Greetings from Seiano, Italy. Today is the 10th of July, exactly a month since my departure from Philadelphia to Bali. I don’t know what we were thinking when we made these travel plans, back in the month of January when the heat of the Mexican sun was melting our synapses. Possibly, we weren’t really thinking at all. All I know is that within a space of two weeks we booked a trip to Bali and a trip to Europe……and that our return from Bali would allow us only a precious six days home before we once again boarded a jet for an overseas flight. And during that six days we would not only pack (three suitcases) for the next (complicated) leg of our journey, but also attend a family wedding that would require an overnight stay at a hotel, the very night before our travels. As I said, I don’t know what we were thinking. If we were thinking at all.
So this first week in Italy has not only been a feast for the senses, as a trip to Italy must be, but it has also been an opportunity to sleep, to recover from the previous weeks and months of emotional and physical upheaval. For, we have not only been going-going-going, but in the midst of this we have faced some personal crises that have taxed our resilience, with Charlie’s loss of his dad being paramount. What this has meant in real time is that, in between long walks and climbs in the Mediterranean heat, and languishing meals consisting of pasta and wine – and did I mention pizza? -we have slept. Long deep sleeps that have surpassed any sleep in my recent memory. Sleep very much needed, and most restorative.
We spent three days in Rome, and it was freeing to know that we did not need to see ‘everything’, because our previous trip in 2006 had provided the opportunity to do that. This time we could roam the streets more aimlessly, making sure to allow time for another visit to the Pantheon (and the caffe granita loaded with whipped cream at Tazzo d’Oro nearby….a treat that puts Starbucks to shame). We also made sure that we visited the Trevia Fountain (a short walk from San Crispino – the best gelato in Rome). And before our departure on Friday, we had to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, because how can you go to Rome and not pay the Vatican its due? While in Rome for three days, we clocked about twenty-four walking miles, and consumed I cannot say how many calories. Because who can count calories in Italy?
If we walked in Rome, we have climbed in Seiano. This is a small town on the coast south of Naples, with a view of Mt. Vesuvius. But the coast of Italy is different from the beaches of our east coast, and even more extreme than northern California. Formidable rocky ledges and cliffs, with little beaches virtually inaccessible beneath them. Except that the Italians did not comprehend the concept ‘inaccessible’…..they set out to prove it a lie, and so there are steps, and/or treacherous winding narrow roads that provide access to the water, as long as one is sufficiently determined. And so we have descended in the footsteps of generations to the water’s edge in Seiano, and refreshed ourselves in the Mediterranean Sea, only to again climb the stairs that were long ago etched into the precipitous coastline, this time upwards. A word to the wise – the beaches one reaches after the descent are small and crowded. One must arrive very early to stake a claim on that prime real estate. Which we did not, because, as I alluded earlier, we slept in.
As this is not so much a travelogue as a record of my impressions and contemplations on this journey, I must now share those. As I sat at water’s edge at a little cafe, which gave us a welcome respite in spite of having arrived too late to have a place to sit on the beach, I reflected on the vicissitudes of travel. Sometimes, while traveling, I have felt like a welcome guest, and other times, I have felt like a tourist. There is a difference. I think that for me, a big part of that rests on how well I can communicate with the people who are sharing their home turf with me, a stranger. It doesn’t matter whether I have command of their language, or they have that of mine, but it is communication that is key.
Here, I have felt a sore lack of connection in spite of pleasant encounters with many hospitable locals. Surprisingly, their command of English is (at best) slightly better than my non-existent Italian. Others may disagree, but I have felt the language barrier to be an isolating factor. We are traveling through, taking in the sights and sounds and tastes, but not partaking in significant discourse with our amiable and gracious hosts. This is a loss, especially to me, a person who had dreamed of becoming fluent in many languages when I was younger.
I failed to achieve this goal, because life took me in other directions. I am not one who is prone to offering unasked-for advice. However, if any of my readers are the age I once was when I dreamed of being multilingual – in my twenties – please consider this. I have no regrets in my life regard things I have actually done. My only regrets are related to what I have not done. I wish I had followed my dreams more, and not allowed the random fluctuations of life to lead me astray. I wanted to travel when I was younger. I did not, and I am making up for that now. But who knows what experiences may have taken me on an alternate path if I had done so sooner? I wanted to be a writer……well, I am writing now, but how many years were wasted? And I wanted to learn languages, and let’s face it….no matter how hard I try, my capacity to do so is far less than it was back then.
So be it. My life is good. And I am hoping that next week, when we meet Charlie’s cousins in Sicily, the feeling of connection will be unquestionable. ©