First, let me just say that I am apparently not very good at this blogging thing. It’s been well over a year since my last post. In my defense, I’ve been busy with work, family, bluegrass and life in general. However, this summer I did manage to pack in some extra fun on a trip to Italy, with my daughter Emily.
The fact that Emily agreed to travel anywhere with me is an accomplishment in and of itself. She is reserved and, although she says otherwise, she’s an introvert. At the other end of MBTI scale is her mother. I make friends standing in line at the grocery store. When there’s an awkward silence among a group of people, be it acquaintances or strangers, I can’t help but say something that is almost always guaranteed to make the moment more awkward. I’ve made peace with it. It’s just who I am and it ain’t gonna change.
We did all the things on this trip that one might expect in Italy. We ate copious amounts of gelato (a small shop in Perugia had the best selection and flavor), we ate pasta, we ate pizza, and we ate a lot of really good food. The service was excellent because being a waiter or waitress is a respected profession there and staff is paid accordingly.
We found that most people really don’t care for accordion music. We suspected that the musician serenading us while roaming through the train cars on the ride from Florence to Perugia received more tips from people wanting him to move on than people who were impressed by his skills. His impish grin all but confirmed it.
Visiting Assisi was a reminder that not everything is about tourism. Monks roam the Basilica named for the town’s most famous resident and there are artifacts that showcase the wealth and power that the church once held over Europe, which struck me as ironic since Saint Francis rejected wealth and possessions. We chatted with a monk whose brother lives in Las Vegas. I drew him a map showing him where North Carolina was located in relation to Nevada. We lit candles for loved ones and marveled over how the colors inside the sanctuary changed to deeper, more vibrant tones later in the day. Just wandering the streets that seemed to reach up to meet the sky was a treat.
We sweated a lot. The Italians described the record heat wave in July as a “heat bubble”, an apt description. Did I mention the gelato? We had to deal with the heat somehow, and that seemed as good as a coping mechanism as any.
Perugia was a reminder that smaller towns are often the same wherever you wander. There was coziness to this small city that I loved. Emily showed me the entrance to the flat where she stayed during study abroad, the Università per Stranieri di Perugia, the path she took to classes, and the places she frequented. There were a lot of dogs in Perugia. I petted almost every one we passed. You have to love a place where people value dogs.
Florence was a reminder of the power of political families. The Medici owned Italy. We saw familial symbolism practically everywhere we looked. We took in the Statue of David, which was awe-inspiring. As we wandered through the Galleria dell’Accademia, where Michelangelo’s masterpiece is housed, and the Uffizi, I couldn’t help but feel sad by the sea of hand-held devices. So few people were actually looking at the art without the screen running interference. Not that we didn’t take pictures, but it made me more acutely aware of the need to experience this place so rich in art, history, and culture. We were in Italy, for cryin’ out loud—live in the moment!
The Italians we met were a warm and hospitable people and I thoroughly enjoyed being a guest. They are rightfully proud of their heritage, the beauty of their country, and their culture. They are also pragmatic, acknowledging that the things that attract visitors are in many ways the things that can keep them from moving forward.
We played the part of tourist while attempting to not completely appear as such. We looked in shop windows, we wandered the streets into the evening. We took a nap when a big thunderstorm rolled through Florence. We bought wine from the “honesty fridge”, a refrigerator stocked with beverages and snacks, payment accepted via a cute piggy bank. We took in the sites, the sounds, and the atmosphere.
But we also enjoyed one another’s company. Having my daughter show me around a foreign country, while helping me communicate with the residents is something I’ll remember forever. I was enormously proud.
Sure we bicker and disagree now that we’re back in Raleigh. But we’ll always have Perugia.