Having lived overseas for the majority of my life, I’ve travelled extensively, to incredibly diverse regions of the world. And yet, no matter where we’ve been, there remains a common thread beyond great memories and ‘interesting’ food: my mother’s love and unwavering dedication to TripAdvisor.
There are few examples better than our recent trip to Italy; she relied heavily on her fellow travelers’ advice with regards to the top dining, excursion and hotel options in the Tuscan countryside of San Gimignano. In an effort to be economical and truly experience the culture that Italy has to offer, mom chose Il Vecchio Maneggio, a small, picturesque farmhouse thoroughly surrounded by acres of vineyards. This fact, though, while providing stunningly similar (albeit beautiful) views in all directions, meant that there was little for my brother and I to do which might fall within the category of ‘exhilarating activity’ beyond playing catch with unripe lemons which had, by some misfortune not at all linked to us, fallen off the tree. Exhilarating indeed.
And yet, one night, after bidding the tanned grandfather, who had spent the majority of the day sitting languidly in the sun sweet dreams, my brother and I finally got a taste of excitement. Laying in our rather narrow (not to mention short) bed, reading, we noticed a funny smell, which we were unable to place, beyond the sneaking feeling that we might’ve recognized it from the antics of our questionably qualified science teacher. As we searched the room for a skunk or rotting cheese, we noticed that the ceiling fan had begun to spark. However, as we’d already conned our father out of too many scoops of gelato, we chose not to risk any future ice cream and refrained from disturbing him, for a bit. Having finally decided that our situation might become a public safety hazard, we knocked on the remarkably thin wall and requested his services immediately. Since the smell and sparks were quite sporadic in their appearances, it required ten minutes (a lifetime in my father’s mind) of our griping to prompt him to call the manager.
The presence of the stout, middle aged woman who was our proprietress did not appear promising at first. But the fan finally sparked and within a few minutes the woman’s father, son, best friend, and at least ten other people were gathered in our increasingly small room. We were shuffled out and into the common area, repeatedly offered “cookies, milk, tea … anything?” and watched the match which qualified Italy for the World Cup.
We returned back to our living quarters with a hole in the ceiling and cold water in the bath tub, “to prevent heat”. The woman was truly horrified that we, such kind, well behaved, and brave children had been subject to such a terrible experience, and recommended that we spend tomorrow at the best restaurant in town, Trattoria Chiribiri which was owned by the only member of her family whom we had yet to meet. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal of hearty Tuscan cuisine, so much so that we returned the following evening. And in this, we are reminded that as much as our adventure in the vineyards surrounding San Gimignano could have turned into a misadventure, and perhaps the one bad memory TripAdvisor has provided us, a little kindness and understanding on both my part and our proprietress’ not only earned us a midnight snack, but also allowed for a suggestion that gave us one of the best meals in town.
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