Running In Italy

I started on a healthier lifestyle in 1978 by giving up a 20-year smoking habit and taking daily runs. About six months after that we relocated to Naples, Italy to start our final USAF assignment at the NATO unit there. On May 28th, I took my first run on Italian soil. I eventually joined up with the informal “Naples Running Club” made up of individuals from the various US military branches stationed in the area. Although I enjoyed my mostly solitary runs during the week, it was good to get with like-minded folks on weekends for “fun runs” and the occasional formal races sponsored by local Italian running clubs.

Pic & PlaqueToday, on a wall in my Tampa apartment hallway hangs a photo of me and the plaque I earned for finishing 32nd out of an unknown number of (maybe 33!) participants in a 24K (15mi) race through the Italian cities of Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Caserta on April 27, 1980. It was sponsored by a local run club – Club Vai!.


A few days ago, I was sitting on a bench across from those race souvenirs as I laced up my shoes for a 3-mile daily walk when I realized, my gosh! That was 44 years ago today! As I mulled that over, I thought how fortunate our family was to have spent 3 years in that country steeped in such rich history.

As World Heritage Journeys describes the area: “The town of Santa Maria Capua Vetere is a medieval descendant of Ancient Capua, one of the largest and most important cities of the ancient world—famous for its many monuments of Roman times, including the Amphitheater Campano (pictured below), second only in size to the Colosseum of Rome. Ancient Capua was founded by the Etruscans in the fifth century BC, and was on the Via Appia, making it the most important city in the area. It was home to, among other things, the famous gladiatorial school that became the scene of the famous Spartacus revolt.


World Heritage Journeys described the Royal Palace and Park at Caserta. Combining the influences of Versailles, Rome, and Tuscany, the Caserta Royal Palace and Park, north of Naples, was designed according to the wishes of Charles of Bourbon III by Luigi Vanvitelli, one of the greatest Italian architects of the 18th century. Caserta is considered a triumph of Italian Baroque, and ahead of its time. Expanding across 11 acres, the garden’s pools, fountains, and cascades are aligned through a ‘telescope effect’, extending as far as the eye can see.


After leaving Italy and for the next 30 years, I maintained running as my go-to form of exercise. I found running kept me away from nicotine such that I completely lost my need for it. Ultimately, my body told me to slow down, and I replaced running with walking – something I continue to this day.

This walk down memory lane was mostly triggered by the 44th anniversary of that 15K foot race. However, I recently watched a wonderful series on Netflix which, for the most part, was situated in the region of Italy in which we lived for 3 years. I thought it was a masterpiece – although my judgement is probably clouded because I so enjoyed our time spent there. Check out Ripley on Netflix!

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