One year ago today, I arrived in Italy for the first time.
Well, technically, the first time was on March 14th 1997, when I was unexpectedly evacuated from Albania, and we spent a few hours in southern Italy at an air force base before driving to Bari to board a plane for Romania.
But I’m sorry; that just doesn’t count. No one’s first time in Italy should involve camouflage and packaged military “ready to eat” cuisine. So 16 years later, I returned to reinvent my Italian experience.
I was badly in need of a vacation. I was experiencing a bit of job burnout and took advantage of a paid, month-long sabbatical that my company awarded me for five years of service. My plan: to spend an entire month in Italy and reconnect with myself while traveling from north to south of the country. So I subletted my apartment, worked long hours to finish and transition work assignments, accepted a ride to San Francisco airport from a dear friend, and several hours later, touched down at Marco Polo International Airport.
I remember that day being sunny, with a chill in the air. I remember walking to the docks with my roller bag and waiting to board the boat. I remember being surrounded by excited tourists as we sailed along, the water glistening with sunlight, the buildings appearing in view.
But what I remember most of all, as the boat docked, was when I took that first step onto Venice, taking a deep breath, and letting it all out. I felt relief, gratitude, and accomplishment.
I had done it. I was in Italy. For 30 days free of meetings, emails, and projects. My new assignments consisted of gelato, museums, glasses of wine, Italian phrases, pasta……and me.
This was where so much began.