Prior to my recent (2018 and 2022) trips to Rome and Naples, I’d visited Italy twice. Both of those trips were with my former husband, once just the two of us and once with the boys in tow, along with friends. They were both good trips, particularly the one in 1995, sans kids. Our original plan at the time had been to visit Lake Como but, after days of rain in Ireland and Germany, we arrived in Lake Como under gray skies and impetuously decided to get back in the car and keep driving until we found the sun. We ended up on the coast of Genoa, in Liguria, where we learned about Pigato, Pino Daniele and pesto. It was fantastic.
The second trip, the family one, had been organized (by guess who?) as a celebration for my then husband’s milestone birthday. There were a lot of moving parts on that vacation with friends joining us, flights with 3 children involving 5 airports in 4 countries and a fair bit of driving on intimidating Italian roads. Despite the challenges, it was a memorable experience in an area of the country, primarily Tuscany, that I had never before visited.
This summer, I’m going back to Italy, again to celebrate the significant birthday of the man with whom I’m sharing my life. As I’ve been considering what this summer’s trip is going to look like, (planning on renting a property for a week to share with friends), I can’t help but reflect upon how this adventure will be somewhat reminiscent of that other trip more than a decade ago. Yes, there are differences. For instance, there won’t be any Lilly boys along for the
free ride and we intend to be in a different region of Italy, however there still are aspects of the trip that echoed for me…
As my guy and I started to discuss dates and the way we’d like to spend our la dolce vita time, it quickly became evident that because of our different careers (hospitality vs. education) the time we had available to be out of the country was disparate. I generally don’t work summers and can, and like to, vacation for more than a couple of weeks. Especially when I travel abroad.
There are probably couples who would resolve a situation like this by some sort of compromise with one person going for either a longer or shorter time than they’d really prefer.
That ain’t us.
Instead, we quickly agreed that it made more sense for me to extend the trip and travel on my own for a week or two, something I’m very comfortable doing. Initially, I considered building in some time in Greece, a place I love, into my plans. But, over the weekend I realized that there is still so much of Italy that I want to check out. Why not visit some places that I haven’t previously been able to fully explore?
So, I’m heading back to Liguria and Tuscany in July and I don’t think I could be more excited. I’ll have approximately 2 weeks to kick around solo prior to meeting N and I’ve laid out an itinerary that will provide me with an opportunity to revisit some destinations that I originally only had time to see briefly, more than a decade ago. There will be time on the coast in Lerici where I can easily access the Cinque Terre, a place I’m interested in hiking, but not necessarily staying in, at least not during high season. I booked a sweet bed and breakfast as a base and I’m already imagining crisp Pigato and delightfully oily focaccia to fuel my activities, along with fresh fish and seasonal produce. Bliss.
Lerici will be the furthest point north that I’ll be and from there I’ll take a train south to Tuscany for nearly a week, dividing my time between Lucca and Florence. I’ve booked an adorable cottage in Lucca, a beautiful walled city where I fell in love with what has become one of my favorite salads – arugula (or rocket as they call it) lightly dressed with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and parmesan. So simple and perfect, just like I’m dreaming my time in Luca will be. Nothing on my agenda there other than some bike riding, including on the ancient wall, and dining at an agritourism that is near my accommodations.
My last stop prior to rendezvousing with N is Florence. In 2010, I spent a single afternoon in this art filled city and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of it. We basically saw “David” and walked across the Ponte Vecchio looking for a meal that would be acceptable to both children and adults. I recall wanting to climb a particular hill to take in the view, but that trek was impossible with three youngish children. In the 2023 edition of my life, I’ve reserved a room with a killer view of the Doumo and a bed with a wooden headboard where I will siesta between morning and evening strolls with my camera. I can almost taste the gelato.
As this previously unimagined escapade began to take shape and I mapped out my time, I couldn’t help but remember that other trip to these very same destinations. Memories from that trip, mostly good, flooded my mind. The boys, so much younger, with eyes opened to the wonders of Italy – the Tower in Pisa, lizards (and scorpions!) at “our” villa, succulent cinghiale ribs at the agritourismo where we took a meal. The trip changed them.
When I return to these three places, I feel like I’ll be going as a changed person. I won’t be going back, but instead forward. My situation is so very different now than what it was in 2010 and I’m much more confident in my capabilities. I can’t imagine I would have embraced traveling for nearly 2 weeks alone a decade ago. Now, though, I’m fired up to take some time to indulge myself, purely at my own pace.
I have to admit, I had a moment of panic after purchasing my plane ticket and committing financially to spending nearly 4 weeks in Italy. What if a huge expense came my way? How would I manage it? Was I being irresponsible?
Ultimately, I concluded that this experience was a worthy investment. After an illness that lingered for more than three weeks, and which continues to impact my level of comfort with some activities, an Italian vacation of approximately the same length seems like a good consolation. When my mammogram report came back as problematic, my very first thought was, “But, there are so many more places that I still want to see!” Going to Italy is an acknowledgment that all of us are a mere health crisis or tragedy away from never having another adventure.
Incidentally, recently I looked at some of the photos from that family trip almost 13 years ago. I couldn’t help but notice that I was only in 3 of the pictures. This summer I’ll take Italy and, believe me, there will be pictures to prove it.