Thursday, June 9, 2011

Amicizia Duratura: Lasting Friendships in Italy

In planning the itinerary for our upcoming trip to Italy, I could never have predicted the people I would meet during my travels or the lifelong impressions they would leave.  The people, it turns out, were the most fascinating part of Italy.

Tom and I began our adventures in Rome, that most wonderful blend of ancient and modern cities.  We stayed at  Hotel Giuliana, a small, clean hotel that fit our traveler’s budget.  Touring ancient Rome and Vatican City was awe-inspiring and wonderful, but soon it was time to move on.  The morning of our departure, when we ventured out to the hotel breakfast room, we found someone new sipping a cappuccino and she smiled broadly at our appearance.  She introduced herself as Jean Santa Croce, the proprietor of this wonderful little hotel and as she invited us to sit and enjoy our breakfast with her, our stories began to unfold. 

So many commonalities we had, as we talked about our pasts, our futures, our children, our hopes and dreams, and our faith.  We talked and talked and I suddenly became aware that over an hour had passed and we had all comfortably shared so much with one another.  We began as complete strangers, yet after one hour of conversation, we came to know one another as humans who share common worries, hopes, dreams and joys.

We left Rome with mixed feelings – we had loved our time there and knew we would return.  But more adventure awaited us!  Our next stop was the small village of Soriano Nel Cimino, a beautiful medieval town in the hills of Lazio, about 80 miles north of Rome.  As we rounded the curves of the mountain road, winding gracefully up the hills towards the village, we saw the castle of Soriano rising magnificently above the village walls, casting its shadow over the town and the people.  The castle evoked visions of fairy tale settings and different times, when the wealthy landlord ruled over the village people and the village sought protection within its thick stone walls. 

Using our timehsare exchange, we stayed at Palazzo Catalani, a former palace and the only lodging available in Soriano.   The Palazzo was beautiful and our room was authentic yet comfortable and inviting.  We were the only American guests registered that week.  The other 18 guests were from England, Ireland and Scotland.  As we gathered before dinner, sipping wonderful local wine and munching on bruschetta, we learned about the others who would share this week with us.  All were friendly and open, having just arrived that day and the soothing wine was calming our travel weary bodies.  We shared stories of our lives and families, forming connections and friendships that would last past the week.  So many of our new friends had common lives and stories and as the week progressed we found there was something unique that we could share with each one of them.

Travel Tip:  Renting or bringing an international GPS device (like Garmin or Tom Tom), can be invaluable when navigating in foreign countries!

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