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Italian Adventures

Updated: Feb 6

by Annie Bowler, Vol 11 February 1, 2024


Radda in Chianti


Our time in Radda in Chianti was simply splendid. A bit of history: we stayed in a 500- year-old farmhouse that means so much to me and my family.


You see, the house, “Malpensatina,” was carefully renovated by my brother Tom, who dreamed of retiring and starting a small winery there. Though we’re not Italian, Tom had deep love for all things Italian ever since he spent his junior year of college in Florence. Unfortunately, Tom passed away when he was far too young.


I can feel Tom’s spirit when I am in Radda and Malpensatina; his touch is everywhere. Tom was the kind of person who looked you right in the eyes when you spoke, so its not surprising that Tom has not been forgotten in Radda. In fact, a few locals got teary-eyed when I introduced myself as Tom’s sister. We are grateful to Tom’s daughters, Laura, Julie, and Meghan, and to his wife Noreen, who have made sure Malpensatina continues to be well cared for!



And then there’s the abundant wildlife: much land in the Chianti region is protected and wild boar run in packs, so everyone needs to watch out when they run by! When the sun peeked out after a night of hard rain, the swallows gathered by the thousands and put on a show like I have never seen before.






And of course, there were many good times with our family and friends. We enjoyed fine food and local wines at Malpensatina, in Radda, and as we explored the fascinating small villages near to us.





One final note… Tom’s vineyards are now being rented by Poggerino Winery. Tom’s dream continues.



Sadly, our time in Radda came to an end but John and I still had much of Italy to

explore. Our first stop was the amazing, art filled city of Florence. We enjoyed one final

meal together before saying our goodbyes to Jocean, Ayu, Jake, Howi, and Alma.

Ciao, my dear family!




Amalfi Coast


After seeing our family off, John and I headed south to the Amalfi Coast. What an unusual place, with houses built into the side of cliffs, the twistiest roads we’ve ever driven on, and main streets of towns barely wide enough for cars to fit.  Somehow, they make it work.  For instance, in Amalfi, they don’t allow cars on the main street before school starts and when it ends so the children can get to school safely. 


It is stunningly beautiful area, with lemon, mandarin and olive orchards terraced into the sides of cliffs and views to die for. It seems like rather an impractical way to live to have so many stairs and cliffs-like hills, but people have been living along the Amalfi coast for centuries. In fact, way back, Amalfi was one of the major ports on the Mediterranean. To be sure, locals have strong legs though I did see one person riding an electric bicycle who was grinning ear to ear as he headed up a steep hill:). John and I took a wonderful 8-mile hike from Amalfi to the high, long-time famous musical town of Ravello. It took 140 flights of stairs to get up to Ravello, but it was worth every stair! 



Italians are passionate people, but it was demonstrated time and time again that they are also really thoughtful, like the young man walked with us for about a half a mile to be sure we found the right turn that he was certain we would miss. Though it was a bit cold, I am happy we went to the Amalfi region during the off-season as there were no crowds to speak of. We will definitely be back to this amazing piece of Italy.



Naples


My daughter in law, Ayu, described Naples best, “At first I hated it; Naples was dirty, chaotic and there were so many crazy drivers! But once we settled in, it became my favorite place. Naples had a lively energy, fun, friendly people, and the best food we had in Italy.” We felt the same way about this wild, beautiful city!




 John and I stayed in a cute little apartment in the heart of the city, by the Naples Cathedral. While wandering the streets, we came upon dancers, magicians, ancient churches and ruins, the largest Apple store I’ve ever seen, talented street musicians and graffiti of their local hero, Maradona. We ate delicious pizza and amazing pastries and then walked to the beautiful marina, arriving just as the sun was setting. Yes, I’d gladly return to Naples but sans a car! If you want to visit Naples, message me and I would be happy to give you the contact for the apartment we rented. The owner was a truly wonderful person.




Roma, Roma,

With your Ancient Pantheon & modern metro,

Spectacular Sistine & filthy Tiber, 

Soulful Vatican & hectic roadways,

Feisty Romans & kindly Italians,

To this city of contrasts, I am grateful. 


Thank you!


Our final stop on our Italian trip was Rome. We have been to Rome before, but always with

a bunch of kids so this experience was quite different. We were able to stay longer and

ponder in the incredibly beautiful Pantheon, a place where people have prayed for more

than 2000 years. We got up early and went to the Sistine Chapel first thing so that John

could study possibly one of the best pieces of art that’s ever been created. We went to the

Leonardo Da Vinci Museum, which had life-size sculptures of his machine drawings, which were spectacular. Da Vinci was so ahead of his time and so very smart! And of course, we savored our last Italian meals.



I was greatly moved by a new a life-size sculpture in St. Peter’s square. It depicts a group of migrants and refugees from different cultural and racial backgrounds and diverse periods in time standing together huddled on a raft. In the middle of the crowd, angel wings emerge from the center, suggesting the presence of something sacred among them. Commissioned by Pope Francis and demonstrating of his deep concern for all immigrants and migrants, the sculpture took its inspiration from a Letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” I found this a fitting message to consider as we head for home.



Until next time, my friends.




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