by Anna Maria D’Andrea
Italy: many dream of the opportunity of walking on its beautiful soil. Rome, Milan, Florence, Tuscany can all be translated into: romance, wine, gelato and of course, gorgeous Italian men. This is what one has come to expect, and quite frankly can expect when visiting the home of lovers such as Marc Anthony, artists such as Da Vinci and composers such as Verdi. These are the colors and sounds of the majestic boot; also home to mischievous Machiavelli and that can only promise a land filled with plots and interesting twists. These were my thoughts as I was flying to one of the most touristic countries of the world. Among all this wealth of art and beauty, where is one to start? Pietrelcina.
Trips to Italy typically bring tourists to passionate Rome, breath taking Venice or busy Milan. Mine took me to Pietrelcina; a southern Italian village located in the region of Campania composed of maybe 3000 inhabitants (including farm animals and vespas). Its closest city is Benevento, dating far back as the Samnites and conquered by the Romans around 274 BC. Originally named Maleventum (bad wind) it was quickly rebaptized by the practical Romans to the name of Beneventum (good wind).
What can be found in such a village? Ravaged by World War II, Pietrelcina was simply enchanting. It would seem that time; just for this single dot on a map had slowed down to admire the vast golden and emerald countryside that lay dormant on a hillside. All was still… Only a light breeze brushing through the olive threes was a reminder that there still was some form of movement, of life. All this was in fact very appeasing, and a great sense of serenity washes over you enabling to finally just breathe. Inhale…exhale….I was in love. My bustling mind filled with love stories such as Fellini’s dolce vita and I was ready! This is the land where the most used word of their vocabulary was: Amore (love) second only to Mangiare (eat). Eat I shall, Love I will.
The calm southern countryside of the Campania region seems to be made in fact to live like in Fellini’s Film. Generalizations of southern Italians living a carefree life, where there is always time for coffee and gelato is truly personified in this region. The village of Pietrelcina is carefully cared for by its municipality as it houses thousands of tourists every year that come to see the home town of local friar made saint: San Padre Pio. As a result, a great number of pensions are available at a very reasonable price (starting at 30 Euros). Eating will also not be a major concern as you can easily eat a good dinner with wine for under 20 Euros per person.
This panorama is ideal for a tourist truly wanting to experience the Italian way of life, or as the locals say: “il dolce fare niente” (the art of doing sweet nothing). My mornings consisted of walking the main via, Corso Padre Pio, leading to the piazza. The road is paved with white shinning marble, surrounded by beautiful oaks and olive threes. A quick stop to one of the numerous cafés for my morning expresso was always in order, and should I dare forget, the unmistakable smell that overwhelmed the piazza would be a pleasant reminder. Afternoon would be my time to catch up on some missed sleep from the night before. The village closes its doors to you during the torrid afternoon heat encouraging you to lay a little on your bed and enjoy a little siesta. Undeniably however, Pietrelcina comes alive at night with the sounds of vespas announcing the presence of its youth. True to form the Italian men here are just as handsome as the city boys but with double the dosage of charm. My friends and family here spend their evening between dancing at a local night club looking over the hillsides until 6 am to lounging around in the piazza with a good bottle of wine. The night is usually summed up with a romantic walk up “sul Castello” (on the castle), the oldest architecture is to be found here following a coble stone road bringing you to the highest point of the village where you can enjoy a breath taking view of the countryside. Whichever path chosen, a pleasant night is in order and guaranteed.
For those of you that would rather live a little bit of this Italian novella and experience this gentle way of life, I highly recommend a stay in the small Italian village of Pietrelcina, or rent la Dolce Vita.