My dad and I had decided to stay behind an extra day. His travel points got us a free hotel in Rome and we slept in style. The wide soft bed was certainly nice after a week’s worth of budget inns complete with a limited hot water supply; however, what was lacking in our five star accommodations became immediately noticeable: the friends I had made over the one week excursion were on their way over the Atlantic and I had but the comfort of an extremely tasty breakfast.
For that spring break, now about two years ago, our Latin class had planned a trip to Italy. After a number of meetings, we flew into Milan and eventually explored Pompeii, Naples, Capri, Florence, Venice, and Rome. Gelato was everywhere, the countryside was beautiful, and the ruins commanded attention and fit right in at the same time. In short, I was newly experiencing an old country and reveling in the process. It seemed the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence, though perhaps because I didn’t have to take care of it.
Perhaps the most relaxing and peaceful night was spent in Florence. Having wandered the cobblestone streets, peering into shop windows and watching illicit street vendors whisk their goods away in a cloth bundle at the first sign of an authority figure, we retired to the rooftop of a restaurant overlooking a stone plaza. My table ordered coffee, I an espresso, and we unwound in the cool night air. Excellent weather gave the evening a near magical quality. Removed from the constant “go, go, go” of our tourist lives, we found solace in good company, smooth drink, and the fine disposition of a gentle breeze. Monuments and ruins and sundry historical sites are all well and good – they provide order and purpose to a day, they give us something to stand in awe under or ponder in academic curiosity – but they lose their grandeur without the soothing aura of camaraderie.
Later, we descended the stairs of our rooftop restaurant and settled down on the stairs of a nearby sculpture gallery to watch and listen to a live band. The combination of coffee, easy air and friends, and Italian beauty increased the band’s skill several fold, though they weren’t half bad to begin with. All told, I’d do it again without hesitation.
In a different sense, our venture onto the island of Capri rivaled the Florentine night in beauty. Capri held the eye, Florence the spirit. The purple, green, and yellow cliff-side gardens looking directly down into deep blue waters promised eternal good health, the quiet gelato shops with their impressive flavor array implied sensual gratification for days without end. That day we hiked to a dilapidated castle whose rotted wooden floors had been replaced with glass, providing a detailed architectural plan of Italian beauty. Winding back down the trails into town, we lunched on pasta and pizza until it was time to visit the famed Blue Grotto. Known since Roman times, the Grotto remains a startling and sun-sparkling treat to those who lean low in the small four person boats and allow their eyes to adjust to the cool light and clean blue beauty.
Sad to leave, but excited for our last nights in Rome, we departed Capri by ferry and then by bus, but, of course, we departed together. Certainly, a solitary beauty could be found by lone travelers in the world’s wonders, but the joy of talking long into the night about the day’s miracles will near always trump the austerity of lone travel.My dad and I had decided to stay behind an extra day. His travel points got us a free hotel in Rome and we slept in style. The wide soft bed was certainly nice after a week’s worth of budget inns complete with a limited hot water supply; however, what was lacking in our five star accommodations became immediately noticeable: the friends I had made over the one week excursion were on their way over the Atlantic and I had but the comfort of an extremely tasty breakfast.
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