Older and Wiser

Having just returned from a month-long travel adventure, I’m struggling to get back into the swing of a normal life. My wife Trisha and I were very blessed to have experienced the trip of a lifetime. Nearly four weeks in Italy and two brief days in Paris. I am no longer John, I’m Giovanni.

I hope to share some highlights of our trip in future blogs, but only after we have reviewed the 1,400 photos (it’s true) my wife took, and the four hours of video I shot. Our sons are actually in the process of drawing straws to see who will brave to visit first and be subjected to the media barrage.

Interestingly, my most enduring recollections are not the snow-covered Swiss Alps framing beautiful Lake Como, nor the moon hovering over the romantic bay of Positano on the Amalfi coast. For me, it was our travel companions, fellow travelers we met along the way, friends we visited in their home country, and all the other interesting people we met in chance encounters that made us richer for the experience.

As usual, every time we travel outside the U. S., I’m always struck by the realization that people are very much the same all over the world. I understand that’s not a novel nor profound observation, but it’s a consistent impression with each venture to new lands. All of us want nothing more than to live in peace and enjoy life. We were fortunate on this trip to have had hours of conversations and good times with people we encountered along the way, each of whom served to enrich our experience.

First of all, after one week on our own in southern Italy, we were joined in Milan by dear friends and travel companions Lyn and Herb. Now, after several trips, more  like sisters and brothers, we shared both adventures and numerous hours in ristorantes, pizzerias, trattorias, and bars, laughing, discussing history, trivia, solving world problems, and simply gazing out at the beautiful areas we visited. 

It seemed in every place we traveled, from tourist to inn keeper, local to shop owner, most everyone was personable and interesting. In fact, one such  memorable experience came one night at a local ristorante we frequented in Verenna on Lake Como. I had the good fortune of ordering a delicious plate of smoked salmon ravioli. After everyone sampled, Trisha asked the owner if she might learn how to cook this heavenly dish. He invited her to report for duty the next night before the dinner service began. When she arrived the next evening, the chef not only taught her how to cook the dish, she actually prepared our dinner. The owner and server took great pride as the dish was served, proud of their student.

There were many other interesting people we met along the way. While we didn’t get the names of everyone, we did share information with several. To name a few: Al and Marsha, Matt and Debbie, Robert and Kim, Australians Greg and Ingrid with son Harry, Al and Martha, Rock and Paula, Frederick from the south of France, Australians Larry and Nina with friends Greg and Theresa, John and Barb, Australians Martin and Roxanne (who gave us lots of travel tips), Scott and Valerie, Joe and Donna, Brian and Kim, newly wed Australians Brook and Sam, horse breeder Mimmo from Positano, Italian train traveler Alexia from London, and engaged couple Amit and Sonal who graciously interrupted their romantic afternoon along the Seine in Paris and offered to take our picture with Notre Dame cathedral in the background.

An especially memorable part of our trip came when we visited the Lake Garda area of Italy. Our friends, Italian entertainer Maurizio and his lovely wife Danna, actually rented a van and picked us up at the train station. The van was essential given all of our luggage. They entertained us at their beautiful 800 year old home, part of the castle grounds in their small town. They also shared their favorite eateries where we all sampled the local wines and cuisine. Graciously, they also drove us to incredibly scenic and historic areas of the lake. They even awakened early on our last day and drove us to the Verona airport. We cannot thank them enough for their hospitality and generosity.  

I’m sure you get the idea by now. With all the history, beauty and art that surrounded us, it was the personal connections we found the most meaningful. Trisha and I are renewed, encouraged, and profoundly blessed to have had such an adventure. I’m hopeful we will take from our experiences and bring the same spirit and optimism into our daily lives here at home. Becoming a bit wiser as we grow older is a worthy goal.

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