coast. It is a place of striking opposites, of both intense and surprisingly simple pleasures, that continue to impress me day by day. Here are five of my favorite experiences about life on the Amalfi Coast.

Amalfi Coast Santa Croce

The Brilliant Blue Sea
Don’t come to the Amalfi Coast expecting wide, sandy beaches. Instead, you’ll find pebbly beaches, rocky coves, and the brilliant blue sea. One of the best ways to see the Amalfi Coast is to rent a small boat and explore the tiny, out of the way beaches and grottoes. Find the most tempting spot – with water the color blue of your dreams – and dive in!

Duomo of Amalfi

Duomo of Amalfi
Many people are shocked when they first step foot into the main piazza of the small seaside town of Amalfi and encounter the Cathedral of Amalfi, called the Duomo. Golden mosaics glitter in the sunlight on this Neo-Byzantine revival façade dating from the late 19th century. Most days the steps are crowded with groups of tourists taking photos, local teenagers lounging about, and children trying to eat gelato faster than it melts in the warmth of the summer sun.

Wine Glass Amalfi Coast

Food & Wine
Living on the Amalfi Coast and learning how to shop and prepare the regional dishes has made food and cooking an integral part of my daily life. The simplicity of good food here has taught me a great deal about enjoying what is fresh and locally produced. Fish that was caught fresh that morning, wine grown and produced on the steep mountain terraces along the Amalfi Coast, cheeses made just up the road, and apricots from my neighbors gardens. When you visit the Amalfi Coast, don’t miss the chance to try some of the excellent wines produced on the small towns of Furore and Tramonti, or the renowned Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk in the mountain village of Agerola, or the limoncello (a lemon liqueur) made in most of the villages along the coastline.

Vietri sul Mare Ceramic Mural

Colorful Ceramics
Ceramics are a part of everyday life on the Amalfi Coast. In almost every town you’ll find shops full of colorful hand-painted ceramics. Inside many churches the floors are covered with beautiful ceramic tiles, and the bright majolica-tiled domes of the churches in Positano, Praiano, Cetara, and Vietri sul Mare shine in the sunlight over the towns. Head to Vietri sul Mare, where ceramic production dates back to the 15th century, to find the best shopping.

View of Atrani Hiking - Amalfi Coast Hiking

Hiking on Ancient Pathways
After a few days relaxing by the beach, grab a pair of good walking shoes and explore the mountains – the other side of the Amalfi Coast. Long before the road was built, the only option for getting around on land was to take the stone steps and pathways that still connect all of the towns and villages. Walking is one of the pleasures of my life here, far away from the summer crowds and deep into the sleepy daily life on the Amalfi Coast.

Laura Thayer Sorrento Headshot
Laura Thayer is an art historian and freelance writer living on the Amalfi Coast in Campania, Italy. She writes about travel for MNUI travel insurance and blogs about life on the Amalfi Coast at her own site Ciao Amalfi.

Photos © Laura Thayer, Ciao Amalfi!

Do You Know the Way to Pompeii?

About a year ago, I posted some information about going to Pompeii from Rome on a day trip. Just a few days ago, I was alerted of a new way to get there. When in Rome Tours has private and semi-private minibus tours to Pompeii. They’ll pick you up in Rome, drive to Pompeii via Cassino (site of the Montecassino Abbey) and Naples, take you to lunch, provide you with a Pompeii guide, and get you back to the Eternal City all within the same day (about 13 hours). They also provide walking tours of Rome and smallish bus tours of the Rome environs (no giant motorcoaches here!). So if you’re trying to put together a little jaunt down to Pompeii while visiting Rome, consider checking out When in Rome Tours. Thanks for the tip, Marie!

Photo by Paul Vlaar

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