THIS POST was originally written at the beginning of the pandemic when we thought it was only going to be a problem in Italy. Wow . . . how things progressed, we never could have guessed.
While we stay at home and wait for the world to simmer down . . . here are some happier images of Italy when the streets were full and tourists were plentiful.
It’s true that travel expands your world and increases your awareness and care for people from other cultures. After traveling to meet some of my husband Bob’s distant cousins in Italy, we share a bond with them and now that their entire country is on lock-down, we are worried about their livelihood, which is based on tourism.
Who would have ever imagined? Our last night in Italy in June 2019 seemed so happy without a care in the world. It was our third time to visit Italy and we were blessed to have spent the entire month there. No one could have ever guessed that in less than a year, the Italians would be quarantined due to the COVID-19 or the Coronovirus.
Italy almost has a Southern feel to it. Full of life, good food, loud people who are happy and loving life — just like Alabama.
Here I am in my office in Florence. Everyone wants to know how we could be gone so long, and the truth is, Both Bob and I were able to work remotely and were very proud of our son who stayed home and fed the dogs, and ran our office. It was amazing to see what a good job he did at only 19. Our warehouse was completely revamped and organized when we returned. He invented new ways to manage things and constructed and wired several high-tech projects by himself. He forgot to water my houseplants, but that was a small price to pay. He had friends over one night for a swim party and cook-out but the neighbors confirmed he sent them home by 10pm. “I was tired and wanted them to leave.” Hmmm . . . working full time and taking care of a house is exhausting, isn’t it?
Even though I tried to speak Italian, the locals always asked where I was from, and with a straight face, I’d always say I was Italian . . . and every single time, they’d burst out laughing. After I told them I was from Alabama, they would often start singing, “Sweet Home Alabama.” They could out-charm a college boy from Georgia any day, and those dark eyes . . . Mama Mia!
While in Forte dei Marmi, we stayed at. . . . Hotel Tarabella! Founded and operated by distant cousins in a city similar to our Fairhope. Forte Dei Marmi, like our hometown of Fairhope, is full of tourist flocking to the coast and based around a bustling downtown full of upscale boutiques. Forte Dei Marmi also has a long pier, but the big difference is that it also has snow-topped mountains.
Almost all of the Tarabellas in the world come from nearby Seravezza, which we visited on the previous trip where we met the Mayor, Riccardo Tarabella.
This is Simonetta Tarabella and her son, Matteo, who studied Hotel and Restaurant Hospitality in New York for a year, so his English was very good. I told him to tell his mother that she and I had something in common. We both fell in love with Tarabella men and had handsome sons. He blushed and did the big eye-roll, but when he told her, she laughed, said lots of things I didn’t understand, and hugged me. We were instant friends from that moment on. We couldn’t understand each other at all, but somehow managed to communicate through the Tarabella – Mom language. She helped me with an authentic bolognase recipe which is delicious. I’ll share it with you soon.
Some women in Italy take their husband’s last names and others don’t, but when the last name is a melodic, “Tarabella,” . . . why not?
Hotel Tarabella is simple but has everything you need. It’s in a great location and we were able to walk and bicycle downtown. There’s a bustling market once a week with higher end merchandise than you’ll find at most European markets. Being on the Mediterranean Sea, there was plentiful seafood, but very different than our seafood on the Gulf Coast.
Lunch and dinner are served at the hotel, so we ate there several nights. It was excellent and very authentic — not typical tourist fare.
Hotel Tarabella is open seasonally, from Easter until late summer. With the snow-topped Apuan Alps in plain sight from the beach, snow skiing is a big deal during the winter months. In June, I needed a sweater in the morning and evening. There was no humidity at all, which was the most foreign thing of all for me!
The downtown doesn’t open until around 10am, then closes up tight from 1pm until 4pm every day. Nap time! It reopens and parties late into the night.
Here’s my Bob with Ilio Tarabella who currently runs the hotel until his son Matteo is ready to take over. Ilio’s father founded Hotel Tarabella in 1964. Matteo said his grandfather lives “far away” then laughed and pointed to the house next door. Italians are truly a tight-knit bunch.
Lexington, the hotel “Bassotto” or “low-to-the ground” dog was always at the door to greet guests.
We had such a great time in Forte Dei Marmi (which is where Michelangelo and other sculptors sourced their bright white marble – “marmi”). We’d love to return someday. It’s heartbreaking to think an entire country is in such turmoil. We’ve sent the Italian Tarabellas a message but haven’t heard back rom them yet, so we pray they are okay.
I hope all of my readers are safe and feeling well. This is such a strange and trying time in which we live. I have several readers in England, and I hope they are also okay. We have to put our faith in God and pray the world will find peace, strength, wisdom and health.
And to the beautiful people of Italy, we pray for your health and economy to fully recover. As soon as possible, we will return.
Are you doing anything to prepare for or prevent illness?
To see our previous trip to Seravezza when we met Mayor Riccardo Tarabella click HERE.
To see my What to wear to Italy post click HERE.