Recently, I won a copy of the book, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go (Travelers’ Tales) by Susan Van Allen from MyBellaVita’s blog contest.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed the book and since I’m teaching my 2nd annual Women’s Retreat in Italy to ‘live la dolce vita’, I am offering a FREE copy too. All you need to do to enter the contest is to LEAVE A COMMENT on THIS post, between today, June 11 and Sunday, June 20, midnight eastern time.
Since Susan Van Allen opened my eyes to the courageous Anita Garibaldi, and because my workshop will be in the region of Liguria, I’m sharing this excerpt from Chapter 37, Parchi di Nervi–Liguria.
“Catch the spirit of gutsy, gorgeous Anita Garibaldi as you walk along the seaside path named in her honor. Waves crash against rugged cliffs, as you look out to stunning views of Portofino and the Cinque Terre. Flanking the other side of the Anita Garibaldi Path are three villa lawns that comprise the Parchi di Nervi. They are shaded by palm trees and pines, filled with exotic plants and Mediterranean flowers.
The Genoa elite used to come here to escape the summer heat, but now it’s the place to blend with the regular folk. Couples stroll arm in arm, kids run for the trees with bags of nuts to feed the squirrels.
The dramatic seascape and exotic nature of the gardens express the essence of Anita Garibaldi. She was Italy’s wonder-woman who fought alongside her husband Giuseppe in the nineteenth-century revolution that culminated in giving them the titles “Father and Mother of Modern Italy.”
I first encountered Anita on Rome’s Janiculum Hill, where there’s a statue of her brandishing a pistol as she rides a wild mustang, with a baby tucked under her other arm.
Anita’s life story is the stuff of a blockbuster movie. She was born in Brazil and learned horsemanship from her father, who died when she was twelve. At fourteen, she was married off to a local older man, Signor Aguiar, aka “the drunken shoemaker.”
While her husband was off at war, who should appear, but Giuseppe Garibaldi, sailing in from Italy with a passion to help Brazil fight for its independence. The moment Giuseppe set eyes on dark-haired Anita with her extraordinary almond shaped eyes, he walked straight up to her and said, “Maiden,thou shalt be mine.”
Even though she was still married, Anita took off to fight by Giuseppe’s side in Brazil and Uruguay, firing canons, teaching him gaucho guerilla warfare, and giving birth to their first son in the midst of all that. They married two years later, after Anita’s first husband died.
In 1848, with four children in tow (between the ages of eight and two!), Anita and Giuseppe left South America to go to Italy and join the fight for unification. A year later, Anita died in Giuseppe’s arms after a battle near Ravenna. She was twenty-eight and pregnant with their fifth child.
Giuseppe kept Anita’s memory alive. When he rode in victory to the crowning of Emmanuel II as the first king of a united Italy, he wore a Brazilian poncho.And around his neck, Anita’s striped scarf.
The Anita Garibaldi Passeggiata was created by Marchese Gaetano Gropallo in 1862, just two years afterItaly’s unification. It used to be a rustic path used by fisherman,but the Marchese fancied it up with lampposts and paving,so now it’s an extended terrace to not only Gropallo’s gardens,but also his neighbors, the Grimaldis and the Serras.
The Villa Grimaldi rose garden is the most famous of the three and especially beautiful in spring. All are now owned by the state,house museums, and the grounds are used for outdoor ballets and theater in July.
Parco Villa Grimaldi, Via Capolungo 9, 8–dusk.
Take a train (fifteen minutes) from Genoa toNervi, stroll the path and gardens.”
When I interviewed Susan I asked her why women love Italy. She simply said, ‘because it feels like home. This means a place that understands us, brings peace, comfort, and stirs the soul. We feel it as soon as we land in Italy: a deluge of sensual pleasures: We see masterpieces, gorgeous sunsets, fountains, gardens, we smell the ragu bubbling on the stove, taste the wine and gelato, hear church bells, and the lilting Italian language. We feel the Mediterranean sun on our shoulders. It’s such an overload of sensual pleasures, we lose our minds and our hearts melt open. The sensual overload snaps you into the moment.’
This gem of a book puts a spotlight on goddesses, the Madonna, female saints, beauties who’ve inspired masterpieces, women who’ve taken power. Women have been worshipped here for thousands of years which is one of the reasons we love Italy. The women of Italy are proud of their beauty and sensuality knowing they are descendants of Venus, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility.
Now to enter the free giveaway, all you need to do is LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST between today, June 11 and Sunday, June 20, midnight eastern time. A winner will be chosen the old fashioned way..by picking your name out of a hat and a copy of “100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go” will be sent to you anywhere in the world!
Thanks for participating! What do you love about visiting Italy?
Photo: Anita Garibaldi statue on Janiculum Hill, Rome. From blog of Susan Van Allen
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.