Sarah Lalone, of Punch Photographic, might very well be described as an Italophile, and for that matter, so might I. We share an intense appreciation for the land, its produce, its people, its unmistakable mystique. Today, Sarah shares a selection of her favorite Italian travel images with us and explains about the inescapable grasp that Italy has on those of us fortunate enough to find ourselves in love with her.
I asked Sarah how she came to the decision to visit Italy:
“I had never been to Europe, or even off this (North American) continent until I was 34. In fact, I didn’t really see that as a problem; Europe felt monumentally far away for someone that likes to live down the street from her extended family. In 2011, my husband left to teach his students in Italy for 3 weeks for their study abroad semester. He came back forever changed for the better and I knew I had to go the next time he did. Now, every fall, I travel with our children to meet him while he teaches. In addition to our yearly trips to Italy as a family, I now also travel to Europe several times a year due to the demands of my job. I never would have guessed I’d not only GO to Europe, but go often.”
Europe, in general, is a traveler’s paradise. Each country holds something unique and worth seeing. However, Sarah chooses to return to Italy each year and I asked her to explain why.
“I’ve breezed in and out of quite a few European countries at this point, but Italy has a very special hold on me. I have always felt very at ease and as though I am in a familiar environment there, and indeed, I am. Being of Italian descent, many of the cultural practices of the Italians were present in my home growing up. The simple but delicious food, the importance of family, the love of tradition, the desire for beauty all around… it was all mirrored. It always feels like “home” when we’re there, even when it feels strange.”
When asked her 3 favorite Italian cities Sarah answers with assuredness and a caveat.
“I’ve loved Florence, Lucca, and Siena when we’ve visited, with Florence being my favorite. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that what really makes me happy is the Italian countryside. The rural areas outside the cities are magnificent and all distinct.”
Despite the fact that I knew questioning Sarah about Italian food would cause me to be immediately hungry, I pressed on. Sarah’s 3 favorite food items are detailed below.
“I can taste them now: prosciutto, pecorino, and hot chocolate. Those three things are sublime in Italy, and not the same anywhere else. I will say that everything I’ve eaten in Italy has been wonderful, though. There is such pride in food-making there, and it’s easy to notice. I mean, I’ve even had and loved lardo. Google it… you won’t believe me, but shaved thin and melting onto a warm piece of bread, it’s delicious.”
Sarah’s final tip is to be true to yourself and aware of what draws your eye when souvenir shopping. Most guidebooks will tell you that you need to purchase shoes, clothing and handbags when in Italy. Of course, you can, and will undoubtedly find yourself heading home with top quality items, but the souvenirs that will mean the most are the surprises. The things that you didn’t know you needed, but in a moment of serendipity present themselves almost as a gift from Italy, to you. Sarah’s top 3 memorable purchases have been artisanal olive oil, a wooden Pinocchio and 2 hand carved cameos. Each item has a special story attached to it, full of both the graciousness and talent of the Italian people, and the unique memories that were created on Sarah’s trips.
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