And in both cases, the designation is true
It is hard not to love Italy. The country has been on quite a tear lately: their recent success on the pitch in England winning the European Cup, an Italian making it to the finals of Wimbledon for the first time, and most significantly, clinching victory in the Eurovision Song Contest.
All this against what was a heart-rending experience in the early throes of COVID-19, back when nobody seemed to know anything about what to do, how to deal with it, how to treat people. They showed in painful and stark relief what happens when the hospital system is overrun. Their pain in those moments became the education the rest of the Western world needed to see, as they got hit first, and got hit hard.
Now that the country is opening up again, it is good to visit and remember a small part of what makes this country so special.
Italy is beautiful at a human scale in a way that few other countries can claim. The handiwork of humanity on the landscape, buildings, and street planning remains one of Italy’s greatest achievements. For hundreds of years people have travelled to these places to marvel at the beauty and culture invested in the surroundings. A sense of beauty and flair also goes into the little things of daily life, the clothes people wear, the rituals of coffee, the passeggiata.
Bellaggio, officially the “most beautiful town” on Lake Como, perfectly highlights these qualities. Varenna, also on Lake Como, and a few kilometres away from Bellaggio by ferry is officially the “most beautiful town” in Italy. Contradiction? Impossibility? No and no. They are both so utterly and completely different from one another but are also enchanting in ways that few other towns are or will ever be.
There is an ineffable quality about Italy that runs through everything, the food, the culture, the way of life…I think of it as a culture of femininity. Italy is a woman, her people are sensitive, creative, and kind. There is a voluptuousness and comfort to daily life, an acceptance of “motherhood” as the highest form of being…it is no wonder I love the country so much.
As we all pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and think about places we might wish to go, might wish to spend our money, kindly put Italy at the top of your list. She deserves it, she will reward you for it, and there is no place on earth quite like it.