Did you know that the number of Italians who immigrated to the United States from 1820 to 2004 is equal to the current population of Colorado, or say Minnesota, or even Maryland? Paul Scopel here with ‘You, Me and The Dock’ and your traveling Italy concierge.
Five and a half million Italians left their families seeking a new home and work in the United States over that period of time. All I can say is, “Mamma Mia!” My family is included among those descendants of immigrants that came from Northern Italy. Fifteen of my cousins from Texas and Illinois joined me on an Italian adventure this year to celebrate our heritage. We encountered many diverse adventures including our roots, history, Tuscan cuisine, wines, towns, and beautiful coastlines.
Following today’s story, we will look at each area in depth. I invite you to join me on a personal overview of our stops. Grab your passports and luggage and get ready to take off.
Family is more important to me than just going to the touristy sites in Italy. For twenty years I have mined family records and data with some success. The Village of Seren del Grappa, Italy – shown right, is where the Scopel’s have lived for at least the last 700 years. I uncovered new links that included second and third cousins only a month before our trip.
We enjoyed visiting with long-time and new found Italian cousins. A special loving relationship magnifies when you finally encounter these far away people. In three separate locations we enjoyed gracious celebrations hosted by different families. As our relationships deepened, we uncovered parts of the homeland we had not seen before. These are undiscovered riches not found on other trips.
We visited Medieval Lucca, Renaissance Florence, and eternal Rome. After a walk on the wall surrounding Lucca, we escaped into the Tuscan countryside to a vineyard and restaurant. Sentinel roses guard the rows of grapevines at the lovely Villa Sardi near Lucca! Florence served as both a discovery – adventure and a home base to venture out to other destinations. Rome will always beckon the traveler to explore its fountains, cuisine, and landmarks.
Within the laid back Tuscan countryside, we explored towns, wines, and restaurants. We made Montepulciano our hotel base where we sampled Vin Nobile wines and Florentine steak. At a nearby hillside agriturismo, we proved false the adage of too many cooks in the kitchen as the fifteen cousins prepared our luscious dinner.
Among the idyllic landscapes, we toured the hill towns of Pienza and Montalcino. Pope Pius II once claimed a spot in his home of Pienza as the center of the universe. In Montalcino we fell to the seduction of the acclaimed Brunello wine. Wine connoisseurs consider Vin Nobile and Brunello among the best in the world. With hands on testing, I agree as well!
Continuing our adventure south, we basked ourselves in the Italian sun while being chilled under the spell of the Lemoncello – a drink that consist of a high proof vodka and squeezed lemon peels. Perched above the Bay of Naples, our cliff side hotel in Sorrento offered terrific balcony views of Mount Vesuvius and the port below.
From there our excursions carried us to the Isles of Ischia, Capri, and Pompeii. We then spent the day on the winding coastal road to Amalfi. Our visit to Sorrento is not complete without a stop at our favorite restaurant in the world and that would be L’Antica.
Over the next few episodes, I will take you deeper into several of the regions and provide more interesting details. A few words cannot describe the treasures that await you. I leave you with my final words and they are,“Explore Italy at your own pace. Never rush a good thing!”
Author: Paul Scopel
Photography: Paul Scopel
Formatting: Anthony Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Web Support: Matt Kemper
Publisher: You, Me and The Dock
“Love, Laugh & Travel Lots!”