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I have heard it more times than I can count. People travel all over the world and love the places they visit, but—after visiting Italy—they all tell me the same thing: “I stepped on Italian soil and I was home.”

What is it about this Mediterranean jewel of a country that evokes such comforting feelings in people? On a recent trip, I examined my own love of this country to see why my heart sings each time I arrive in the gorgeous chaos that is Italy.

Where else can you walk down scenic cobbled stone streets in cities steeped in ancient history, while window shopping, gelato in hand, as motorinos whiz past?

Where else can you lose yourself in the music of this beautiful language, and understand the sentiments without even speaking a word? 

Everywhere you turn, more than 2000 years of history are within reach.

The sounds, the perfumes and the dazzling light that shines off the faded marble scattered through cities all enrapture you from the first moment, lulling you into a euphoric state with its ethereal beauty. 

The food fills you with passionate joy—from the pasta, bread, olive oil and wine to creamy, rich gelato. The tomatoes are as sweet as candy; the vegetables so fresh, you can feel their life in your body. The richly bitter espresso—Italy’s coffee signature—opens your eyes to the beauty that embraces you like the arms of a lover.

Each year, my husband and I host small groups of people in Italy who wish to travel well. They want to live healthfully and, for a short time, like a local, enjoying a bit of the sweet life before heading back to the reality of their lives. 

Every year, we greet tired, overworked visitors at the airport and transport them to their home for the next days, where we will nurture them and cook for them. We conduct tours of the beauty and history that is Italy and give them time to rest and rejuvenate their bodies, minds and souls. Within 48 hours, people’s faces split with silly grins from morning ’til night. Their senses are overwhelmed by the clash of the ancient with the modern, creating a harmonious balance unique to Italy. 

For me, Italy is a profound experience, much more than a travel destination. It is a warm embrace, evoking memories of my family and ancestors. I feel more naturally myself when I’m there. The slower pace feels more natural to me—long, lingering meals of fresh seasonal foods, peppered with animated conversation and beautiful surroundings. That feels more normal to me than the usual “get it done now” pace, so typical in our modern world. 

This particular trip was both business and pleasure. We hosted grateful guests and vibrant family members. There was not a day, not a moment, when the profound love and gratitude I felt for each and every person in my little group didn’t overwhelm my heart to near bursting with joy.

Many people come to Italy for the food, the wine, the olive oil, the gelato—yes, yes, yes, yes. Others revere it for the design, fashion, art and history—yes, yes, yes, yes. For me, the profound nature of Italy can’t be found in the bottom of an espresso cup or in the cool halls of a museum. It’s found in our hearts, as this country of romance and beauty ignites in us a passion for life, love and the people who grace our lives.

But before you pack your DuoLingo app and head to the airport, it’s important to remember that Italy can fill your heart and soul or it can land heavily on your hips. It can leave you feeling as though you’ve spent your time hauling around suitcases from bus to bus; eaten rich, indulgent foods nonstop; and shopped until you literally dropped because everyone at home simply must have a gift. You know those trips.

We have chosen to do Italy differently—more like the people who live there day to day. We stay in one locale, taking day trips. We unpack and settle in, making our chosen villa our home for the time we’re there. We travel to unique and different destinations that you might not otherwise see. We eat many of our meals at the villa, cooked by my staff and me or together as a group so that we can create the food we want to eat. We sit at leisurely meals under canopies of flowers and grapes, enjoying the food and each other, nourishing our hearts as well as our tummies. We head home nourished, but not overindulged, with our hearts full and our minds at peace.

From the first moment my feet hit the ground in Rome more than thirty years ago, a piece of my heart has remained in the country of my ancestors, along with every other heart that has opened and soared there.

You have to experience it to believe it. And, yes, you experience Italy; you don’t visit. The life, love, passion and drama that is this country becomes part of everything you do, taste, drink or visit—and you take it home with you as I do, each and every time, deep in my heart. 

I know that international travel can be a challenge. Not understanding a language or local customs and culture, packing, airports and security regulations! It’s enough to make a person stay home for fear of having more stress than a vacation is worth, right?

That’s where Healthy Travel with Christina comes in.

With a little planning (thank you, Robert!) and some creative work with brilliant allies at each of our destinations, our unique holidays turn into the most rewarding travel experiences. And you worry about nothing. And I mean, nothing, except maybe the flavor of gelato or how many coffees you might enjoy. Whether you’re vegan or committed to wellness or really anyone who wishes to return home from holiday relaxed and rejuvenated, we’re here to help. 

With us, brand new worlds of foods, flavors and aromas await—experiences destined to be memorable.

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