Sunday, May 23, 2010

Days 6-12: Italy had me at hello

Tears would describe my experience in Italy over the past few days much better than these words. Starting this story is difficult.

I could certainly make Italy my home country. The people of this country gave me so much, so quickly, and without hesitation. With all that has taken place since I last posted to this blog, I can hardly describe the gravity that holds my thoughts to what I experienced in Italy. So I will frame the essence of the tour and leave the stories within the stories for our personal encounters.

Dezi and Anne were hard to leave in Lucca because they made me feel as though I was, even for a very short time, part of their little family. I spent my last hour there just chatting with them about their lives in Lucca and laughing at Dezi being the character he’s been created to be.

After my 55 mile ride from Lucca to Florence, I took a shower at the wrong hotel. That was funny! The hotel manager was very kind.

I left Flourence for a very challenging 45 miles of hills/valleys, but it was well worth the effort. For the next three days I found myself surrounded by beauty beyond compare. Hand crafted stone homes, each whispering stories from their past, were scatted across the tops of the hills towering above endless seas of grape growing glory.

The honor to settle in among this scene was unlimited. I ate meals with a family running their own winery, received a tour of their complex, and had a several complementary tastings straight from their huge drums of wine.

I really enjoyed this family. Nadia was the main worker of the lodging who gave me the low down on what to do while in town (none of which I did, apart from the tour of the Duomo, because I enjoyed hanging out with them so much). Renaldo, Nadia’s husband, worked the vines and gave me a huge lesson about his passions for wine. Christian, Nadia’s brother, worked the business end of things and offered me a history of their winery dating back several hundred years. This complex orchestra of roles had me mesmerized. I’m sure that I was annoying because all I could do was ask questions. No other sentence form existed for my time there. Yet even my curiosity could not shatter the peaceful nature exuded by my surroundings and embodied by my hosts. This experience convinced me that I could not go to Rome.

Instead of heading towards Rome, I rode the 45 miles of hills/vallyes back to Florence stopping along the way for a mid day pasta at a swank little trattoria that thrives on the hunger of wine aficionado’s making their way to the next tasting.

I didn’t stay in Florence. I packed the bike into a trash bag and took the train to Venice. =] Venice…oh my. This city is a maze of what seems to be a fragile but living history floating in an ocean of time. Time for what?

In Venice, the tourists make time to shop, but not this tourist. So I hit the road again. On my last stop in Italy, I had the most unexpected and splendid surprise of my trip. After accompanying me to Venice, Francesca invited me to stay for her birthday party and sleep at her home on Lake Como. I had no idea what I was in for…

When we arrived, she was so kind. She made me a typical Italian meal to be eaten on their deck, which is a rather atypical scene as it’s filled with perfect views of the alps rising behind the lake.

With the clear sunny skies, we did a morning hike up some steep slopes to encounter views of castles and the lake below. The only sounds to be heard were the bells of the cows as they grazed on the grassy fields.

From the seats of her canoe, we painted the lake with paddles. George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como was nothing compared to way the K2 mansion moved us into an unresolved state of disregarding opulence while desiring a winning lotto ticket:

[Video of canoe to come]

That evening her friends came over for a large birthday party celebration where I made my new friend Thomas - quite the philosopher this man. And although I was the only one who didn't speak 12+ languages, they were very kind to often carry the conversations in english so I knew what was going on. I also met her brother Simione who is taking me wind surfing the day before I leave to come home to the US!

I waited as long as I could to leave, but it was inevitable. I had ride 30 miles to my hotel near the airport and catch a 6:50 am flight. My ride was terrifying because the Italian soccer team had just won the Champions League. People flooded the streets screaming, honking horns, waving flags and in general just going crazy to celebrate the victory. I actually enjoyed most of it though. I was just never sure if these people were mad at me as they screamed various things my way while I was hastily biking past their celebrations. Assuming the best, I think that they were happy because I was decked out in their team’s colors (an accident that gave them even more reason to celebrate and freak me out as I rode by).

Without a wink of sleep from 12am-4:30am, I ate breakfast, grabbed a shuttle to the airport and was soon passed out on a plane head to Mallorca.

[I must send out a HUGE thank you to Francesca for making this trip to Italy an incredible blessing....THANK YOU KIND LADY! I hope that you get your new job. All the best to you.]

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