Profiled: An Italian summer

Taggia: Sun and sand for miles

The waves crash into the shore, gentler with each moment the sun dips into the horizon. The mattress is not the softest, the thread count of the sheets not comparable to those of Egyptian cotton. Still, this moment is worth more than a week at a luxury hotel. I am in Taggia on the west coast of Italy, and it is to die for! I am stationed at a campsite as I have been recruited to teach English at a summer camp, and my fellow ‘recruitees’ make for excellent company. Taggia, a small town, offers a multitude of life for its size. Like any place in Italy, it is teeming with spirit and fun. There are supermarkets and quaint little boutiques, pubs and restaurants, tennis courts and a gorgeous light-sanded beach that stretches for miles. The locals are friendly and warm like their oven-baked pizzas and delicious lasagne. One evening I was walking from the campsite into town in search of internet access, and bumped into a lovely Nonna. She began an animated conversation in Italian while I struggled to communicate with a jumble of Spanish and my as-yet infantile Italian. It wasn’t so much that she understood everything I said, or vice versa for that matter, but I won’t soon forget her warm smile as she pulled me into a tight embrace and kissed me on my cheek!

Italy is overflowing with surprises. You’ll never get tired of the weekend markets in little towns where you can buy sandals with peacock feathers, or its earth-shattering beauty by way of history and culture. Take Siena for example, which absolutely blew me away. For my camp assignment I was placed in a small town about 15 minutes from this beautiful city. With its rich reservoir of architecture with buildings like the Cathedral or Duomo, Siena celebrates the beauty of Italy with breath-taking precision. Being subjected to a long period of construction, which began 1296 and was completed only toward the 14th century, the Duomo embodies influences of different eras. Flaunting Romanesque and late Gothic styles, its exterior façade is built with white marble, pink Siena and green Prato stone. And that’s not all! Veer to the heart of Siena and you’ll walk right into the Piazza del Campo, a magnificent sight for any eye to behold. Hosting annual feasts like the beloved Palio - the twice-a-year horse race representing the various districts in Siena - this Piazza is a must-see during a balmy summer sunset. Sitting on the interlocked stone floor of the Piazza and taking in its beauty has got to be a wonder of the world. A wonder of the world where I enjoyed a chuckle while watching a local wash his bulldog’s culo [ed. the dog's 'hind quarters'!] at the Piazza’s fountain. Leave the city for a drive up into the country and local Pizzerias grace the hillside with spectacular views of Siena against a backdrop of fading sunlight. Italian music and fine wines with antipasto, and you’re off to a great night!

With its myriad high-end boutiques and restaurants, banks, and antiques and art shops, Siena is a ‘to-do’ for anyone wanting a taste of Italy’s finest.

Siena's magnificent DuomoItaly is warm, inviting and gorgeous! I had an amazing time there this past summer and hope to return again for another adventure. Before I say 'ciao for now', here are a few caveats and tips I managed to smuggle home in my backpack:

• Italian banana liquor tastes like cough syrup but hits you after a single sip. 

• Gelato comes in so many different flavours that are worth trying; you should have two a day, one for breakfast and one for dessert, just so you can get through them all!

• Italians are not usually in the habit of wearing seatbelts and their only rule on the road is a laissez-faire one. Still, whether you’re driving or a pedestrian get ready to exercise caution and your adaption skills.

• Italian trains run on their own schedules and ‘not on schedule’ and ‘cancelled’ are two of them! Don’t be deterred if things don’t go according to plan, though. Pick another destination, buy a ticket and be off. Italy is delightful no matter which part of it you end up exploring!

About the Author

Bianca DeSouza is an avid writer with an ardent passion for cultural experience. With a strong background in psychology, literature, education and languages, she intends to pursue a career devoted to helping people. An optimist who believes in taking changes, she believes travelling is a way of living her life to the fullest.

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 Full name: Italian Republic

follow url  Population: 61.26 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Rome

 Largest city: Rome

 Area: 301,340 (116,348 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Italian, German, French,  Other

 Major religions: Roman Catholic, Other

 Monetary unit: Euro

 GDP per capita: US $31,000

 Internet domain: .it

 International dialling code: +39

 Source: CIA World Factbook