Arivederci, Italia! Tomorrow evening we sail to Patras, Greece, two nights and a day aboard a Greek ferry, slicing across the Adriatic Sea. New memories await. And, to be honest, I possess the traveler's eagerness to explore new frontiers, to experience Peloponnese's Mediterranean terrain, to visit Delphi and Sparta, to sip the local wine and nibble green olives, to walk quiet villages, to feel what is and imagine what was, how it all came to be, this miracle called democracy.
But I'll miss you, Italia. Your serenity. Your beauty. The patient and understanding lifestyle. The optimism: How piave, rain, nourishes more flowers than floods; how food feeds the soul, not just the body; how doing nothing can trump doing something.
I'm going to miss morning walks down narrow lanes, the afternoon siesta, the after dinner strolls in the piazza with my husband, and, later, sitting on our balcony, mesmerized by the moon's white shimmer on calm waters, enthralled by twinkling lights on cruise ships that approach Venice, and, talking into the night, about this and that, nothing important, just enjoying each other's company.
And, of course, our four trips into Venice or nearby islands, like Lido Beach, where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor frequented, or Burano, the quaint and colorful island where lace was made (but now imported from China), or Murano, the home of that magnificent glass, still made locally. Since this is our fourth year at the same hotel, we've come to treasure the routine: Bus No. 5 to Punta Sabionni and the ferry ride to the day's adventure.
And returning to our hotel room, tired but pleased with the day, happy to crawl into a book. Readings this year included Thuborn's Shadow of the Silk Road (almost brilliant); Harris's Pompeii (contrived); Ericksson's Girl with a Dragon Tattoo (too dark); and Gregory's The White Queen (interesting). I learned from each.
We also rode the bus to Treviso, into the countryside, to an old Italian town, locals gathered in the sleepy piazza, eating pizza, drinking beer. We walked the side streets, ancient streets filled with shops, probably like they were hundreds of years ago. But too many shops had shuttered, also the reason too many locals gathered in the piazza. Italy's economy struggles. Unemployment's high. House after house is for sale. New buildings stand empty.
And I wish I could say that the situation with the Russians at our hotel had a happy ending. It doesn't. Last night, at dinner, tempers flared over the food grab. It wasn't pretty.
Nor has the pool been peaceful. There's no lifeguard, but international signs say No Diving, No Running, No Soccer Balls, No Topless. Only the latter has been followed. Small kids run alongside the pool, everywhere, actually. Older kids dive into a rather shallow pool. Teenagers play rough with a soccer ball, yelling to each other. One father decided to make a game of tossing his kids into the pool, turning and flinging them into the water. On-lookers complained, worried about injuries. Management's intervention had no effect. The Russians continued to do as they pleased. This morning, some guests checked out early. They'd had enough.
For we've also had a problem with crime. Last week, at 0235 and 0315, someone tried to gain entry to our room. We flipped on the lights and started talking to scare them away. It worked. However, several rooms in the hotel next to us had been robbed. Police out front that morning. A desk clerk said police are looking for three Russians on our floor who'd checked out that a.m., before the police arrived.
The other night, fake whistling like birds awakened us, and others, at 0300. Police out front that morning.
More police this morning. Someone robbed the money exchange in the piazza.
True, Italy has a pick-pocket reputation. And, it's not totally unfair. One has to be careful. However, this is all a bit much. I mean, this is a very nice hotel, not exactly cheap. Nor is there a downtrodden beach area along the strip. Everything looks respectable, very neat, very clean. Then, again, according to the lady at the money exchange, the couple who robbed her looked very respectable.
I still want to visit you again next year, Italia. Ti amo. I love you.