This post is to give my readers some depth on the Italian background of their travel consultant. With a name like mine, people do sometimes wonder how it is that I speak fluent Italian and know the place so well. This will explain that. However, I did just read in the New York Times that the origination of the Eastern European Jewish community may have started in northern Italy. Now that was exciting news and may help to explain why learning Italian was so easy for me!
College in Umbria and Tuscany
In 1976 I took TWA to Italy [from the great Saarinen terminal at JFK] and stayed just over an academic year. It was an exchange program through Rutgers College in New Jersey which I found through relentless research. I think I checked out at least 20 programs until I found one that met exactly what I was looking for – it had to be in Florence, had to be for the full academic year and the accommodations had to be with a local family. [I got 3 of 3, but not exactly as I’d expected. Instead of a family, I was placed with Puppa – a crazy woman who changed my life. More on that another time.]
It's Not California
It turned out to have the most lasting impression on how my life was defined, particularly from a cultural and human outlook. It taught me that people do things differently than the way they do it in California, which I realize isn’t earth shattering news in this day of the Internet and Jet Travel. But when one is immersed in it for so long, and at the age of 20, it can really shake things up and leave a deep deep impression. At least my DNA was receptive.
As succinctly as I can put it, here’s my Italian background. I’ve been back a lot since then. I even paid my dues and worked for Alitalia, the Italian airline.
1976/77. Spent 9 months in Italy. First in Perugia at the Universita Italian per Stranieri (a language course) and then at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze (aka the University of Florence) studing Art History and the unofficial lifestlye of the Italian radical college student of the 70s. They were about 10 years behind the students at Berkeley.
During this time I traveled all over Umbria and Tuscany, Rome, the Italian [and French] Alps, Sicily and Greece.
1982. Went to Sicily for Thanksgiving to visit one of my Rutgers friends who was going to Medical school in Catania.
Mid 80s. When I worked for Royal Viking Line (the old luxury cruise line) I went to Venice regularly to help disembark over 700 guests and get them to New York. Those United Airlines charters were from an airport so small [the old Marco Polo] that the fuel hoses didn’t even fit a 747.
Early 90s. Back to Venice when I worked for Seabourn Cruise Line, but fortunately not to manage a 747’s departure. There I managed their luxury hotel program. Much nicer.
[hiatus while I was doing other things]
2005. I was invited to fly to Naples for the July 4th weekend and spent the time on the island of Ischia, the unknown neighbor of Capri.
2007. Took a real vacation to Rome, Florence and Milan.
2010. Look for details in my next post.