by Joann Garrido
There was one moment when it all sank in. The buildup to my first trip to Italy was more than a bit consuming. Booked with my sister’s frequent flyer miles about a month before, it had the feel of something done on a whim. The best kind of plan. At the tender age of 57 I’d done my fair share of travel yet never managed to get to Italy, the land of our grandfather, and let’s face it, a dream destination.
The weeks leading up to it were filled with shopping excursions to find, among other things, the right shoes. You know, ones that would support my often-achy feet, yet wouldn’t scream out “Look out! Unfashionable American headed your way!”
I also needed to find a jacket that would not only keep me warm but would protect me in the event of rain. For me carrying an umbrella is basically an admission that I will, at some point, just lose it and get wet anyway. I don’t bother. And, of course, it had to look nice. I never have understood why so many of my people (Americans) choose to dress like they’re about to scale the Grand Canyon in their hiking gear, while visiting the grandiose cities of Europe. Let’s give these places some respect, can we? We can, at least, try to look almost as good as the place and its natives do. We will probably never achieve this, but a little effort won’t kill us.
Having finally gotten my wardrobe settled and my packing completed, I was prepared to declare “smooth sailing ahead.” But the universe had other plans and decided to test my patience by sending snow filled Noreasters to the Boston area, on a weekly basis, as my departure date approached. For those of you who don’t know what a Noreaster is, just think about a wind-filled chaotic storm that will wreak havoc and include snow during cold months. March and April in New England are merely suggestive of Spring. Snow covered crocuses and pasty complexions are run of the mill sites during these months to those of us lucky enough to live here. Of course, one was scheduled for the week, specifically the DAY I was due to leave. My time that week became filled with calling Delta customer service reps, maniacally checking weather apps, and having to accept that as a non-religious person I was going to have to succumb to some form of prayer… or maybe a bribe to the universe. Hell, I’m glad there aren’t any goats in my neighborhood, or I might have been arrested trying to sacrifice one. I just could not accept that I might have to suffer through rescheduling flights and missing a day of my trip whose daily excursions were already booked and paid for.
With less than 24 hours to go and on a steady diet of Tums, my manager subtly suggested I go home early and get my jittery vibes away from her. I do recall the word “Xanax” being mentioned at some point. So, imagine my relief when I arose, on the day in question, to pretty and windless flurries. All was good. It was happening. Really happening. And it did. Okay the flight to JFK got caught in some kind of wind we weren’t experiencing in Boston and took such a drastic pitch to one side for a moment that… I digress. I made it to Rome. My sister was at the hotel and my friends, who live in the Netherlands, joined us later to spend a couple of days with us.
The sight-seeing. The pasta eating. The vino. All so good. But it wasn’t until day three, as we were walking through The Trastevere, having enjoyed a long, wine-filled lunch in the sun that we stopped to get gelato. Then, time slowed down. I looked around and saw that I was walking down a beautiful street in one of Rome’s oldest neighborhoods, with family and friends. The weather was perfect, the wine buzz was good, and the pistachio gelato was the sweet ending I hadn’t realized I needed. I was transported to that scene in “Eat, Pray, Love” where Julia Roberts is sitting on a bench, enjoying her gelato, next to a couple of nuns, and drinking in her Italian experience. I felt what her character must have, the joy of leaving one’s daily routine behind and being in such a beautiful setting. I let that moment, that great moment, just sink in. I was really there. I was really in Rome.
And it was really good.