June 10, 2023


Just Do Travel

Hazlett: Unexpected travel makes for lifelong memories | Family

A good friend who is an avid reader occasionally sends me articles such as travel stories. It’s always a treat to read what he forwards.

This week he shared an article titled, “Underrated Italy – Where to Escape the Crowds” from the Discoverer Blog.

“Italy is crammed full of wonderful places,” says the article. “But if you hope to discover an Italy you won’t find in a tourist guidebook, you’re going to have to leave the well-trodden path behind.”

The piece lists seven Italian destinations where people go to avoid the crowds.

It was fun to see if I had visited any of the places recommended by the author, and I was pleased I had been to four — Bologna, Puglia, Turin and the Borroemean Islands.

Our family’s last big trip was five years ago, and at the time I suspected it would be my mom’s final. My childhood friend Muriel Ann Glitzengelder came too; it was six months before her cancer diagnosis.

Life changes, and this is why I highly endorse taking a trip while you can, whether it’s a tourist favorite or an “underrated” spot. Oddly enough, I have found that while travel experiences are amazing, sometimes it’s the random, silly memories you cherish years later.

In 2017, we headed to Puglia, the “heel of the boot” in southern Italy. Our friend Maria Grazia, who owns a travel agency near Rome, always comes up with interesting itineraries and accommodations.

We flew into Rome and stayed at a hotel with a terrific rooftop bar. Not only was the view breathtaking (“Oh, look, there’s the Vatican”), but the people watching was fun, too.

As we sat outside in the evening air, we noticed that several guests, as they turned a corner to exit the bar, accidentally bumped into a potted lemon tree. (They weren’t paying attention to where they were walking.) A woman with a large purse hit the pot and nearly tipped over the tree, but she kept on going. We wondered, why do people keep running into this large plant?

Then my stepfather jumped up and pretended to get tangled in the tree branches. We thought his exaggerated antics were hysterical and laughed really hard. Finally, the other patrons took caution to avoid the tree.

I don’t recall what else we did that day, but the hilarity of the Lemon Tree Tango lives on.

Another moment which still brings a smile to my face happened in Puglia. There, we stayed at a working farm called Masseria Montenapoleone, a picturesque setting surrounded by centuries-old olive trees. We took a cooking class and, afterward, savored our delicious creations.

“I can’t believe I made this gnocchi with my own two hands,” I said.

Without missing a beat, Mom quipped, “Neither can we.”

A few days later we traveled to the town of Alberobello which is famous for its stone houses with cone-shaped roofs. These amazing structures, called Trulli houses, were built by peasant workers 500 years ago as temporary housing. And they’re still standing.

During our stay, we slept in one of these extraordinary little houses. The stone walls and round ceiling were so fascinating, I had a hard time falling asleep. I stepped outside in my pajamas and gazed at the sky filled with stars. The stone pathway, surprisingly smooth and warm from the day’s heat, was a pleasant sensation to my bare feet. To this day, I can vividly recall the wonder I felt at the awe of the sky above and the comfort of the walkway below.

The next day we headed to Lecce where we toured the ancestral home of a local dignitary. It was filled with impressive antiques, but the most memorable moment came when the owner said his lifelong dream was to travel Route 66. (“You don’t say. Have I mentioned where we’re from?”)

Whether it’s Chicago to LA or Puglia to Rome, wherever you plan to get your kicks, don’t delay. Because even “underrated” locales can create lifelong memories. And that can’t be overrated.

Contact Susan Hazlett at [email protected] or write to her in care of The Pantagraph, 205 N. Main St., Bloomington, IL 61702-2907.