I am lucky enough to be studying abroad this coming semester in Italy, and luckier still to be able to travel for a spell after the semester. I will be in Firenze for my studies, so I will have plenty of time to visit the most popular sites up north, and plenty of cities and towns to busy myself with up there even after covering the basics. However, I have long felt that the south of Italy gets a bad rap, or at least ignored, by travelers. In an effort to form my own opinions, I am hoping to be able to cover from top to toe of the boot (and heel besides) while I'm abroad, with the probable exception of Sardegna. Sorry, Sardegna.
In an effort to make sure I stick to my word, I have been seeking out at least one city or town per region. I have had the most trouble in the corridor down from Le Marche through to Calabria, if you can imagine the curve that would make. I am sure I'll be seeking help from various other people in these locations, but I have my heart set on L'Aquila when I get to Abruzzo, probably in early June. I haven't ruled out other towns as well, but L'Aquila has, conceptually, captured my heart.
I know about the earthquake, though in typical American fashion I am not sure I knew about it as it happened. Mi dispiace. Honestly, the earthquake is part of the reason I want to go to L'Aquila. I want to see the beauty in the city despite the wreckage: in its people, places, food, everything. My research thus far shows a city which was well-loved before the disaster. I want to get to know it, even though it's dramatically different.
What this does mean, however, and why I am contacting you fine people, is that while I can research the other places I'm considering quite easily in old or new travel guides, sites all over the web, past travelers, etc, I really need locals and recent visitors to keep me informed as to what the landscape is like for a visitor. What are the can't-miss locales that are still accessible to visitors? Are there areas which are still unsafe to traverse? I hate having to ask these questions, but I want to be prepared without being -too- prepared. I don't want to know every last thing waiting for me, as tempting as it is to simply google-earth every town in the country, nor do I want the impact of any city, but especially this one, to be dulled by too many photographs by other people. But I also want to be able to make the most of my time in the city and not just marvel at the tragedy, but to revel in the surviving and restored elements, and glimpse the city I would have seen only a few years ago.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated, from old standbys (I don't want to only do museums and churches, but I will not want to pass up a great one) to local gems (I love things that feel unlike anything else). I do not know how long I'll have in the city yet, but I would love to get a feel for how I can best savor it, whether it be for a day or a few. Mille Grazie.