Saturday, August 18, 2007

Two of the Most Beautiful Places in the World

The story goes of the man from Italy taking a tour of Colonial Williamsburg, the 400-year old town here in Virginia. The tour guide there points to one of the buildings and proudly states that it was over three hundred years old. The Italian man snorts and declares, “My house is older than that, better built, and prettier too!”

There are many ancient places in Italy, of course, and many of them are quite beautiful, especially those on the ample coastlines, where the houses and churches perched on the hillsides and cliffs reflect in the limpid waters. Two of my favorite ancient places are Le Cinque Terre (The Five Lands or Villages) in Liguria and the Amalfi Coast in Campania.

There’s a very good reason why UNESCO has named Le Cinque Terre a World Heritage Site. The five villages are Monterosso (the biggest), Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each town is perched on the cliffs, is absolutely charming in its own way and is worth visiting to taste Heaven on Earth. Avoid arriving during the summer when tourists are swarming everywhere and you find yourself hearing every language but Italian. We went in March when the weather was perfect and it was a lot easier to chat with the locals, eat the wonderful focaccia and fish, and view the stupendous seaside sunset without interference.

While Le Cinque Terre is still a bit of a secret, Amalfi has a rich history as a major port, city state and military power. The Amalfi Coast is well-known to the rich and the famous but you don’t have to be either to enjoy this beautiful area and visit all the famous ancient towns of Sorrento, Salerno, Positano, the Isle of Capri with its Blue Grotto and more. We stayed at La Villa Lara, a reasonably priced but beautiful and friendly hotel a short walk up the hill through the shop and restaurant lined main street, well worth it for the beautiful scenery you can see from your balcony high up. The local people here, as in Le Cinque Terre, were friendly and ready to chat over a cup of coffee or liqueur.

The first photo you see above I took in Positano, one of the towns on the Amalfi Coast, maybe the most beautiful. The second and third photos I took in Vernazza, one of the five villages of Le Cinque Terre. You can see more photos I’ve taken of both areas on my photos website, Enjoy!

My Italian Presentation in an Irish Pub in Chinatown

I belong to a travel meetup in Washington, D.C. Because of my busy schedule, I have only gone once before, this past Spring. I also had agreed months ago to present on "Joe's Italy" yesterday. The meetup was in the Irish Channel Club which is in a hotel in Chinatown. Does anyone besides me think that's funny?! I took the photo you see here after I left the meeting.

There were 37 people at my presentation - a great turnout! My presentation was well-received, 5 stars out of 5 according to those who voted. I got many compliments after the presentation and a few emails. Here's an excerpt of one I got today:

Joe, I thought your presentation was outstanding. Your
presentation style was the best I've seen. I really enjoyed it. You have a remarkable knowledge and set of experiences,
Isn't that nice? It's always great to get positive feedback!

I used Adobe Captivate to set up a slide show of 587 slides, each with 3 seconds in between. I also put a lot of Italian music in the background, a real eclectic mix of modern pop, folk and classical. I spoke to the presentation the whole time but will make a narration track soon and then I'll be able to post it to the web. It'll be a Flash file so everyone should be able to see it. I also will redo it in the authoring tool we've invented at DazzleTech called Substance. I think it will prove faster to create in Substance than in Captivate, though Captivate has a nicer interface (for now!).