Why I love Italy

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why I love Italy

Ah la Dolce Vita! Hands up who would like to be strolling along a medieval Italian street in the sunshine right now or sitting in a little café sipping a coffee overlooking the sea on the Almalfi Coast?

Italy has always been a firm favourite with us Brits, so much so in fact it's number four in our Top Ten Places to buy.

So what is it about the country shaped like a boot that we love so much?

Regular readers of this magazine will know that I have a holiday home in the tiny town of Nardo in Puglia (which is the stiletto heel bit).

I fell in love with the area and a property when we were filming there four years ago. I remember walking around the streets and then into the apartment and just thinking how beautiful it all was.

Secretly (and don't tell anyone this) I was hoping the house hunters would choose another property so I could buy it but they didn't. They loved it just as much as I did and I decided that gazumping our contributors was probably not a wise career move no matter how much I loved the house!

I was fortunate enough however to stay in touch with the developer who, when he found another similar property, contacted me - and the rest, as they say, is history.

So what it is about the place that we all find so endearing? For me it's a mixture of things. I love the country's diversity. I often think it's a country split in two in terms of style.

The North is glamorous cousin to the slightly rougher cousin of the South.

With some of the most breathtaking cities I've ever seen like Bologna and Venice and I guess the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, the North is what most people think of when they conjure an image of Italy in their minds.

I can't think of a nicer way to spend an afternoon than wandering through the streets of those amazing towns just soaking up the atmosphere and of course some of the local Chianti.

The South, on the other hand, has a much more rustic and rural feel to it. It is a bit rough round the edges but that's the way I like it. I love the fact that you can stumble across little towns that seem like they've been stuck in time.

Italy to me still feels like it's lodged in the 1950s and in such a fast-paced world I find that charming. I adore the people too. They are such a proud nation and do like a bit of strutting and showing off; one of my favourite times of the day is the 6pm
parading hour that so many towns have adopted - the La Passeggiata.

In Nardo everyone comes out in their finest outfits and just wanders the streets, checking each other out and catching up with friends and neighbours.

Historic rituals aside, it's the sense of family and community that I find such a rare and welcome change. I love the way that people have time for one another and how much they seem to adore children. Whenever we go there our daughter Willow literally returns from every shopping excursion with so many little toys and treats.

We once went into town and everywhere we went the shopkeeper gave her a little something from a chocolate bar to a glittery pink hippo!

Then of course there's the sense of history, the beaches and the food. Nobody cooks food in my humble opinion better than the Italians. If I lived there I would be the size of a house, as I just can't resist.

Just writing this article on a cold, wet grey January evening is making me homesick for my adopted land. If you've never been to Italy and haven't booked your summer holiday yet, I urge you to go. You won't regret it and you never know, you might even find your very own little piece of paradise while you're there.


A Place In The Sun