In 2017 Andrew and I were invited by PSG group to join their annual “road show” and address their financial advisors on the content of our book and the task of living in retirement. The roadshow visited six of South Africa’s major centers and, as each session, our book was offered as a prize awarded for successfully answering questions set about our topic.
One of the questions I included in the quiz addressed the subject of the most popular international destination for South African tourists. I was surprised to find that the answer was “Italy”. I had previously visited Milan (once) and Venice (twice) and was very keep to visit Rome, which was on my bucket list. Rome, its history and the place it holds as part of the cradle of democracy, has always fascinated me and I have always dreamed of visiting and immersing myself in Italian culture.
Once we had completed our holiday planning the itinerary was as follows:
- A short cruise from the port nearest to Rome to Barcelona and back; followed by
- A visit to England to share some time with our son Gareth and his family.
This itinerary changes when Gareth suggested that we rent a villa in Umbria, a region in the North of Italy. Gareth an family would join us and we could all holiday together. So we were now sorted.
The holiday was a total success and we returned to home with memories and experiences sufficient to keep us happy until our next foray into the unknown.
Why is Italy so popular as a holiday destination for South Africans? I suggest the following:
- Italy in general and Rome, in particular, has so much history behind it. Just to mention a few attractions like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, The Vatican, The Pantheon, Trive Fountains etc. If you visit any other of the many fine attractions in Rome, you will experience so much of the wonderful history of this country.
- We found the Italian people so friendly, courteous, expressive, considerate and always prepared to assist. Despite the language barrier, they went out their way to assist with directions or any other questions we may have asked. With the help of Google translate, we always found a way to communicate.
- We really enjoyed exploring the various types and the variety of Italian food. We tried many new types of Italian food from Bruschetta, Focaccia Bread, Pasta Carbonara, Rissoto, Spaghetti and Pizza to mention a few. I ate more Pizza in the time in Italy than I have ever eaten before. The main reason being is that it tastes so different from pizza cooked in other countries. We spent a day in Naples where we ate Pizzas as this is the city where pizzas where were first made.
- Fortunately, we rented a villa in a very small town called Monte Costello di Vibio, which was about 2 kilometers from town, surrounded by plenty of olive and fig trees. During our time there we were able to explore several other towns in this area including Todi, Assisi, Orvieto, Perugia and Spoleto. Most of these towns have been built on the top of a hill. To reach the top you have to climb plenty of steep steps to “La Piazza” the town square, which is surrounded by several restaurants, the cathedral and many businesses. We enjoyed these towns, each with its own culture, interesting cathedrals and other landmarks. A really great experience.
In closing, I suggest that we all need to visit Italy, irrespective of our personal origins. The World today strives to achieve democracy and democracy itself was developed in Italy, particularly by the Roman Empire.