Viva travel, viva Italy


Nancy Kirsch

Oof! That’s tight! Just let me loosen my belt buckle a bit.)

Ah. Now, I feel better. After 10 days of a steady diet of pasta, prosecco and gelato, it’s little wonder that I’ve gained so much weight that my buttons don’t quite button and my zippers don’t quite zip.

But, oh, what fun my son and I had traveling through Italy last month. At its best, travel doesn’t just expand one’s waistline, it also expands one’s perspectives and viewpoints, expands one’s knowledge of the world and the people therein.

One of my most memorable experiences was spending time with a young couple from India who, like us, toured Rome’s Colosseum and other ancient ruins one blistering hot afternoon. Over drinks and then a conversation-filled dinner, I learned more about their lives. Both members of the Brahmin caste, they had an arranged marriage and their wedding – somewhat small by Indian standards, they said – included some 600 guests!  Although they now live and work in Dubai, each of them had spent some time studying in Boston. And, it was an example, yet again, of one degree of separation.

The young woman has an uncle who lives in Cumberland and works in Pawtucket – perhaps Little Rhody isn’t so small after all.

At the end of my gap year in Israel – between high school and college – I spent a few weeks visiting Italy. Other ulpan participants from Kibbutz Nir David (not far from Afula, greater Rhode Island’s sister city in Israel!) and I took three weeks to travel through Greece and Italy.

During our trip, we stayed in the cheapest hostels and carefully counted out our drachmas and lire to pay for our two meals each day.

This trip, naturally, was a bit different. While I pretty much stuck to two meals a day, they were nothing like the meals of my first trip to Italy. Traveling with a budding chef who loves Italian food probably more than I do and being more fiscally solvent than I was during my first Italian excursion meant that we ate well – exceptionally well!

Sharing meals and sharing conversations, debating the merits of different flavors of gelato and standing in stunned, silent reverie in the presence of Michaelango’s David and the Sistine Chapel – those were some of our experiences, as was navigating the claustrophobia-inducing 400-plus steps to the top of Rome’s Campanile Tower and deducing just exactly which road would get us to the out-of-the-way, chef-recommended restaurant in Florence.

In a refreshing, yet radical, departure from past practice, I instituted two policies on this trip that served me well: Pack light – an important asset given my herniated disk – and turn off work emails. For the first time in a long time, I was able to fully and finally be “where my feet were” – in Italy!