Hi welcome to Episode 8 of our Passion for Italy podcasts.
I am Gemma Green Close, the director and founder of Passion for Italy Travel. I hope you are enjoying our podcasts bought to you by our wonderful PFI consultants that live over three different continents, servicing our clients online all over the world.
I am Australian and work between two offices – one in Brisbane, Australia and the other in Pozzuoli, Italy. The only disadvantage with this, is the 35 hour travel between the two countries. The Italians think I am crazy to do that flight not once but now over 32 times but hey – when you love something you will travel the earth to see it!
I fell in love with Italy the first time I stepped off the plane from Australia in Rome in 1987 with my husband and pregnant with my third son. I immediately felt like I had come home. I loved everything about it and Rome is still my favourite city in the world. There is nothing like turning the corner and seeing the Pantheon for the first time. It takes your breath away with its majesty. It is my sacred place – every year I always go and visit it when I first arrive in Roma. It is the first place I head for and it is the last place I pay homage to before I leave. It is such a magical place particularly when it rains with the open dome – the showers filter down like snowflakes through the tall center, falling gently upon the marble flooring which contains little holes through which the water drains.
I remember that first trip being stunned by the handsome looking, stylish men and women in Rome walking along Via Condotti- the street with all the famous shops like Gucci and Valentino -their clothes were just so classy, that I myself tried to copy their style and I bought a pink, cashmere cable jumper with a matching hounds tooth pink and black blazer, hoping that it would fit me after the baby was born. I wore that beautiful jumper for many winters until one day the drycleaner shrunk it to baby size and I was devastated but thereafter my then four year old continued to wear it until she grew out of it. Quality never fades.
Unfortunately today I am bit disappointed now by the fashion walking down Via Condotti one of my favourite areas, which I always visit when in Rome – it seems now to be only jeans, giubbinos- plastic coats and sandshoes – which is the standard uniform of all the Italian young people in the winter. However occasionally one can see a long haired stunner striding, along in her boots and expensive dress or a man dressed well in a gorgeous jacket matched to his beautiful leather shoes.
I love shopping in Rome because of the on-street shopping and the beautifully decorated windows. It is where I buy most of my clothes for the year. Window dressing used to be so much more magnificent thirty years ago; almost an art piece but one can still see the creatively decorated window designs, particularly in Milan and Florence in the exclusive areas. You don’t even have to buy, as it is a joy just to view the shop window; particularly at night when they are closed, due to the perfect lighting. Italians, I think, are the best in the world at lighting!
I remember once in Rome standing for a long time in front of a window trying to work out what type of shop it was, as in the front room and window, the only thing present, was a beautiful fur coat and a fountain. It turned out to be a hairdresser. Speaking of hairdressors….well that is another story…
I have continued to love everything about Italy from the first time until today. Sometimes I struggle with the chaos particularly when catching trains but that too is another story that we can help you with . I am passionate about all things Italian (hence the name of our business Passion for Italy) – the people and their language, the history, the incredible art, the majestic architecture of all variety and ranging from over 2500 years to the present day – the archaeology and of course the food and wine.
It was frustrating on my first trip not being able to speak Italian but it was not until my second trip to Italy and a tragic event that occurred that changed my life forever. I was once again pregnant and we had just touched down from Australia and I began to feel very sick. I thought initially that it was the effects of jet lag but then I had to race to the Venice hospital of St. Giovanni and Paolo, where I miscarried my fourth baby which at four months gestation, was a very traumatic experience. Afterwards, I was put into a shared ward with heavily pregnant women, no one could speak English and I could not speak Italian so I did not understand what was going on… I felt so confused, bereft and distraught. I vowed there and then, that the next time I returned to Italy, that I would be able to speak Italian to be able make myself understood. And learn I did, studying at Italian lessons and university and I am still studying the language, trying to improve my grammar and will be for the rest of my life.
The Italian language I think, is the most beautiful language in the world to listen to. It is made for poetry. There are words in Italian that one cannot translate into English. It expresses the language of the soul, of beauty, romance and love. And when I hear it beautifully spoken, it is like music to my ears and I become like Jamie Curtis in that movie “A Fish Called Wanda” well not quite, but you get my drift ha ha!
People often ask me what is my favourite part of Italy. I can truly say that I adore all of it. I have travelled to 18 of the 21 regions inspecting our Passion for Italy hotels to check them out for you our clients. Each region of Italy has its special magic. The six largest cities – Rome, Florence, Naples, Venice, Milan and Turin all have their magnificent sites. The food and wine regions the stunning seaside villages – all of them have their own flavour and specialty dishes. We want to tell you about them all. I love my home village of Pozzuoli on the sea near Naples, where I live for a couple of months each year. I consider Naples perhaps the most fascinating city as I discover it more and more.
Everyone loves Venice of course as it is the most romantic and unique city not just in Italy but in the whole world – a world run on boats, not cars, buildings constructed hundreds of years ago on wooden pylons under the water. Which artist or musician would not want to live there but for the huge crowds of tourists that now flood the small calle – the little streets. I am hoping that the large cruise ships will not be allowed to return to Venice after this Covid time so that the city and the waterways can once again return to the city it once was.
I have so many stories to tell you about my travels in Italy and our wonderful Passion for Italy Travel boutique hotels and day tours. You can see them all on pfitravel.com, Instagram @Passion_for_Italy_Travel,
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Ciao For now.