A Writer in Italy

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

Everywhere you turn, you’ll find a side street or meandering cobblestone stairway that you can get lost in. Fertile ground for the mind of an author. That’s Italy. Romantic storybook panoramas, delicious food, welcoming people, inviting shops to buy treasures, and outdoor bistros. Italy has a vast history, varied culture and is the center of global fashion. Beautiful gardens rival any in the world. Plus an added bonus for me–Italians LOVE walking their dogs. Many locations looked like the Westminster Dog Show with gorgeous well-groomed dogs. Shop owners even put large water bowls out for leashed pets.

As promised, I am posting some pics of my amazing trip to northern Italy, the Lakes District nestled in the Swiss Alps.

(HOUSEKEEPING – I had trouble posting these and worked on how to do it for hours yesterday. When you see a link, it’s to my Instagram acct. I wanted to post individual image links, but Instagram wouldn’t allow it. My files were too large to post solo and I’m not tech savvy at compressing sizes, especially for as many as I wanted to show you. But at the links, please scroll through the images on Instagram for the topic I’m posting about.)

Many people think of Lake Como & George Clooney when they speak of the Lakes District. I didn’t see George, but I felt as if I had walked into a post card and stayed for awhile. We had gorgeous sunny weather for most of the days. We were lucky for October.

Since I can’t include tons of pics on this post and had trouble loading my panorama views, I will direct you to my Instagram acct at JordanDaneBooks for many of my memories of Italy. I posted every day and picked some of my favorites. There’s also more space on Instagram to describe things so I broke down my postings by tour day. But for your convenience, I will speak about certain images and provide a link to Instagram.

As you might remember from my first post Travel Replenishes the Writer’s Soul about my trip (before I left the country), I was anxious about traveling alone. I was traveling with a small group of 29 people, organized by the outstanding Traveling Aggies, but I was the only person truly traveling alone. I made up my mind that with this being my first real vacation in decades that didn’t involved visiting with family or friends, I would make the most of it and not let my solo adventure turn me into a wall flower. Thankfully the other people on the tour made me feel welcome but I had to put myself out there.

Boy, did I meet the right folks. By the end of the trip, I did not want to leave this great group of people. I had a BLAST! I made sure to spend time with each couple. By the end of the trip, I had folks handing me their contact info and I’ve stayed in touch with several couples, including a new travel buddy that I’m planning a trip with in 2020. As a writer, I can be introverted. I really love my solo down time, even as much as I find other people fascinating and enjoy adventures.

I sneaked away on a total free tour day into Switzerland with two married but solo traveling ladies from Chicago who were hilarious. My sister(s) from another mister. We took the infamous “Donkey Train to Locarno.” (There is a story about that name and a very amorous donkey. I may have to put it in a book.) I will never be anxious about traveling alone again. That donkey even broke through the language barrier with a German family in our train car. Some things are universal, like laughter and being naughty.

I didn’t feel hindered by the fact that I didn’t speak Italian. There is a common humanity that connects us all. We were with tour guides who spoke the lyrical language and everything was extremely well-run and organized for us. Nothing was left to chance by AHI Travel International, our top-notch tour company. Our main tour guide was Valentina. I wanted to kidnap her and hide her in my luggage by the end of the trip. Adorable and funny and very kind. Toward the end of the trip, she shared her funny family stories about her mother and sister and showed us what hand gestures meant in Italy (including the ones we shouldn’t use ANYWHERE).

The star(s) of the Lake District is, of course, THE LAKES. Everywhere you looked there were gorgeous water views. Here is the view from my hotel room balcony. As a traveler to the lakes, you tour on ferry boats many days. Another beautiful view of the water. No lie, the water is as blue as you see in the pictures. When you look down into it from the shoreline, it is clear and glistening.

As a writer, I took in the sights and want to always remember them for future books. This trip fed my soul and replenished my creative juices, but it also gave me new experiences to include in my work. What must it feel like to be the stranger who doesn’t speak the language or know the customs? How to see something so beautiful that it makes you ache for more? How a romantic language can make your heart do flip flops? How food can be sexy? All these things went through my mind and my heart during this trip. I didn’t simply take a vacation, I saw Italy through the eyes of a writer.

On land, we saw many architectural wonders. Simply breathtaking. Il Duomo in Milan (Otherwise known as the Milan Cathedral) has taken 600 years to build and Milan is still working on it. 600 years? Pffft. When entering these stunning structures, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Always look up. These cathedrals were created to bring man closer to God. You get the sense that the creators and fresco artists used for these magnificent buildings were making at attempt to recreate heaven. On Orta Island, one of my favorite day tours, the cathedral on the island was truly breathtaking. The extensive history and the timeless work of artisans blew me away.

The food was served in more reasonable portions than the way we pile it on in the U.S. I loved how their pastas were flavored with light sauces with complex layers of seasonings and ingredients. Lots of fresh seafood. I was wary of the many courses of food, but I really got into the full production of a meal – from soup to pasta to main entree to cheese offering to dessert. Small portions allow you to languidly consume your meal with wine and good company. No one is in a hurry. Lovely, indeed.

I toured the Last Supper in Milan, the La Scala Opera House and Museum, Duomo (Milan Cathedral), and the Milan Fashion Scene at the Galleria and our guides shared tons of history and charming stories about these historic spots.

I am planning more trips with friends and family next year. I already have one trip scheduled for Hungary, Austria and Germany with my brother and I want to add more. I hope this trip and others lead to plots and stories for me, although what I learned about myself was almost worth more. I made lovely new friends and my spirit to travel has only grown.

For Discussion:

1.) Would you like to share trips you’ve taken and would recommend?

2.) Where would you go if you could take the vacation of your dreams?

3.) Do you have a dream vacation for a trip you’d take as an avid reader or something geared for authors?

EVIL WITHOUT A FACE is a reissue of the first book in my Sweet Justice series, formerly published through HarperCollins. My version of Charlie’s Angels on steroids.

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

24 thoughts on “A Writer in Italy

  1. Sounds like a great trip, Jordan. Traveling alone has one great advantage: “As my whimsey takes me.” My ex is rewarding herself for a lifetime of frugality by traveling alone to all parts of the world, although right now she’s on a Rhine tour with our daughter.

    The best literary trip I made was back in the ’80s when we visited the locales of Sayers’s Five Red Herrings around Dumfries and Kirkudbright in Scotland. We even saw the cliff and rocks where the murder occurred. These days, I visit the scenes of novels with maps and Google. But I did get to see the Angel Flight in L.A. shortly after reading Connelly’s eponymous novel.

    • I love the idea of “as my whimsey takes me,” Eric. Rewarding frugality is good if you’ve been saving up. I can relate to that. After a lifetime of cash basis & saving, it’s hard to know when to pull the trigger on spending & how much to grow crazy, but I’m in that “go crazy” mode.

      Your literary trip sounds heavenly. I have Scotland on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. MC Word probably has a sizing option, Apple Pages does, and you can find apps online to do that. Choose the web sizing which slims down the file size while keeping the image clear.

    Italy sounds lovely. Travel is impossible for me because of the back, but I love armchair visits.

    • There was an 80 yr old woman with a cane who really made the most of her trip. She had more energy, despite her handicap, but what I really loved most about her was her zest for life and other people. Big heart and full of fun, she was a delight to spend time with. One of my favorite people on the tour, and that’s saying something.

      I’m sorry to hear about your back. Backs are hard to deny and make everything exponentially worse. I wish there was a better way to make these trips.

      I aggravated my plantar fasciitis, big time. In the US, you have most places ADA compliant with wheelchair access and handrails and elevators, but with these older historic places, that’s impossible to do while keeping the “feel” of the place. Believe me, I could have used a handrail from time to time or a convenient bench to sit in the large castles and extensive gardens.

      Thanks for your comments, Marilynn.

  3. Jordan, sounds like your trip not only replenished the writer’s soul but gave you lots of raw material to sculpt into new stories.

    Thanks for taking us along on your explorations!

  4. In March 1976 I went aboard the USS Albany as a crew member. In Aug of that year we were permanently deployed to Gaeta, Italy (on the coast ~ 60 miles south of Rome) to replace the Little Rock as 6th Fleet flagship, where I remained until discharge in 79. Every month we left home port for a cruise to one or more Mediterranean locations, including several Italian ports. The only thing I would change about that experience, were I able, is to have had internet & wifi photo capability, which would have enriched my visit considerably. On the other hand, I would not have stories to tell of wandering lost in foreign cities for hours at a time— and the unique experiences that resulted. I would not trade those three years for anything.

    • I love the idea of getting lost. OMG, what an experience you had, Richard. A young man might see such things as an adventure, but I hope you will always take that leap, not matter what your age. It’s in your nature. Thanks for sharing your life’s adventure.

    • My big adventure was moving to Alaska and living for 10 years. An adventure of a lifetime. I had to write about it as an author, but it still feeds my soul and served as inspiration for a number of books. It’s so much fun to hear about other people taking the big leap.

  5. Great post Jordan. I love, love, love travelling. And agree travelling solo is a unique and wonderful experience I recommend to anyone — especially for us writers. Really allows us to indulge our senses and daydream without worrying about the logistics of coordinating what other family members want to do, etc.

    I took a wonderful trip to Scotland a few years ago to research my book and having that “boots on the ground” experience really enriched my story.

    I have too many fave places to name around the world, and many more destinations I want to explore but haven’t yet. I think I will have to come up with a story set in Mexico, because I do love it there and we usually go every year. Love the people, the culture and the glorious hot sun.

    We have a 5-day (no kids!!) trip to Yelapa planned for the end of November and I’m counting the days!

    • Oh boy, does that sound incredible. I love how you described the unique experience of traveling solo as a writer. I never thought of it that way. I have always had someone on a trip with me, but you are spot on.

      Writing has made me a more curious creature…about people and places. Thanks for stirring my wanderlust again, Sheri.

  6. Aww, your trip sounds delightful, Jordan. It fills my heart to “hear” about your travels. You go, girl. Inspirational and touching post. Thanks for sharing what sounds like a trip of a lifetime. Italy is on my bucket list. The first spare minute I have I’ll jump over to your Instagram, and live vicariously through you.

    • You are too busy to travel, which is a good thing for all of your fans. Me included. Hugs.

      Wouldn’t it be fun to travel together sometime? Maybe if you arrange for a reader tour of the sites you will be writing about in your true crime novel, that would be awesome. I would love to see that.

  7. We took a 50th anniversary trip to the British Isles. Northern Ireland, London, Scotland, and Ireland. It was supposed to be a tour, but there weren’t enough people, so our travel agent arranged a private one for the two of us. Although it was fantastic to have our own personal drivers, there were times I’d have liked the writing fodder of spending time in a group.
    I use Adobe Lightroom, which lets me create galleries with links. Easy-peasy to set those up. Learning curve for Lightroom–not so much, but here’s a peek at one of my galleries, Touring Scotland: https://adobe.ly/2pK245P

    • Thanks for the link & techy tip, Terry. I definitely need help. Your trip sounds like my bucket list adventure to that part of the world. My family has roots there on my mother’s side, but I got hooked on Scotland when I was a huge fan of Highlander, the TV show. Plus I traveled to Europe after high school & loved London. Would love to visit more rural areas of the UK.

      Thanks again.

      • Thanks, Jordan. I took some photography classes in my youth. Good to know some of the lessons stuck around. My son ended up becoming a professional photographer, and it’s good to have him around to answer my questions, even if I can “see” his eyes rolling through the phone when I ask them.
        We were on another bucket list trip earlier this year–to the Galapagos.
        And my first writing forays were into Highlander fanfiction. 🙂

        • Ha! My first writing forays came with my fan fiction of Witchblade. When they cancelled that show after 2 years, it was the best thing to happen for me, although I was disappointed at the time. I immediately went on to work on original projects & never looked back. Amazing coincidence. Thanks for that choice tidbit, Terry. You made my day.

  8. Good for you, Jordan! The trip sounds wonderful and I love that you’re embracing being a solo traveller! I went to Egypt earlier this year – standing in front of the Pyramids is simply surreal. I’ll look forward to more travel stories from you!

    • Oh my. Yes, the pyramids would be incredible. On my bucket list. Wow.

      On this trip, I stood in a residential courtyard of a home built before Columbus – in the mid 1400s. I placed my hand on the aged wood door in awe. If walls could speak…

      Thanks, Linda.

  9. I’m late to the party, but it sounds like a wonderful trip. Wow, that plate of gnocchi is making me hungry! Welcome back.

    • Thanks, Joanne. I hadn’t tried gnocchi before. Didn’t realize that it’s mainly potato infused with flour. The simple sauces were the real stars. Delish!

  10. Your pictures are amazing! I’ve spent a month in Africa (my husband and I were married in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) but I’ve also wanted to visit Italy. Thank you for sharing your trip and photos!

    • Two traveling companions I met on the trip shared their Zimbabwe photos with me. I was struck with the unexpected lush beauty of that region of Africa. Made me want to visit. Thanks, Cecilia. Happy travels.

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