They say Paris is the city of romance. Unfortunately, I haven’t been so I cannot confirm this to be true. Something about the mass tourism crowds, pushy Frenchman and Euro exchange rate turns me off from rushing over and snapping a cliché romance shot under the Eiffel Tower.
I think the age-old saying; home is where the heart is, has it right. Romance is found merely where love is. My most romantic moments to date have consisted of nothingness in nowhere. A simple bottle of wine on the beach or mid-night walk fulfills the mind’s need to feel dreamy, the body’s need to feel desired. Paris is simply romanticized by media; made to make us common folk believe if we go, our men become Casanova’s and our woman, supermodels.
Two summers ago I was working as a stewardess on a 186-foot yacht that planned to spend the summer cruising the Mediterranean Sea. The exact itinerary was always a mystery. We would jump from country to country, island to island on the sporadic and random wishes of the owner or charter guests. At times I would go to bed in France and wake-up in Spain, as crazy as it may sound; this schedule became routine. We had spent most of the summer in the hot spots around France including Nice, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Monaco.
A dream of mine had always been to travel to Italy. You can imagine my giddy excitement when we threw our lines and tied stern-to in Imperia, a remote coastal town in Italy. The marina was positioned at the valley of a mountain. The town cascaded the cliff-side. It was a colorful landscape of greens and oranges. Exactly how Italy had looked in my mind for years. A massive steeple sat at the highest peak, beckoning me to climb the mountainside and explore. I stuffed my backpack with a camera & money, strapped on my gym shoes and decided today was meant for a solo mission. I planned to get myself to that highest peak and welcomed getting lost along the way. Years ago this type of exploration may have posed an intimidating feat but I had become quite accustom to uncharted travel. When guests would book back to back during the busy charter season I would go weeks without touching land. My 16-18 hour days would keep me in tight quarters with the 14 crew and 12 guests, never finding alone time. So when the opportunity to explore a small town in Italy presented itself, I jumped at the chance and off I went.
Unlike most parts of the States, European cities are overflowing with history, character and architecture. The small walk from dock to city-side was already filled with exposed brick streets, vine-wrapped walkways and aromas that tickle your taste buds. On the left side of the street the ocean waves vibrated the shore and on the right, tall & thin buildings rose into the air forming a jagged yet eclectic skyline. Bicycles & mopeds spotted the streets, a nice change from Land Rovers and minivans. The open balconies held the days drying laundry as the steeple’s bells began a resonating hum. Again, my daze shoots towards the top of the mountain and I am reminded of my mission.
I followed a winding road the entire hike. It weaved in and out of busy areas along the way. I found parks, hidden streets, gardens, coffee shops, shoe cobblers, cheese stores and newspaper stands. Each stop was complete with distinctive architecture, beautiful flowers and attractive scents. I filled up on pistachio gelato, fresh-baked bread and espresso. My camera was open and on as I snapped shots of the Italian woman rushing to church and the men whom seemed content reading the daily news in the mid-day sun.
The stories that lined these alleys and built these walls must be magnificent. I imagine this town looks similar to how it did 100 years ago and my daydreams remind me of my Papa and Nana. Being here, knowing their parents grew up in such a place made me feel whole-hearted. I did make it to the steeple and it was as splendid as I had envisioned. I sat in silence outside the towering point as the locals filed in and the children played in the running fountain. I felt romance in a different way as before, understanding a place can be such thing. This day, this trek, this journey was as romantic as one could feel being unaccompanied by another; however, I never felt alone. The soul and the stories of each wall and every road I passed and the vision of the locals sipping coffee or twirling pasta fulfilled me to the brim. My legs were tired and the sun was dropping. I hailed a taxi and enjoyed the easy downward slope towards home.
My last stop was a small restaurant on the coast. It was secluded by high walls that surrounded the few tables it had near the water. I found it on accident as I was making my way back and as I passed, the smell of red wine pulled me in. I ordered their fresh cheese platter that came with assorted olives and garlic cloves. The owner explained with his Italian accent through broken English that the family made their own wine in vineyards throughout Tuscany. A red zinfandel was their specialty. A type of wine my Papa made in his later years, a taste I hadn’t had in a long time.
As the first sip warmed my mouth, tears began to calmly roll down my cheek. The smell, the look, the taste; it was just like his. Memories flooded me as the wine disappeared. This day in Italy and this moment of solitude could not have been any more romantic. It truly defined the word.
Rachel MARCH 20, 2012 AT 10:01 AM This was really beautiful, Amanda. It took me back to my honeymoon, which I simillarly consider among my most romantic experiences.
Reply finola MARCH 20, 2012 AT 11:12 AM Beautifully written, loved the post. You hit on a good point that romance in life can be far wider than what the media tells us it should be.
Reply Gary T Snyder MARCH 20, 2012 AT 1:04 PM How sad it must be that most people aren’t even capable of the concept of romance, even in their dreams. That you have so brilliantly expressed in your writtings.
Reply Shelly Snyder MARCH 20, 2012 AT 2:55 PM This was wonderful and insightful honey, very moving and thought provoking it felt like I was on the journey with you that day. Beautiful pictures…makes me yearn to experience it myself.
Reply Mallory MARCH 20, 2012 AT 10:46 PM Great post. Just like was said above, I felt like I was right there with you as I read it. :-)