My mother has never been out of the United States.
Well, that is not exactly true. When I was about 11 years old, she went to Cancun, Mexico alone on vacation. I dimly remember her returning with a beautiful blue scarf with dolphins on it – for me. I put it up on my bedroom wall for a few months.
But this was truly the trip of a lifetime – just the two of us… alone for two weeks.
Not a vacation to Italy. Does a person “vacation” in Italy? Parts of it felt like an education. That’s not a bad thing though.
What will I remember from my 14 days in Italy?
1. My mom snoring and being awakened every morning by 7:30AM to follow an itinerary that left no time for respite.
2. The mini bus that we boarded far too frequently to go to yet another beautiful place.
3. Beautiful places (see #2). So many they have now all blurred together into some sort of disjointed collage. I took 400+ photos and I can barely identify the towns.
4. Shouts of “CAR” while on a walking tour of a town with streets 10 feet wide that did not allow car traffic. (hunh?)
5. The group of 14 we traveled with (among them, a relentlessly talkative Puerto Rican lady named Alba that we dove down alleys to avoid walking with; a wonderful couple from Vermont who are full of substance and life love, and a friendly, educated, very patrician woman from New York City who dressed impeccably the entire time).
6. Constantly forgetting the location of every item we brought with us due to a lethal combination of new purses, re-packing every 3 days, and tiredness.
7. The wonderful Italian woman in a cheese shop in Orvieto, who did not speak a word of English, but was able, (through Pantomime) to understand I wanted some Pecorino, shrink wrapped for travel – insert sucking noise- ; that my mom was with me – insert hugs; and that she had a large family and shop had been written up in the Chicago Tribune in 2000.
8. The sense of humor our trip leader slid into when we all acted like petulant three year olds on the one day it rained.
9. Dirty, nasty, “for Godssake don’t touch anything” restrooms, that you have to pay 50 Euro for the privilege of using and sometimes were just a hole in the floor (and I have the pictures to prove it!).
10. Asian tourist ants pouring out of 36 foot long tour buses to invade the town we were exploring that day.
11. Barbarian Italian children doing the same as the Asian Ants.
12. Wishing the days would speed up and slow down at the same time.
13. Coming around a corner and being stunned into silence by absolutely breakthtakingly beautiful countryside (after we got out of the city) that went on forever, and was cut through by roads that the landscape had forced into curly-fries the bus had problems navigating.
14. Business class. Yes Business Class.
15. Frothy, dark-thick-but-not-bitter cappuccino. Hanging salamis, wheels of cheese, bottles of wine, bars of dark dark dark chocolate and unsalted bread with olive oil. Tirimisu until I was sick of it.
15. Deep intakes of breath.
16. Lots of laughter and love.