My Love Affair with Italy

Sunflowers in TuscanySunflowers in TuscanySunflowers in TuscanySunflowers in TuscanySunflowers in Tuscany

Do you remember the first time you fell in love?  Was it love at first sight, or was it the kind of love that grows over time?  Did you go through the ups and downs that all relationships seem to experience, or has it been nothing but smooth sailing?  Do you still see the goodness behind the facade, or has your love faded over the years?  When you see your love, whether it’s every single day or with extended absences, does it still make you smile, perhaps your heart skips a beat?  And when you finally must part, do you start planning and counting the days until you are reunited once again?

That’s how I feel about Italy.

I forged a relationship with Italy rather late in life.  I first knew her through family and friends who teased me with talk about her excitement, diversity, and simmering sensuality.  I tried to dismiss her lure and be strong.  I dabbled with other pseudo-loves, trying to find meaning in my relationships with Manhattan and Cartagena.  With Miami Beach and San Francisco.  While thrilling for awhile, these relationships eventually ended, not out of any sense of betrayal, but because the love waned, leaving a big hole in my heart.   Even Paris, with all her chic in-your-face sexiness, could only fill the void temporarily before she, too, was relegated to the status of a fond former love,

And then I met Italy.

I had to travel far to meet her.  An early morning flight across the country followed by an overnight flight to Rome.  With bleary eyes, and barely awake, through a haze of sleepiness, I dallied with the Eternal City.  I fell in love the very first moment that I came up from the metro station and saw the Coliseum in front of me.  I knew immediately that Rome and I were destined to go the distance in our relationship.

But it was not to be.

Maccagno on Lake Maggiore, Italy

I couldn’t commit to Rome.  I was unwilling to be exclusive, and so allowed myself to be seduced by Capri and the Amalfi Coast, by the beauty of Lake Maggiore and Montepulciano, and by the hill towns of Umbria.  There were so many flings, and it’s embarrassing to admit that my head was turned by the murmured sweet nothings of cities and towns across Italy.  I was captivated by the vibrant wisteria of Sorrento, I was enchanted with the playfulness of the sunflowers in Tuscany, and I was swept up by the  passion of Sicily.  My love overflowed with every sip of Brunello, every scoop of gelato, every mouthful of pasta.

I fell hard.  I was, at last, in love.  And I was ready to commit.

But loving Italy is not always easy.  She’s self absorbed, requiring you to adjust to her pace rather than she to yours.  You’ll have to turn a blind eye to her grittiness, and it is there, and focus on her gentle and nurturing soul.   You must learn to embrace her quirkiness, her inconsistency, her fickleness, and even her seeming disinterest.   You must be prepared to stand by her through the tough times, knowing that she will eventually return to her true self.

Sunflowers in Tuscany

There are many reasons to love Italy, and if you are willing to commit to a lifelong relationship, you’ll find that she just might love you back.  Loving Italy may not always be easy, but it’s always exciting.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love, I’m counting the days till we are together once again.

This post is part of the monthly theme project from the Travel Blog Mob, a group of independent travel bloggers who write around a selected topic that will entertain our readers.  February’s topic:  Creative Romance.

Here’s what the rest of the mob has to say:

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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

19 Responses to “My Love Affair with Italy”

  1. February 14, 2011 at 6:06 am #

    Hi Mary Jo, small is the travel writers world, isn’t it? Glad I came upon this post because I’m about to embark on a month long trip to Italy, starting with the carnival in Venice.

  2. February 14, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    so funny, MJ – makes me laugh, AND want to go to italy!

    • February 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      @wandering educators,

      It’s just so true, too. I was prepared to like Italy, but I never expected to love it the way I do.

  3. February 14, 2011 at 9:51 am #

    I love this, MJ!

    • February 14, 2011 at 7:12 pm #


      Thanks Jen. I do love Italy.

  4. February 14, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    MJ, I know exactly how you feel. I first went to Italy on a one-day side trip from Austria. I’ve stayed in Italy 3 times and took one cruise with Italian ports of call. As a result, I’ve been to Venice, Florence, Siena, Orvieto, Cortona, Montepulciano, Assisi, Perugia, Rome, Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculanium, Positano, Amalfi, Vico Equense, Capri and Taormina. I can’t get enough of the place. Now if I can find my way to Pisa and the Cinque Terre.

    • February 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm #


      You’ll be back again, I’m sure, as it sounds like you’re hooked. Perhaps next time you can explore more in Sicily. There are so many wonderful small towns along the east coast (Ionian Sea side) that you’ll want to explore in depth. I’ll be back in Italy again in June and am making my own list of places that i haven’t yet gotten to.

  5. February 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

    Hi Inka. I hear that Carnival can be a crazy time, but I’m sure you’ll love Venice. Where to after that?

  6. February 19, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    I love the way you did this! & I can definitely relate. I wrote a blog for a Tuscan site about falling in love with Tuscany. Rome couldn’t hold my attention either, but I do keep paying her short visits. Each new place & facet of Italy I experience makes me love it more. My heritage took me to Calabria, I think my heart & soul belong to Venice, but my pocketbook prefers Tuscany. & I have yet to see the Amalfi Coast or Sicily. Sorrento and/or Positano is my next adventure.

    • February 20, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      @Kerry Henderson,

      I do like Rome, all the history and things to see, but I do it in small bits of time now. A day or two on either end of the rest of the trip is just about right. I get to see a few more neighborhoods each trip without being stressed out by the frenetic pace (or the high prices). Sicily is a real bargain – and I’d recommend it highly! Enjoy your Italy travels!

  7. January 22, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I had the chance to go to Italy this past summer. Rome was not my favorite. I really enjoyed visiting Cinque Terre and seeing the views while hiking the trails.

    • January 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

      I think Rome is an acquired taste. It’s hectic, often gritty, and the crowds overwhelming. But I still enjoy all that it has to offer.


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