Italy, in many ways, has taught me to love.
I think of chefs like my dear friend Fabio Picchi, who radiates an eccentricity and passion for everything he touches. Or Giorgio, my favorite farmer at the Sant’Ambrogio Market, cupping a fresh artichoke in his dirt-covered hands, bundling up a bouquet of fresh herbs for me to take home with my vegetables. I think of laundry strung above the alleyways and the texture of old stone and crumbling plaster as I walk through the narrow streets of Florence. How they open up to wide piazzas filled with swooping swallows.
We all have places like this, and discover new ones each time we travel. Places that remind us to fall in love with our own lives.
This kind of travel isn’t about romance or fantasy. It’s not about escaping our situation or distracting our minds with picturesque views. It’s about waking up, learning to notice details–like Fabrizia Lanza reminiscing about her mother under a palm tree that she planted in the family garden, or an impromptu ariabelted by our bus driver as we navigate the rolling hills of Sicily–and appreciate the magic of our own lives.
It’s easier to remember and appreciate the small details when we travel and everything is new, but this kind of love is available to us all of the time.
This is what Italy shows me and I love her for it. The flavor of fresh vegetables plucked from volcanic soil, a theatrical performance by a wild chef, conversations around patio tables and cafe counters with old friends.
This Valentine’s Day, treat your dear one–or yourself–to an adventure. Look around and remember what this precious life is about.
* Photos by Ashley Mulligan, Graham Markel, Merete Mueller and Peggy Markel