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Insights from Italy

We just got back from a two-week trip to Italy.

We’re blessed to have had the opportunity.  We don’t take it for granted and will treasure the memories.

We had a great time and learned a few things along the way.  Here goes, in no particular order, stream of consciousness.

We met and were assisted by great people everywhere we went.  And precisely no one seemed weary, irritated, or put upon.

Our best example of people eager to be nice to and help others …

We’re about to return our rental car to Hertz at the Naples airport, but first we have to fill up with gas.  Found a station.  It’s self-serve.  No attendant.  Should be no problem.  But the instructions for payment are in Italian and not at all intuitive.

We make several attempts to pay by card.  We appeal for help to a nice man at another pump whose wife is waiting in the car.  He interrupts what he’s doing and spends probably 7-8 minutes trying to help.

With his assistance, we eventually figure out how to feed cash into the machine in 20 and 10 Euro bill increments and get the job done.  But we’ll never forget him.  So nice.  So patient.  He saved some strangers’ day and seemed to thoroughly enjoy doing it!

It’s the crazy stuff that happens on trips like this that you remember.

Like when we’re waiting for the bus at 6:30 and it’s getting cold.  People are uncomfortable and impatient.  A bunch of Bulgarian ladies break out a bottle of Limoncello liqueur and some little plastic cups.  When I smile at them, they pull me into their circle, hand me a cup, and start pouring.  Made a lot of friends that day.  And now I know I have to visit Varna in Bulgaria.  They insist.

Met a Canadian man in the Rome airport.  Now I know I have to visit Rosato in Puglia, his hometown, where so many centenarians live … and he knows he has to take ox bile capsules to compensate for no longer having a gall bladder.

Yeah, we connected.  Connecting with and helping one another just feels good.

The traffic on the narrow cliff-side roads on the Amalfi coast is CRAZY. Buses meet traffic.  Traffic has to back up.  Bus driver yells at people.  They yell back.  We come within inches of granite walls.  All the cars have scars on their sides from the times they’ve literally scraped by.

Do not drive on the Amalfi coast.

We decide one day to hire an older man, Pasquale, to drive us to Positano rather than wait for who knows how long for the bus.  He’s completely calm and Zen-like, takes his time, narrates regarding points of interest in ¾ Italian, ¼ English.  So different from everybody else on the road.  A very relaxing experience. So, yeah, the lesson?  Chill and enjoy.

To be clear, if you relax in the left lane of one of their superhighways, a Mercedes will unceremoniously drive you back into the right lane at 130 mph.

Wildflowers grow here like no place I’ve ever seen before.  They’re everywhere, and it seems as if everybody has a garden and an orchard.  Lemon and olive trees everywhere.

The food and flowers have taken up the riches in the volcanic soil, which makes everything grow like crazy and is the most beautiful dark brown you’ve ever seen.

The food is simply better in Italy.  Prettier.  Better tasting … oh the strawberries.  More nutritious.  Beautifully prepared … even in the equivalent of our highway rest stops.  Come home and you see the ads for our fast food and cringe.  They have almost no fast food.  No wonder the “Mediterranean diet” works.

But they paid a price for the richness of that soil.  We saw it in the ruins of Pompeii.  By the way, the Romans?  Unbelievably ingenious.

Lastly, we enjoyed the Amalfi coast.  It’s visually stunning. That said, a lot of the towns are pretty touristy.  If you go, make it a point to visit the lesser-known town of Ravello and the Cimbrone gardens there.  Wow.

Finally, we spent our second week in Tropea in the ankle of the boot.  What a gem.  It’s off the radar of North Americans and where most Italians go to the beach.  We loved it.

The lesson there?  The road less traveled is truly the better road.

Seek it out.

Love,

 

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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!

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