By Gianluca Tucci
It was early in May 2011 when the news broke on Twitter that my beloved football side, Juventus Football Club from Italy, was to launch their brand-new, state-of-the-art stadium in their hometown of Turin later that year. Having read the tweet over an espresso in a café in Johannesburg one morning – thinking about my love for football dating back to my entry into the world, and dreaming about touching down in Italy – I decided then and there to make the journey to Turin.
Later that day, the dream transformed into reality – my tickets for a Juventus match on Sunday, 2 October 2011, were booked! I also decided to book my flights for Italy for 10 days prior to the match, since coupling my football fantasy with a discovery of Italy, its food, coffee and wine, made the thought of travelling even more appetizing.
So, I planned, counted down the days, and started my journey in the latter part of September 2011 in Tuscany.
Here’s a look back at my experiences and adventures:
The historical town of San Gimignano
San Gimignano is one of the oldest medieval villages in Tuscany and a stop on my trip, thanks to the recommendation of my Nonna (grandmother) – one of the best pieces of advice I have ever taken.
Everything about this town mesmerises – the old walls, nature and mature surroundings, complemented by the tastes and smells. One walks down the pathways past various curio stores, delis and markets leading to the town square, which is guarded by two giant bells. The area is ideal for looking for gifts and mementos, and to get a taste of Italian culture and cuisine.
I went for lunch at a restaurant called Bel Soggiorno, ordering gnocchi and a bottle of red wine from the area. In one word, delicious! Having home-made pasta and wine while overlooking the Tuscan Valley glazed in sunlight – what more could I have asked for? This moment in an undiscovered place allowed my mind to appreciate, reflect and embrace.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon walking the village walls, taking in the scenery, discovering some historical attractions in the area, and getting a treat in the form of a gelato (ice cream) from the Plurimeriata Gelateria – to this day the best ice cream I’ve ever had!
Alive in Florence!
Florence is a treat! The city is buzzing with people from different parts of the world. Some of the many attractions of the city include the Accademia Gallery, the majesty of the Duomo (cathedral) and the vast array of historical statues in the Piazza della Signoria.
A standout for me was dinner on my second night. As a true South African, a large steak in itself is a mouth-watering attraction, and eating a Bistecca Florentine (Italian-style T-bone steak) at the Casa Trattoria, with a fine bottle of Chianti, was a real treat. The flavour, taste and presentation of the cuisine make for an experience that leaves one content and with sheer satisfaction.
The dream that came true in Turin
The final leg of my trip to Italy, and the inspiration behind it, brought out my true passion for calcio (football). Watching the game was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the city hosting it an iconic part of Italian culture and business. It was a night of Italian anthems, an electrifying atmosphere, and a dream come true for a very big supporter from South Africa.
Travel is a wonderful treasure. In this instance, a sudden thought paved way to a special journey, where one dream multiplied into many dreams being fulfilled. Travel makes us dream and ultimately live those dreams, opening our eyes to experiences, different cultures, new discoveries, a vast array of people, new tastes and moments.
It allows the mind to wish, dream, and, then importantly, do!