For two wonderful years, I could look behind my house in Italy every day and see this mountain. The peak is called "Il Redentore" ("The Redeemer"). A statue of Jesus sits atop the mountain. Il Redentore looms over the town of Maranola di Formia in the southern Italian region of Lazio. Most visitors to the area spend their time looking in the opposite direction, across the Gulf of Gaeta, and with good reason; Gaeta is a beautiful city surrounded on three sides by sparkling blue water. It's a lovely place to visit, and I've spent many happy hours there.
But, if there is one thing I have learned during my many years of traveling, it is this: Every single place you visit has something special to offer. It might be a view, or a hiking trail (you can hike to the top of Il Redentore, and the views are amazing), or a food or a local tradition - but you have to look for it. The special something might not be in plain sight.
If I had spent two years looking only toward Gaeta, I would have missed the view of the striated peak of Il Redentore, sometimes backed by a blue sky, other times shrouded in clouds. I would have missed the road to Maranola's main square, where families gathered on Sunday afternoons and men argued about politics and soccer and pretty much everything else. Most importantly, I would have missed the live Nativity put on every Christmas season by the townspeople of Maranola di Formia. Over 300 people participate in this annual event, held on December 26, January 1 and January 6, which celebrates not only the birth of Jesus but also the medieval traditions of this hillside town that sits on the slope below Il Redentore.
Whether you're on the trip of a lifetime or in your home town, take a moment to turn your head and look behind you. You might discover a very special place.
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Photo © Steve Parode