Heading home…

My personal journal dated June 18th, 2010

Today I took the  7:50AM vaporetta from St. Marks Square to Marco Polo Airport  where I would embark on my transatlantic flight home.  As our boat traveled along the Grand Canal, we stopped for additional passengers, some tourists, some locals catching a ride to a stop up the line perhaps on their way to work. It took about an hour and a quarter to make our way thru the smooth waters.  The weather was pleasant and the sun was shining on the beautiful buildings along the canal.  I was heading home after thirteen wonderful days in my very favorite place on this earth…..Italy.

It might seem odd to some I have taken such a liking to this place. But Italy has truly captured my heart.  I love everything about it.  I love the culture, the ageless beauty of it’s varied architecture, the food and the people so warm and hospitable.  I love the art that until I came here  had only seen in books or movies. I love the fact that the Vatican, the center of the Roman Catholic Church, is located here and that St. Peter is actually entombed in the catacombs beneath the cathedral.  I feel like I have traveled to the heart of my faith.

Francis Mayes, author of “Under the Tuscan Sun” wrote, “Italy has proven to be inexhaustible. To take the gift of a new and very old country – a whole other sphere of language, literature, history, architecture, art: it falls over me like a shower of gold.  The giving, the fun, and the spontaneity of everyday life here shock me and return me immediately to a munificent state of being.”

After taking care of my duty free paperwork at the airport I was sent thru Italian Customs then security and boarded the A330 Alitalia Airway carrier that would return me to my reality. As I was fastening my seatbelt, the flight attendant asked me if I would mind moving up a row. I agreed and gathered my belongings. The flight was full and I could hear the pleasant attendant attempting to rearrange seats at a special request. A 35-ish guy was asked if he would take the aisle seat next to me. He reluctantly agreed.  As he sat down he explained with an Italian accent he was a bit irritated to be asked to make a change.  He made this flight often and always went online early to select his seat in the last row so he could be comfortable and relax on the eight and a half hour flight back to the States.  The flight attendant who was in her late 40’s, was obviously flirting with this passenger not only because he was extremely handsome, but because she needed his seat in the back of the plane for someone else. She promised to supply him with all the beer he wanted throughout the flight. He smiled and told her “My name is Daniel,what is your name?”  “Gloria”, she said,  “and I’ll be taking care of you until we land in Philadelphia.”  Their eyes met and he fastened his seat belt, explaining to me why he hated to be asked to make the seat change.  He asked me if I was Italian?  I answered ,”Sono Americano”.  He said I heard you say something in Italian. I admitted an Italian friend had been correcting me and “grazie” was probably the only word I spoke with the correct intonation.  Was he flirting with me?  We settled into our seats for the long journey ahead of us.

My I-Pad on my lap, I began to read a book as soon as I was able to turn it back on. Daniel was intrigued by the I-Pad and asked me to show it to him.  As I began going through some of the apps he saw my wallpaper picture of a gondola decorated for wedding making it’s way under a low bridge in Venice. “Oh, Venice, I am Ventian and that bridge is very close to where I grew up. “Oh”, I said, “from my favorite city.”  He explained he was born here but now lived in the States.   I asked where he lived.  He told me he was a musician and he lived in Orlando.  I told him I was from Ponte Vedra near Jacksonville as we continued to get to know one another. I thought to myself he must be the Italian Bon Jovi, he was THAT cute.  But, he later explained he was a cellist and had worked mainly for Mickey Mouse. He belonged to a small group that traveled the world playing for events upon request.  He had recently performed in Dubai for a wealthy businessman. He was happily married to a Puerto Rican girl for thirteen years but had no children….yet.

We discussed politics and the differences in both our governments and our perspectives of each over the next several hours as Gloria continued to pour our cocktails. He told me that Italians view our election of Obama as a maturing of America. That they view America’s basically two-party political system as impossible.  Italy has over forty parties to choose from. And he discussed the communistic rule of Italy. All of this was fascinating to me. I felt I was getting a very honest viewpoint from this individual. I cautioned myself to realize this was just one persons opinion and not necessarily that of the majority. Before we knew it, we were preparing to land in Philadelphia.  It seemed the perfect ending to my perfect trip. Getting some true insight from an Italian.

Arriving in Philadelphia, we were herded through US Customs and had to declare our purchases.  The beautifully boxed and wrapped watch was opened and searched.  I was asked to show the receipt and had to pay the duty of $129.00. I certainly hope he likes it!

The layover from Philadelphia to my connecting flight that would whisk me to Jacksonville was three hours so I settled in at my gate and read The Story of Edgar Sawtell.  I was beginning to get weary.  But, the plane boarded on time and we actually landed ahead of schedule where my sweet husband was waiting just outside baggage pickup to take me home.

Remembering the embrace of the couple on the platform at the train station in Florence, I lingered purposely in Tom’s arms as he kissed me hello.  Then we were in the car and heading in the direction of home. So much to tell him, that I couldn’t decide where to begin. So, I sat quietly in my seat next to him answering his questions.  It felt good to be home in familiar surroundings, good to be home with the loves of my life.

Traveling is wonderful, but I have a wedding to plan and there is truly no place like home.

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