A couple of weeks ago I woke up in a really grumpy mood.
Yes, believe it or not, it happens even if you live in Italy.
One bright morning you wake up and all the difficult questions – which you have been successfully postponing finding the answers to – are staring you hard in the face.
So, on said morning I woke up thinking what am I going to do with my life going forward and more specifically how to approach going back to work after looking after my child for close to two years. The main question tormenting me though was: ‘Would I have the backbone to actually do what I want to do professionally or shall I just stick to my tried and tested field?’
My mood plummeted from grumpy to plain foul.
Sunday was just about to be ruined, when my husband came with the idea for us to abandon whatever plans we already had in place and go on a day trip in order to get my mind off things.
What I love about Italy is that there is so much to see and do at a moment’s notice. There are so many fabulous places to visit and enjoy without a tourist in sight. Elegant country villas with sprawling parks, tiny picturesque villages hidden in green rolling hills, ruined castles with views to the horizon and beyond. A quick online search is all you need to come up with a destination.
This is how we found about Villa da Schio – a beautiful villa in the village of Costozza just outside Vicenza. We piled in our little red car and 15 minutes later were pulling right in front of it.
It was all so quiet and peaceful. Completely deserted! Verdant,with just a touch of mystery about it.
We bought tickets for the park from the adjacent trattoria and then were led through a long corridor connecting it directly with the park.
As we stepped outside the bright Italian sunlight dazzled us. After getting used to it, we were presented with this sight.
It was a beautiful moment!
Then we opened the informational binder we were given by the trattoria’s staff and dutifully started reading about Villa da Schio.
The text spanned seven pages and it described in minute detail every single statue in the park, the history of the buildings and even named the plants. It went into such particularities so as to mention that the breasts of the ‘beautiful Goddess of the Sea’ – the statue of which adorns the smaller fountain in the park – ‘sprout two jets of clear water’.
I admit it! It gave us a really good chuckle.
And then it hit me.
Imagine visiting a place and having seven pages of information for each landmark in it. Imagine also having the time and the disposition to read all seven-page-worth-of-information for each landmark.
It’s not going to happen!
It will be too heavy to carry, too time-consuming to read and it will only impede the quick progress from sight to sight which we, as tourists and travellers, have come to think that it is expected of us.
Only too recently I came across someone’s travel itinerary mapping 13 countries over 60 days.
I remember travelling like this – cramming excessive amounts of sightseeing in short numbers of days. Always obsessing that I was missing on things. Never actually stopping for too long at any one place. Definitely never having time to read seven pages of information for each of the wonders I was lucky enough to see.
Sitting on the hot stone steps under the white glare of the sun, I stopped my train of thought for a second just to feel grateful that we didn’t have anywhere urgent or important to go after we had finished in that park. Grateful that we could spend as much time as we wanted there, sitting for long moments of time, walking around as much as we wanted and just relaxing and enjoying it all down to the littlest detail.
I fully understand the need to see as much as possible in only a handful of days. Short holidays, multiple travel destinations, a desire to keep up with everybody else and their travels, an obsession with ticking off things off your wish list, even a complicated family situation. It all adds up.
It is so nice though to slow down every now and then.
To experience every place fully and build up a lifelong memory of your visit to it.
I believe this is one of the biggest pluses of us relocating to Italy. The understanding that we don’t have to rush it. That we can go to places off the beaten track and not compete for the perfect picture angle with hundreds of other tourists and their selfie sticks. That, if we wanted to, we can go to the same place more than once.
And so we continued our walk in the park of Villa da Schio. We admired the statues, observed the myriad of goldfish in the fountain of Neptune, went up the stairs leading to the different levels of the park and even came across a loggia which seemed straight out of The Wild Swans fairytale of Hans Christian Andersen.
The whole ceiling of the loggia was covered with thick foliage which seemed to drip from it. At first it was slightly disconcerting, as it felt like the ceiling should have been the floor and vice-versa.
From the loggia, we went down the staircase of the Dwarves. It derives its name from the statues of little people adorning its railing from top to bottom.
From there, we had one last look at the elegant villa and were ready to go home.
It was a wonderful day and the answers I was looking for early that same morning slowly started to trickle in.
Will I be brave enough to do what I really want to do? Well, I can always at least try.
So, watch this space and, every now and then, if you can, give slow travel a chance.
Villa da Schio
Piazza G. da Schio 4
36023 Costozza di Longare