Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ricordando l'Italia

Saint Mark's Plaza in Venice
I love to travel.  I also love to eat.  I also love to drink wine.  Putting these three elements together you will understand why Italy is one of my favorite places in the world to visit.  I have had the incredible pleasure to visit Italy, not just once, but twice.   
AESU Trip - Florence Italy

When I was in college I signed up for a student tour of Europe.  I spent my entire life savings on a three-week tour that included England, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and of course Italy.  It was amazing.  We ate and drank our way through Europe and I gained twenty additional pounds and a lifetime of memories. 
Pisa and its famous Leaning Tower

A decade later, my mother had decided to pursue her lifelong goal of travelling, but my father was not very keen on nine hour flights across oceans, so my mother enlisted my help as her willing travel companion.  The first stop on her list of desired travel locations was of course Italy. 
The Ruins of Pompeii

I renewed my passport, packed my bags and accompanied my mom on a ten-day adventure through Italy.  We were part of an organized tour group, and although the median age on the tour was sixty, the tour provided us with plenty of activities and excitement.  I am so lucky that my Mom was such an adventurous person, we didn’t just stick to the tour group, but we ventured out on our own as often as we could to see and experience Italy.  
The canals of Venice
I can still vividly recall Mom and I walking down a few blocks from our hotel in Rome to a little restaurant.  We walked in and sat down, and a lovely young woman came over to help us, unfortunately she spoke no English and we were barely able to pronounce ‘Buongiorno’ so mom and I randomly pointed to something on the menu and we hoped for the best.  It was delicious, although I still have no idea what we actually ate that day.  
We travelled all across Italy, from the Italian Alps to the Isle of Capri; we visited Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Pisa, Naples and many others.  We toured everything from the Vatican to the ruins of Pompeii. 
The Grand Canal in Venice
Mom loved Venice, with its iconic canals.  We rode in a gondola, and I can still hear the gondolier singing to us in his rich tones.  Mom and I both believed in making the most of our time in Italy, we signed up for lots of ‘extra excursions’ and although I know they were added cost, they also added a great deal to our trip. 
Giovanni, Mom and Ricardo
We had a sexy young tour bus driver named Giovanni and our tour director was a handsome older gentleman named Ricardo - with a slight resemblance to Ricardo Montalban, which was wonderful since Mom had a big crush on him.  They were wonderful to us and made the trip so special.
One of the great benefits of an organized tour is the access to special things that others may not be able to see or do.  We toured a Venetian glass factory and we travelled by boat to a picturesque village named Burano, with bright colorfully pained homes. 
 Juliet's Balcony in Verona
One afternoon the tour bus stopped in Verona, and after a quick tour of Juliet’s famous balcony, the tour guide gave us the afternoon to explore.  Mom and I shopped and then stopped at a lovely little café for some authentic Italian pizza.  I can still remember the strange gorgonzola cheese on mom’s pizza.  Being a big fan of bleu cheese, she, or course, loved it but I was not as convinced.  As we made our way back to the appointed spot to be picked up by the tour bus we were both shocked when several of the other tour members made their way out of a McDonalds.  Mom and I just didn’t understand why someone would travel for thousands of miles and then eat lunch at a crappy fast food place. 
Me and Mom on Capri
 My favorite afternoon of the trip was on the Island of Capri.  Mom and I chose to skip the excursion that day, and we simply strolled along the quaint little streets of Capri and stopped for a luxurious lunch out on a beautiful patio. 

There are so many other stories from that trip…mom dragging me through the Vatican to buy some gypsy statues that she had seen the day before, because she decided she wanted them, when my crown came loose in Florence and I had to find a drug store so I could try to glue it back in until I got home, throwing our coins in the Trevi fountain, and many more.  I am so grateful for that trip.  I loved getting the chance to see and experience Italy with my mom, and now that she is gone, I am even more grateful for the special time that I got to spend with her – just me and Mom in Italy, having our Italian adventure. 

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