30 Before 30 – Travel Bucket List


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

A while ago, I decided to give myself a little challenge. I’m calling it 30 Before 30, and it means I’m going to visit 30 countries before my 30th birthday. Thankfully, that birthday is still a ways away, so I don’t think I should have any problems hitting my goal. However, they say for things to be real you need to put them on paper, so here it is.

Just to bring you up to speed on my progress, here are the countries I’ve visited so far:

Canada, United States, Venezuela, Turks & Caicos, Australia, England, France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Poland and the Czech Republic (I’m here right now!). That’s 15.

I’m planning to visit Russia, Finland, Turkey and New Zealand in 2014, to bring my grand total up to 19.

To round out the 30, I don’t have a list of only 11 other countries I’d like to visit. No, I’ve got more of a Travel Bucket List I’d like to scratch lots of countries off of in my lifetime:

Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, Malta, UAE, Jordan, Israel, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Bhutan, Burma & Argentina.

photo-11

This list is ever-evolving, so I’m sure it’ll expand (but probably not contract) as time goes on. Plus, it doesn’t include all the places I want to visit and things I want to do in countries I’ve already set foot in.

What’s on your Travel Bucket List?

My First Palio


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"July 2, 2010.

Imagine the Piazza del Campo, majestic and beautiful, brimming with a crowd louder and more invested in what’s about to happen than any crowd you’ve ever seen. Tens of thousands strong, they’re singing, yelling, hoping and praying. They’re wearing their contrada’s fazzoletto tied in the front and hanging over their shoulders to show their allegiance. For the Senese, life revolves around the contrada and this event. Heck, even my life has been affected by the Palio.

So imagine standing in the middle of that crowd, willingly trapped in the centre of the piazza, in the late afternoon heat. You don’t quite understand all of what’s taking place, but you’re happy to just be part of all the Medieval pomp and circumstance.

The crowd.

The crowd.

That was me at my first Palio.

Flag-throwing alfieri

Flag-throwing alfieri

Wig-wearing, costumed tamburini (drummers) and alfieri (flag-throwers) promenade around the piazza for the Corteo Storico. The rat-a-tat-tatting of the drums and whooshing of the flags can be heard even above the excited chatter of the crowd. Then, before you know it, there are 10 horses, each bearing contrada colours, being ridden bareback by 10 brave jockeys out the large wooden doors of the Palazzo Pubblico (City Hall) to a thunderous applause. Numbers are drawn and announced over a loudspeaker. The starting positions are set.

Barbaresco

Barbaresco

Then, into the pen they go. The jockeys, atop their circling horses, whisper last-minute threats, pledges and bribes to one another, all in hopes of swaying the race’s outcome. Race? No, it’s not just a race. There’s blood, honour, tradition and a year’s worth of bragging rights on the line.

Finally, the jockeys allow their horses to line up calmly, and a hush comes over the crowd. And just when you’re least expecting it, the number 10 horse, from behind, charges ahead and starts them running.

The pack of horses sprints around the piazza, the thunder of their 40 hooves barely audible over the cheering and jeering of the crowd. I’m cheering for Drago, the dragon contrada. A few seconds after the start, it’s evident Drago is not doing well.

I turn my body to follow the pack of horses around the piazza, trying to my best to snap pictures all the way. With only one lap to go, it looks like the Selva (forest) contrada might win.

Palio

Palio

Selvaaaaaaaa!” Anyone wearing Selva colours is now yelling with every fiber of their being, imploring their expended energy to somehow make its way into the legs of their horse and propel it across the finish line. First.

As the pack passes for its third lap, I’m momentarily confused as crazed contradaioli start jumping into the track and chasing, yes chasing the pack of horses, one or two of which are now rider-less, after having lost their jockeys on one of the treacherous San Martino curves. Are they crazy?

When it’s Selva that crosses the finish line first, the whole scene degenerates into the most chaos I have ever witnessed.

People spill everywhere. There’s not a stitch of order to anything.

Horses are snorting and kicking and trying to evade being stopped. Grown men shed tears, both of happiness and anger. A couple ambitious Selva members climb through the crowds and retrieve their coveted Palio banner. The Selva jockey, I see through the throngs of people, is hoisted onto the shoulders of two Selva members and is paraded, with the winning horse, to the Duomo.

And as each contrada leads its horse out of the piazza, it’s all over.

all over

Happy 3rd Blogiversary!


3rd blogiversary

Buon compleanno (happy birthday) to Not Just Another “Dolce Vita”!

This past year in the blogsphere has been a great one.

Back at the end of June, I was Freshly Pressed for my post “A Love Letter to Italy”, in the fall was nominated for the Italy Magazine Blogger Awards for my post “Why Study Italian?” and earlier in 2014 I was fortunate enough to take part in a podcast interview with Cher Hale of The Iceberg Project. A few of my posts have also been reprinted in Florence News and Events, a publication aimed at foreign students in Florence.

Add to that countless new readers, followers and commenters, and you’ve got what I would call a pretty successful third year of blogging!

Grazie a tutti voi, thank you to all of you, who, by following, reading, commenting and supporting, make blogging a whole lot more fun.

As I prepare to take off for Italy again (yay!) you can prepare for some more travel-rich, Italy-laden posts coming your way.

Ciao for now!