Written by Carissa Abazia
According to various websites dedicated to astrology, the Sagittarius is “Curious and energetic, and one of the biggest travelers among all zodiac signs. Their open mind and philosophical view motivates them to wander around the world in search of the meaning of life. Like the other fire signs, Sagittarius needs to be constantly in touch with the world to experience as much as possible. Their enthusiasm has no bounds, and therefore people born under the Sagittarius sign possess a great sense of humor and an intense curiosity. Freedom is their greatest treasure, because only then they can freely travel and explore different cultures and philosophies.”
Born in December, I embrace the above statement.
I often fantasize about traveling the world: staying in Thailand for a month; driving a car through the wine regions of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy; a safari in South Africa; living in Australia for six months and then slowly making my way back to California.
Yet, life has a way of rooting us to a spot. For me, it’s the dream of establishing a lucrative career and being close to my family and friends.
Whatever the reason we stay in one place, it’s so important to travel and schedule time away to explore a new city or to simply relax. We all need it — our bodies, minds, and psyches. It’s also been proven that we are likely to find happiness by pursuing experiences than by accumulating possessions.
The times that make me most happy are the ones involving travel as well as spending time with family members, friends, close colleagues, and mentors.
I’m writing this post after spending two weeks abroad in Italy. What made this trip so special was not simply the joy of being “out of the office,” but the meaningfulness of it all.
Here are some of my favorite solo “Made in Italy” experiences.
Enoteca Pitti Gano e Cantina, Firenze.
At Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, the shelves are lined with small production, high-end, handcrafted Tuscan wines — only the best producers make the cut. I decided to forgo my 8:30 reservation and instead sit at the bar earlier in the day to enjoy a late afternoon snack. I ordered the Prosciutto & Truffle Gorgonzola with Fresh Tomatoes the first time there. The second trip, the same appetizer followed by the Ricotta Ravioli.
Why was this place so special and what did I learn? Eating alone can be a rewarding individual experience, something I’ve always liked to do. Sometimes it is about enjoying the silence, and other times it’s all about the food. In this case, I thoroughly enjoyed the silence, the food, and the lovely conversations I had with the people around me. I let the owner and his colleagues choose every wine for every dish I enjoyed. They sipped with me, and told stories of the producers and how they got to know them.
During my second visit, behind me was a table of Swedes. I turned around and spoke to them in their native tongue, which, as it always does, shocks people (likely because I don’t look Swedish). When I was wrapping up, they invited me to join them. Over a bottle of Barolo, we exchanged travel stories. Albeit a forty-year-ish age gap, we had a lot in common. I had so much fun rejoicing in their company.
Fancy, but not pretentious, this restaurant was so charming, and the service was unprecedented. With no reservation, I luckily snagged the last table outside in the courtyard. Generally speaking, I’m not afraid to be alone — in fact, I’m someone who values alone time (the introvert in me needs it). In this case, I was surrounded by couples, most of whom seemed to be celebrating an occasion – a new engagement, an anniversary, and so it goes. And by surrounded, I was sitting at a table smack dab in the middle of the courtyard. I decided to not let that deter me from having a nice dinner alone.
Why was this place so special and what did I learn? First, the food was incredible. Second, the customer service was excellent. What I enjoyed most is that by the end of the meal I felt as though I just went on the best date of my life – but, I was alone! I felt so happy to be in solitude, savoring each bite, looking up at the stars, and appreciating the love that surrounded me. Of course, because I can’t help but strike up conversations with strangers, I met the couple to my left. I offered to take their picture, the woman did the same. A year ago, they married at a church nearby. It was so lovely to witness their mutual affection. I wish they didn’t live in London, because I think we would have become close friends if we lived in the same city.
La Prosciutteria, Roma.
This gem is not just a restaurant: it’s a place where locals can eat, drink, and spend time with friends and family. In the case of La Prosciutteria, it was all about enjoying the food: I had the best damn paninis and Charcuterie of my life here.
As the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, it’s not surprising that Italy is abundantly rich in masterpieces of art and architecture, as well as cultural sites – more so than any other country in the world. My favorite attractions were: Monte Isola, The Last Supper by da Vinci, Colosseum, Pantheon, Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, Milano Duomo, Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistene Chapel, Uffizi Gallery, David by Michelangelo, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, and Ponte Vecchio.
It may well be the case that feeding our souls is the best way to fuel our energy, our productivity, our creativity, and our health. Traveling feeds my soul in so many ways. When we can find happiness in the most unexpected places, every place has the potential to be a special destination.
Thanks for reading!