I just got back from traveling for two weeks throughout Paris and Italy. Paris was beautiful but because I also went a few years ago, there wasn’t that magical feeling of experiencing a place for the first time. What really fascinated me was Italy.
Italy has always seduced me. Yes, seduced. I don’t know why exactly—maybe it’s the language or the aesthetic of the countryside. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen Under the Tuscan Sun five one too many times. Whatever Italy’s charm is, I bought into it.
And then I got there and I was tired, alone, lost and cold.
Oh, that weather. It rained 11 out of the 12 days I was traveling, and the temperature was in the 50s even though I packed for 70-degree weather. Note to self: next time, pack a variety of clothes rather than all short-sleeved shirts and skirts.
I’m not trying to downplay that I was in Italy, but really, you would have been pissed too. From a traveler’s perspective, rain is just annoying, especially when I debated bringing rain boots and then didn’t bring them to save room in my suitcase. I hated myself for not bringing them.
Tuscany after the rain
Photo Credit: Emily Milks
The good thing about Italy, though, is that it is famous for the food - meaning it was completely acceptable to sit in restaurants and cafés for hours each day and spend all my (parents’) money on pizza and pasta and wine, all the while laughing at the people getting soaked outside.
Tip: If you ever go to Italy, do a wine tour, whether you create your own via a bar crawl or you sign up for one like my friend Michelle and I did. It rocked. The drive through Tuscany was worth the price anyway, and the wine was the icing on the cake, so to speak.
Besides the wine tour, we toured some museums, went to the top of the Duomo in Florence, went to the top of the Duomo in Siena and visited three of the villages in Cinque Terre. We generally did all the things tourists should do in Italy – minus the usually obligatory picture in Pisa because it’s only a picture and I’ve heard there’s nothing else to do there.
My favorite moments were the small ones that could have happened anywhere, not just in Italy. The cool girl we met in Rome who had the guts to travel by herself for a few months and went around the city with us for two days. The stranger in the Florence hostel who went to the same high school as one of my good friends. The man at the restaurant who attempted to help me speak Italian. It was the people who made the trip, not the place. I think that’s true anywhere.
Venice deserves a description separate from the rest of the places I went in Italy. I had such a negative reaction to Venice at first because of the rain. It was even worse in this city than, say, Florence because the streets are so narrow that people kept hitting each other with their umbrellas and getting stuck when all they wanted was to get to a dry place. Usually I like getting lost in cities, and it is impossible not to get lost in Venice. But it was raining constantly and it was miserable—I know I’m not exaggerating because I could see it in everyone else’s faces too.
Dancing in the puddles in Venice
Photo Credit: Michelle Lewis
There was one night, though, when it stopped raining for a few hours and we could finally go outside without cursing every five seconds. We walked through the streets, bought Bellini and stopped to listen to the live music in St. Mark’s Square. I don’t remember how long we stayed to listen to the music or if it was even good, but I do remember an old woman dancing by herself to the music, not caring if people saw her or laughed at her or even joined her (as we did, naturally). She was simply caught up in the moment. And it reminded me why I always go to the travel section in bookstores first and why I always hang up maps. Because for me, traveling shows us that spirit exists everywhere, always.