I wrote the following story over a year ago. After I wrote it I saw the Waldorf Astoria was having a contest asking for travel stories. I submitted an edited down version and I won five days at a Waldorf Astoria! Woo Hoo! So my sweetie and I are headed to Key West to enjoy the warm sun, key lime pie, and umbrellad drinks served by cute cabana boys. I’m sure a story or two will grow out of my winning vacation.
It’s a cold, wet, grey, winter day. The kind of day that gets my mind to wandering to a treasured warm memory, one that’s years ago and miles away. I’m savoring a memory that was a gift which has stood the test of time.
I’ve written about being the leader of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop before. This was a wonderful group of girls, many who had been together since kindergarten. I shared my love of travel with these girls and over the years we traveled near and far. As they approached their senior year in high school they set their sights on Italy. Several years of fundraising and selling lots of cookies got them there.
One night about halfway through the trip our tour guide, Patrizia, pulled me aside and wanted to know if I wanted to go out after the girls went to bed. There were plenty of chaperon parents, so I eagerly said yes.
I wondered what she had in mind. Would we meet up with Patrizia’s friends and have a glass of Italian red in a quiet café, or a late night meal in a family style ristorante, or even dancing in a discotheque? It didn’t matter, I’m always up for an adventure, especially when I travel.
We had spent the day walking among the ruins of Pompeii under the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius whose volcanic ash covered it in 79 AD. I actually didn’t tour the famed Pompeii House of Ill Repute relics with my Girl Scouts, but I had learned of it from my Dad who also walked these streets when he was a young man. He told me the you could still see the phallic symbols on the steets directing sailors landing at this seaport to the town brothel. And at the brothel you could still see the house specialties carved in stone above the doors.
It was a great connection to my own history, walking these streets with my daughter knowing her grandfather had done the same. Pompeii, that ancient Roman city destroyed in an instant, forever preserved in time, it’s streets still grooved by long ago chariots wheels. Streets walked upon by a lost civilization and now by three generations of my family visiting this ancient land.
After Pompeii, we traveled the narrow winding road hugging the mountainside down the Amalfi coast. To the right was the azure blue Mediterranean stretching to the horizon where we could watch the setting sun.
We stopped in Sorrento, a beautiful town facing the sea. After settling in our hotel, Patriazia and I took off for what would be an evening stroll through history. She guided me down an known-only-to-locals walking path that led us down the mountainside until we were outside the walls of the town. The moon lit our way casting her beautiful blue light on this old world. We passed a small grotto with gentle waves, it was so crystal clear you could see the sandy bottom of the sea even through the moonlight.
On a cliff above the small grotto lay the ruins of a Roman villa. We sat and absorbed the beauty in comfortable silence. The family who had once lived here over 2000 years ago had chosen this location for the same beauty that I was experiencing. We were away from the town lights; you could see the distant lights of the other coastal towns sparking like diamonds on a necklace strewn on the coastal neckline.
I am warmed by the memory of that timeless beauty on this cold winter day. My daughter went on to minor in Italian at college and spent a summer as an au pair in Italy because of that trip.
Travel expands and connects our world in unexpected ways and leaves us with memorable gifts that last a lifetime. Arrivederci.
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