• Boboli Gardens - Tuscan Countryside - Florence, Italy

  • Piazzele Michelangelo - Sunset Through the Storm - Florence, Italy-2

  • cropped-Ponte-Vecchio-at-Night-Florence-Italy.jpg

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We visited Forte di Belvedere the other night to take in their aperitivo and it is by far one of the most unusual, romantic and relaxing places in Florence! The views are incredible, the setting lovely, and the food for the aperitivo was good too! The aperitivo takes place only during the summer and begins at 6:30. Most people don’t arrive until 8-8:30, so plan accordingly. We got there around 7:30 and it was still daylight so we got to see the sunset and the city lights come on. Each night has a different theme. The night we were there they had a DJ playing jazz. It is set up outside on the lawn with Florence views at every turn.
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The buffet costs 12 euro with a cocktail and has many types of salads, a hot made to order pasta, cheese, salami, pate’, crostini, and olives. While a little more expensive than many places, the atmosphere and buffet make it worth it.
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We usually take the #12 bus up towards Piazzale Michelangelo and get off at Galileo #3. Then we walk down the lovely via San Leonardo to get to the Forte. Afterwards, we continue on down the hill, through San Niccolo.

They have an art installation inside the Forte Belvedere by Giuseppe Penone. There are a few pieces outside which are interesting and make me curious to see what is inside. You can find out more about the exhibit and future events here.
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Well, I’ve been in Italy 4 years now! That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere since 2003! It’s so hard to believe, and yet on the other hand I couldn’t imagine it any other way. My “old life” seems very distant and my new one brings me joy, happiness, and immense satisfaction every day.

There are many expats living in Italy, and everyone has an interesting story. Most of those stories involve an immense love for this country, its culture and its people. When we talk together of our decision to come here we find that our family and friends often use the same word to describe us. That word is courageous. I do not consider my decision to move to Italy courageous. Believe me, there is nothing courageous about walking beautiful historic streets and alleyways, living among historical monuments and art, eating the world’s most loved cuisine, and being surrounded by the melodic Italian language! It’s just pure heaven.

Selling my home, all of my personal goods, and moving to a country where I didn’t know the language or anyone here, sounds courageous, but aside from the language barrier and selling things, I did it many times in the United States for job opportunities. Learning your community, finding a doctor, new friends, and activities you enjoy is the same in any city. To my delight, once you are over the sentimentality of your “stuff” there is an incredible “lightness” that comes with being unencumbered by it. True freedom!

Courage is a word that can be applied to many people in the world. People who live among wars and disease, people who are fighting a disease, people who struggle to feed and protect their families, people who speak their minds and try to change those things that need changing in the world should be called courageous, but not those selling their “stuff” and moving to a beautiful place where they feel their lives will be more fulfilling!

There is some risk involved, and for many people that is insurmountable. Fear of change is the driver for many bad things in our lives. But really, what is the worst that can happen? For me, early retirement and leaving a secure job with a substantial income, with no foreseeable income stream was the largest concern. But, a lower cost of living combined with modifying my lifestyle slightly (not buying a lot of “stuff) made it less risky. I never worried about making friends. That happens normally when you interact and go about your daily routines, and the bond of “expatriatism” is a big one. For me, the idea of staying in the same job, same country, doing virtually the same things for the rest of my life was the biggest risk to my well being. Fear was the driver for my decision; fear of regret for not living the life that I wanted to live and that with some work, I COULD live.

I am here at my 4th anniversary of making this life change feeling grateful that I discovered what it was that could bring me this level of bliss. Maybe that is where courage comes into play. It does take courage to examine your life openly and honestly with a discerning eye towards what you would like to change. Making it happen is just the detail. So in that regard, I will accept the Badge of Courage! In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.” Happy anniversary to me!
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In order to see what else was in the area of Bolzano, we took a bus for a 40 minute ride east to Ortisei. Ortisei is a part of the Val Gardena in the Dolomites and has only 5,750 inhabitants. Small, lovely and picturesque the economy is based on winter skiing, summer hiking, and woodcarving. It is an upscale tourist environment and the “arts” are present throughout the town. Everything about it is like a fairytale town. Lovely and quaint!
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We arrived in time to walk around and visit the churches, view the mountain landscapes and panorama’s, do some shopping, and of course try some of the local cuisine. We fell in love with a new grappa called Pino Mugo with a distinct fresh pine flavor. There are lifts to take you to some of the surrounding villages and escalators to take you to the top of the hill. There are also all kinds of trails for hiking with information on the time and difficulty.
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In this case, as many others, a picture speaks a thousand words, so check these out!
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