Constantly reminded by life’s roller-coaster journey that lightning or the proverbial bus from around the corner can strike anytime, I am so grateful to return home safely to our old house with the stone dinosaur behind it and chimes ringing in front under two beautiful Japanese maples.
To quote Chris Farley, we’ll be spending retirement years “in a van down by the river,” but we visited the Eternal City, Tuscany and other highlights of Italy in spectacular personal Technicolor.
These moments I seer into my brain, burning as if with a magic laser beam to remember forever, the sanguine and the silly like the two citizens of Rome above at La Fontana de Trevi, who are checking messages on an iPhone. For a Euro, you can have your picture taken with them. What a racket. What a wonderful world. And what you cannot see in the picture are the throngs of people around the fountain on a late Friday afternoon, children licking gelato cones of deep chocolate and moms and dad pushing babies in strollers as the Roman sun dips behind the marvelous carved rock.
Like Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, we are the ultimate “out-of-towners.” We left Indiana and took an eleven-day tour of Italia, Rome and points north.
A handy travel hint: don’t get the first spray tan of your life within 18 hours of getting on the plane. As I left the salon, the person who sprayed like a middle-aged, bifocal wearing ficus, shouted, “Don’t sweat and don’t get wet.”
It was pouring.
And the sweating? That is like saying to Dean Martin, “know what ‘ Nel blu dipinto di blu’ means in Italian?” It’s “Volare,” but more on that refrain later.
The spray tan mostly faded by the third day. Showering was of no value, just highlighting dark spots where one didn’t need a dark spot. My sense of my voluptuous décolleté in a sexy Sophia Loren flouncy dress disappeared as swiftly as the spray tan. I returned to my status as Bebe Neuwirth, White Woman, but with a sunburned nose.
Pack carefully. I love my comfortable Clark’s shoes so much I bought a brown pair and a black pair. Naturally, I wore one black shoe and one brown shoe all over Italy. Doesn’t it make sense to wear the identical pair next year to Scotland and Ireland, for even tread? The fashion mavens of Milan will no doubt wear clunky, orthotic-looking walking shoes with inserts and metatarsal pads at February’s Fashion Week.
We handled the Italian language much better than French last year. Everything in French sounds to me like, “The elephant is a jaunty wonk.”
Italian I can comprehend, possibly because of high school Spanish and medical terminology; I was able to order “risotto porcini stat.” We obtained dinner bills quickly because I kept saying, “presto” to the waiters instead of “prego.”
We drank much local wine, from Chianti to the sparkling prosecco. We dipped homemade almond biscotti into a sweet Tuscan dessert wine. We bought tacky souvenirs including a “Homer (Simpson) Vitruvian” t-shirt for the husband. We got lost and didn’t care. We walked all around Venice, either a quarter of a mile or eight miles, who knows, and crossed dozens of bridges and canals. We ate spaghetti carbonara with the rich pancetta bacon, and stinky, runny white cheese.
We marveled at dozens of Gothic and Renaissance marble churches and piazzas and watched the people, all of whom were lovely and stylish, even those not granted extraordinary beauty. We listened to the sounds of Italy, the loud raucous voices, the cacophony of honks from cars the size of John Deere lawn tractors, the clack of the yellow Milan streetcars, the rush of the city, the soft slowness of the country. We pretended to be ex-pats and read the “International Herald Tribune” in detail. We soaked in the Italian music, covers of “Volare” from every direction and awesome renditions in every voice of “O Sole Mio.” Ah, the Italian sun.
We laughed at ourselves, the ugly Americans, from a land far away where the Italian mantra of “to see and to be seen” is not manifest, where “American Gothic” best portrays our rural ethos.
Being on a tour is always entertaining with its blend of Americans. In every group, there are always some complainers. Our tour guide, explaining the reality that we could not see every single piazza and monument in Italy, told us “All the time you have is all the time you have.”
I am grateful, and I will take this on as my new mantra, home from the colors of Italy, back to my own glorious Indiana October.
Live in the moment, for all the time you have is all the time you have.