You’d think I would have had enough travel over the summer: a month in Europe, a few weeks in New England, a cross country drive from California to Virginia, Boston and back, and 10 days in Hawaii. But during the second week of the school year I was selected to present at a conference in Naples, Italy…
A relatively recent phenomenon that is becoming increasingly popular has been dubbed, “Bleisure Travel”: the combining of a business trip with leisure travel. Business travelers who have a few days of meetings or a conference to attend may schedule a few days of pleasure travel before or after having fulfilled their professional responsibilities. A couple of days in New York for meetings may be followed by a weekend to explore the city; a conference in Hawaii might provide the chance to spend a few leisurely days on Maui before heading home.
As I do almost year, as soon as my semester is over and I am free for the summer, I head for Europe and while I frequently visit other countries, my main target is Italy. This year, after a few days on the Greek island of Mykonos, I flew into Venice, picked up a rental car, and began a three week visit to my adopted home.
Years ago I studied Italian at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco. We had a great class of 12 people who all got along famously and shared a love for Italy, the Italian language and our phenomenal teacher, Diletta. We were also a group of avid travelers. One night in class, a student named Andrew shared that he’d be missing the class the following week as he was off to Rome for a week. A couple of weeks down the road, it was my turn to announce that I would be away in Italy and would have to miss class for the following two weeks. Then our classmate Judy volunteered that she and her husband would be in Venice at the end of the month and that she too would be missing class. Diletta, shaking her head in a mix of disbelief and envy muttered, “You people run off to Italy the way I run to the grocery store!”
My first trip to Italy was in 1998, and since then, to the best of my calculations, I have made over 25 separate trips and spent almost two years of my life in what now seems like a second home to me. I love Italy’s dramatic landscapes, its incredible food, its music, and the emphasis on enjoying life to its fullest. But the glue that has bound me to the country for an 18-year-long love affair is undoubtedly the cast of characters that has become such an important part of my life over the years. I will be eternally grateful for these people and the entrée into Italian life that they have given me – one which few tourists get to experience.
After my brief “flirtation” with Wales and England, followed by my exciting adventures in Finland, I spent the last days of my November European trip in Italy, my casa dolce casa (home sweet home). I flew from Helsinki to Rome and picked up a rental car and drove into the city in the late afternoon. When I reached my guest house in Rome, I chuckled as I saw an open parking space that was perhaps 10 steps from the door to the building where I’d be staying for the weekend. I sometimes amaze even myself regarding my parking karma.