I love the comforts of home, planted into my Lazy-Boy, stretched out on my couch, or strolling around my beach town community of Ocean Beach, CA, But at the same time, I feel more alive and somehow pleasantly at home when I am thousands of miles away, trampling over cobblestone streets, and when I am surrounded by unfamiliar places, faces, languages, foods, and sights. There’s a wanderlust that builds up inside of me, tugging me away from the familiar, and then begging me to stay. I find pure joy and happiness as I find myself strolling down dimly-lit, narrow streets, surrounded by a world that is similar to ours, but yet so different. I find myself in constant awe of the history and amazed at the incredible buildings that were constructed prior to Christopher Columbus’ ‘discovery’ of America. I find joy and happiness in knowing that this type of world exists, but I am also saddened and frustrated by the 40-hour workweek that shackles me. How does one move beyond the ordinary into the realm of extraordinary? That, I’m still trying to figure out. Perhaps that’s a question for a later day.
Caito. My last name. It’s Italian. It was the name that was passed down to me by my dad, and a name that I am very proud of. While our family mostly originated from Sicily, the large island at the southwestern edge of the Italian boot, this journey would not take me there, but instead, it would deliver me directly into the heart of Tuscany, to the birthplace of the Renaissance, and the House of Medici. This journey was taking me to Firenze…Florence, Italy. There would be other destinations along the way, but this was the starting point of a nearly two-week adventure into Europe.
There’s nothing quite like dropping your bags off at your home for the next few days and setting out into the city or your surroundings for the first time. I always get this huge rush of adrenaline, no matter how tired, jet-lagged, or fatigued am I from the flight across the pond. The look of the buildings, the flow of the city, the smells, the sounds, the excitement of learning the layout of the city. It’s my drug of choice. One I will be hooked on for the rest of my life.
There’s something very peculiar about wandering through European cities. Sometimes it’s hard to put your finger directly on it, but it has something to do with the pace, the lack of major noise pollution, much fewer flashing television screens, and a patience that often lacks at home. In Florence, it was almost as if emergency vehicles were prohibited from using the loud, obnoxious sirens. Finally, after a couple of days, I heard a couple, but there’s very little disturbing noise. What there is plenty of is beautiful architecture, seemingly around every corner, ristorante’s, pizzeria’s, trattoria’s, and sidewalk cafes that are usually filled with people sipping their coffee or wine.
There never seems to be any type of major rush. You rarely see someone carrying around their coffee in a travel mug or even in a to-go cup. The people here seem to take their time, enjoy their coffee, mingle with friends, and then calmly make their way to their next destination. Sometimes when I’m at home, I begin to feel claustrophobic in our fast, busy, clock-in, clock-out, world. I feel so at home in places like Florence, and in many other places throughout this foreign continent.
The simplicity is not only found in the people and in the pace of life, but it is also found in the cooking and in the food. Yes, I’m sure there are some complex dishes, served at fancy ristorante’s that would put a larger dent in my wallet, but at the local trattoria’s, what I found was fresh, home-cooked pasta and tasty sauces.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Florence. In a way, I guess it kind of reminds me a bit of Spain. There’s a lust for life that shines through in the people and seeps into every little piece of the city and country. I had always heard people talk about Florence, the art, the history, the beauty of the river, the lights, the statues, and the way of life, and now I know what they mean.
Lucca and Cinque Terre
When I think of a small town, located somewhere in Italy, the image of Lucca is pretty much what pops into my mind. The original walls, which were built during the Renaissance still surround the city, which means you must enter through various doors that lead into the historic center.
Once within the city walls, you are greeted by old-time charm, people on bicycles, incredibly beautiful streets, and amazing places to eat. Where Florence had big-time charm, Lucca has that small, traditional, old-time charm that I love so much.
Located a little less than two hours to the northwest of Lucca is the incredible five villages of The Cinque Terre. When you think of the postcard, Italian Riviera, images of colorful homes perched high on the hillside…this is Cinque Terre. The train took us into La Spezia, a larger city which is located just several kilometers from the cliffside villages. From La Spezia, you can easily hop on a train that takes you between the towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
As we arrived around 12:00pm, we had about five to six hours to explore the villages, starting at the far north village of Monterosso. Immediately, stepping out of the train and seeing the bright blue Mediterranean was simply breathtaking. It really is as though you are stepping foot into a painting or postcard. Over the course of the next several hours, we spent time exploring Corniglia and Manarola, each of which have their own unique, distinctive charm. I may not have been everywhere yet, but wow, this place is high on my list of most impressive and beautiful places I’ve ever been.
BlaBlaCar to Milan
21st century carpooling at its finest! What is BlaBlaCar? Let me tell you…it’s amazing! Basically, it works a lot like Uber, except it is designed for longer distances. If someone is heading in a direction, they can simply give you a ride for a low fee. It’s a fraction of the price of a train ticket and so incredibly enjoyable. We were fortunate enough to make the three-and-a-half journey from Lucca to Milan, to catch a train to Lake Como, with a great guy named Alfonso. Along the way, he even stopped to grab us, along with two other passengers some cappuccinos. Throughout the trip, we chatted, laughed, admired the scenery, learned about each other, and for that short snapshot in our lives, we acted as close friends.
Lake Como, Italy
Como di Lago…it’s where the rich and famous go during the summer to get away. No, I’m not rich, and not yet famous, which is why I went in the fall. What is there that can be said about this jewel, located just along to Italian, Switzerland border? It’s simply stunning. Beautiful water, incredible villas lining the shore, and mountains climbing out of the waters.
Oh, yes! I have finally made it to Switzerland. The journey north from Como to Zurich on FlixBus took us through some beautiful alpine scenery, brushing us right up along some mountain lakes, waterfalls, and a splattering of fall colors.
There’s a good reason why Switzerland often makes the list of highest-quality of life in the world. From my experience, it seems like it is filled with very friendly people, little poverty, very little crime, super clean cities, streets, and high wages. Yes, going out to eat in Zurich is quite expensive, but simple things like visiting Migros grocery store helped cut some cost, allowing us to splurge a little bit here and there. If there’s one thing I know for sure about Switzerland, it is that I must see more of it. Future travels will definitely take me further to the east, hopefully somewhere right at the base of the majestic Swiss Alps.
Travel Flows Through My Blood
There is a serious addiction that occurs when you begin to travel. Unless someone else has an immense passion for travel, in the same way that I do, I’m not sure if others truly understand the joy that I get from venturing out. There’s this constant desire to trek out further into the unknown, far from the Lazy-Boy, the couch, and my comfort zone. Each time I travel, I fall in love again and again. Before my trips even end, I can’t help but begin to think about where my travels will take me next. I heard a lot of great things about Calabria, located along the southern boot of Italy, and I’ve heard amazing things about Croatia. And then again, I’ve yet to see South America or places like Vietnam or Cambodia. Where will this life take me? I guess that’s completely up to me to find out. Ciao!