I hate writing, but I love having written,” adapts well to, “I hate traveling, but I love being there.”
On this Tuscan travel adventure, the first leg of a lite-gonzo Euro tour, the cast includes our family of four, my wife’s brother and his wife, and three of their kids. That’s five kids, four adults, and enough baggage to sink an aircraft—all traversing for 20+ hours from MSP to deep Tuscany.
The upside includes camaraderie and commiseration through jammed airports, plastic food, and a sleepless night that takes you seven hours into the future. At moments you might ask yourself, “Is this hell?” No, it’s just modern-day travel. But landing—at last!—in bella Italia with giddy kids and a glass of vino transforms everything.
In fact, you might now ask, “Is this heaven?” No, It’s Italy! And it’s enough to make you believe again.
Back in the day (or was it once upon a time?) flying was posh and plush. My first flight as a 6-year-old took me and my older brother, sans adults, from Sioux Falls, SD to California to visit an aunt. Never mind my youth; those flight attendants were gorgeous, and showered us with flirtiness, playing cards and treats.
I fell in love with one; my brother—the other.
I can still see her face, and, uh, the way she fit into her tight little “stewardess” uni. While maybe not my first true love, she certainly gave me my first wings. And I’ve wanted to fly ever since. But she’s retired, it appears. And her replacement is underpaid, overworked, and surly—and hip-checks you with her ample carcass when she waddles down the aisle.
Yep, the airlines went bankrupt, got bailed out by the government, slashed their staff’s wages, and now make billions making us uncomfortable. How did $500 flights become $1,500 flights? That’s how. And where did the wink and a smile go? Don’t ask; just remember that if you can get past those gnarly gates, a nirvana may await.
My nirvana waits no more: It’s here. Our first Mission is to simply lounge in Italy with 2 grandparents for whom the vision of an Italian family reunion has finally become a reality. And once the wine washes away the jet-lag, a little bella Italia and famiglia soothes the soul like fresh pane soothes the stomach.
I’ve had the good fortune of spending months, over four trips, in Italy. But this time, I don’t need guidebooks, Rome, Venice, or to discover latest, best trattoria. No, the goals are much simpler. Unplug—and try to make the kids to the same. Yet let go of the kids—and let them get lost in this mountain village (Sommocolonia), where the Roman road leads to Barge below, and another (better?) way of life.
Soak in the culture, the nature, the warmth and the light. Hang with old friends, and make some new. Now that there has become here, the goal is just to Be Here. That’s a blessing. And that’s enough. Because Italy is even more enchanting than its superlative reputation. And la dolce vita tastes sweeter every time.