Tuesday Market in Reggio
Our relaxing week on the Amalfi Coast was a slower pace of travel, but for the next six weeks, we will definitely experience, what I call, Slow Travel. I first heard about this idea from the slow travel website: http://www.slowtrav.com. This is a community of people who stay in one place longer, to experience a better sense of a place when they travel. The website is a great resource because people share their adventures in all parts of the world through short and longer trip reports. They also give critiques of restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, and there’s a helpful discussion forum, too. Not everyone can take as much time as we do, but even on a short trip, there are ways to slow down.
The Passeggiata in Minori
In most of Europe, and Italy for sure, it’s easy to get around on the train or bus. This makes it possible to pick one town that’s centrally located and travel from there. We often choose a lesser known town that’s close to enough sites we want to see. The towns that aren’t mentioned in the guidebooks often offer a wonderful slice of Italian life—small bakeries, locally owned shops and the daily passeggiata, an afternoon walk along a main street or seaside lane.
For our stay in the north, we chose Reggio Nell’Emilia. Although it doesn’t have a famous cathedral or a big museum, it has the same medieval city plan as Parma and Modena, with an old city center of cobblestone roads where pedestrians and bicycles have precedence over cars. There are many large piazzas that provide space for open air markets or dining alfresco. In the large historic center itself, there are more restaurants, cafes, coffee bars, cheese shops, patisseries, salumerias and inviting gelato shops than we can support. But, we manage to visit quite a few. Reggio also has three lovely, historic theaters that provide opera, music, dance and live theatre.
Another advantage to staying here is the location on the Via Emilia, an ancient Roman road that travels mostly east-west from Rimini, on the Adriatic Sea to Piacenza, near Milan. The convenient train system runs along the same route, so it’s easy to do a quick or leisurely day trip to Milan, Verona, Bologna, Venice or Ravenna, to name a few. If we rent a car, we can easily visit Lake Como and several other lakes nearby.
The Via Emilia goes right through our town
When we first visited Reggio, we stayed in an apartment outside the old city center. We loved the apartment and the quiet neighborhood so much, we’ve stayed here each time we’ve returned. Although we could walk to most destinations quite easily, we decided to rent bikes after we learned that the city had a bike rental service for long term use. Just outside the train station, we rented some basic, one speed bikes for about $35.00 a month. They weren’t fancy or new, but we didn’t really need anything better because this area is totally flat. From our apartment, about one mile outside the old walls, we can take a series of bike paths in every direction. Once we enter the historic center, the bikes and pedestrians take over the road. We just have to watch out for other cyclists and baby strollers.
Field trip to Lusvardi Winery
The other reason we chose Reggio was because of the excellent language school, Reggio Lingua. After learning some Italian in Bellingham, I thought it would be a good experience to attend a language school in Italy. It turned out to be a great idea because the teachers here, provide so much more than a language lesson. They teach you a lot about the town, the region, the food and culture of your area. They also organize field trips and cooking classes that help you learn more about the surrounding area. It’s like having a local host who orients you to the city.
Piazza Fontanesi, our favorite
There are many more towns like Reggio, that would serve well as a base for exploring Italy. I recommend that you find a nice town with good train connections, and some of the services you prefer. If studying Italian isn’t your thing, there are many other options. Often you can find workshops in art, photography, ceramics or music. Another popular offering is cooking school and even classes on making gelato. Once you find the right town, you can avoid a lot of stress by staying there and hopping the trains without your luggage. And when you return “home”, strolling on familiar streets and hanging out on a peaceful piazza is a nice way to end your day.