For years, we had been avid viewers of those TV programmes about relocating abroad and starting a new life, and we had told ourselves that perhaps, one day, we would up sticks from our home in the UK, and move to a more temperate climate.
We had holidayed several times in Italy, however our initial trip was to visit and meet, for the very first time, some of my mother’s family who lived in Atina. More than a century had passed since my grandmother and grandfather had departed their place of birth.
During our wonderful sojourn with family in Atina, we were indulged daily with Mara’s exceptional cooking, and cousin Mario kindly volunteered to escort us on several enjoyable outings, a day trip to Rome and a visit to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.
Another day he drove us westwards to a stretch of coast which is known as the “Riviera di Ulisse”. Here Mario treated us to a tour of the resorts of Gaeta ……
and Sperlonga …….
We soon found ourselves being charmed by the atmosphere of the ancient medieval quarters, the colourful ports and numerous sandy beaches.
We took a gentle stroll along a stretch of Sperlonga’s golden shore which was gently lapped by the crystal clear waters.
It seemed that although popular with Italians, this beautiful area had largely yet to be discovered by foreign tourists. So enchanted were we with this beautiful stretch of coast, that we vowed to return before long to explore this alluring area in greater detail.
That Autumn we signed up for evening classes in Italian in an effort to improve our language skills which we had realised were sadly deficient. A year or so later, still recalling our brief but magical visit to the Riviera di Ullise, we set about planning a cheap break to further investigate the area. of South Lazio. I scoured the internet for a small villa or apartment to rent during our stay. We ticked off a few advertisements and sent off emails, in pigeon Italian, requesting more details. A fellow, by the name of Guido, replied saying that he had a small apartment to rent in Gaeta, near to Serapo beach and consequently we began to correspond back and forth via email. He was somewhat intrigued that we had previously visited Gaeta, and that I had family still living in Atina, nr Montecassino. He wrote, saying that he and his family had always hoped to visit the UK, and they were very interested in meeting and generally getting to know a British family. Then out of the blue, he proffered an unusual proposition – “What if … we were to invite them to come and stay with us in Wales for a week over the Easter holiday, and in way of return they would then host a stay for us in Gaeta?” After some initial hesitation we decided to throw caution to the wind and to go along with this novel idea !!! Looking back, we didn’t really didn’t have a clue as to who these people were, they could have been mad axe murders for all we had known!!!At any rate the Italian family, namely Guido, his wife Giovanna and their two teenage sons forged plans for their Easter vacation. We had rather assumed that they would be flying to the UK, however it soon became evident that they had their own mad cap ideas – which were to drive all the way from Gaeta, which is situated two hours south of Rome, to South Wales. When eventually they arrived on our doorstep very late one evening, as you can imagine they were utterly exhausted. We were astonished to discover that somehow they had successfully achieved the 2135 km journey in a mere 23 hours, only stopping very briefly for petrol and the odd comfort stop! Their car came laden with copious gifts of olive oil, wine, buffala mozzarella, other local cheeses and delicious Gaeta olives.
Over that week it gave us great pleasure to take them out and about to visit local sites of interest and to allow them to experience a little slice of the typical British lifestyle. Over the week our two families had forged a special bond, and by the time their holiday was drawing to a successful conclusion, we had come to regard each other almost as family. It had been a wonderful experience for all concerned. When they telephoned that they had arrived safely home in Gaeta, we learned that the home journey had taken approximately the same time, yet they had somehow managed to fit in a brief visit to Windsor and a quick tour of the Eifel Tower in Paris. Don’t ask me how !!!
In the Autumn our hospitality was generously reciprocated when they invited us to stay with them in Gaeta. We flew to Rome where we hired a car and drove south towards Gaeta. Guido and Giovanna were remarkable hosts, who wined and dined us, and showed us many of the fascinating local sites. Once again we found ourselves completely mesmerised by the enchanting ambience and sheer beauty of this region of South Lazio, which seemed to have so much in its favour. Even in September / October the weather was so gloriously warm, yet we were astounded to find that the numerous golden sandy beaches were virtually deserted, as by early September the Italian summer season is deemed to be over and done.
Paul and I decided to take an exploratory drive and intrepidly ventured inland, winding our way along a particularly tortuous road that rose steadily from the coast into some magnificent mountainous countryside.
After 15 kms we finally pulled into the historic town of Itri, sited on the ancient Roman Appian Way. Whilst relaxing outside a jolly little bar, sipping our thirst quenching ice cold beers, I declared that: “If ever we were able to realise our dream of living in Italy, Itri would be the place to make our home”.
Yet, far too soon, our holiday conculded and depression began to set in as it was time to return to our humdrum life with its all too familiar routine.
We just had to face the stark reality – we would have to be patient and wait, until some time in the uncertain distant future before we could even consider moving abroad. Otherwise all we could hope for was that our £1 stake in the weekly national lottery would one day come up trumps.
However nothing could prevent me from dreaming !!!