It’s with mixed feelings that I’m back in Seattle after three and a half weeks in Italy.  It’s always good to come back home, of course, but there is a part of me that was left behind, waiting patiently until I come back to claim it.

The pace was both busy and leisurely, with a day or two of activity followed by a day or two of rest.

Sunflowers, Tuscany 2009

Leisure days were spent by the pool, taking naps, drinking wine, eating pasta and lots of gelato.  Activity days were full of exploring, sightseeing, discovering new things, and lots and lots of walking to counteract all that pasta, gelato, and wine.  It was the perfect combination of Adventure Holidays and Walking holidays, with plenty of rest to get ready for it all.

Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

  • Climbing Mt. Etna
  • Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Siracusa and Noto in Sicily
  • Learning to drive like the Sicilians
  • Eating grilled shrimp, freshly caught moments before consumption, beach side in Muscali
  • Watching World Cup games with the Italians
  • Walking the hill towns in Tuscany
  • Wine tasting, especially the Brunellos and Super Tuscans
  • Food:  pasta, gelato (fig may be my new favorite)
  • Visiting favorite places and discovering new ones, a good mix of the familiar with the new
  • 24 straight days of 80-degree plus weather, and a good week where it was close to 100 degrees

Since no travels are ever perfect, however, honesty demands that I also list a few items that won’t make the highlight reel:

  • Bugs.  I don’t know why it was so much worse this year than that, but I was a mess from bites that I couldn’t stop itching.
  • Ice doesn’t seem to exist.  When you wanted an ice cold glass of water or tea, or even a beer, it just wasn’t that refreshing icy coldness that I love.
  • The sunflowers are gone from Tuscany.  Economic factors caused farmers to plant wheat rather than sunflowers, and those beautiful fields of row after row of flowers were just not to be found.  Wheat hasn’t been all that successful of a cash crop either, so next year it may be alfalfa.
  • Learning about the Italian health care system when one my traveling companions needed stitches in his head.  The system works quite well – efficient, high quality, and free – it’s just not the kind of thing you want to have to discover.

I’m a big fan of extended holidays.  They restore me physically, mentally, and emotionally in a way that a quick getaway weekend never will.  Italy does all that for me, and it’s good to know that it’s waiting for me until I get back once again.

Where do you go for that balance of active and restorative travel?  Do you have a special place that nourishes your soul?

Photo credit:  personal collection

NOTE:  This posts was sponsored by The Adventure Company; the opinions expressed herein are my own.