There might be a there there

April 11, 2019

(so better not to know it)

A view of the Amalfi coast available only from the ferries that happily began running again the day we arrived in Salerno

At some point deep in our trip, Carol suggested we start doing some research on the places we’re heading to. Maybe it was blindly stumbling upon that wonderful marina with all those grand yachts in La Spezia. Or the wonderful view of a far more attractive Naples from atop the Sant’Elmo Castle that Carol had read about in Tripadvisor that we’d have missed entirely based on my itinerary (which had consisted of walking around aimlessly amidst the Neapolitan garbage and graffiti.)

“Why would we want to start doing research?” I whined, concerned about the sudden clutter of brochures and guidebooks that could identify a museum or Roman ruin we might otherwise avoid.

A traditional Sunday passeggiare in Reggio Calabria

“Because we might miss things,” Carol accurately pointed out.

“But we’ve already missed things,” I also believed I was accurately pointing out.

“What things?” Carol’s mild alarm was genuine.

The marina in Scilla I would not have known existed on my own initiative 

“We don’t know what things. That’s what I mean. We don’t know what we’re missing, because we don’t know they’re there. You see, if we knew…”

The look on Carol’s face was the same as when I showed her the iron gate that guarded the entrance to our B&B in Naples, so I cut myself off.

And the Messina Glockenspiel I would have walked right by

Thus we began a new direction to our trek through Italy, one I’ve come to define as “informed travel.” Under this new approach, Carol began to reveal the wonders of Italy that for me on my own would have remained unrevealed. This included the promenade in Reggio Calabria on a Sunday that, for regular Italians, is THE day of the week for the country’s famous passeggiare, or family stroll. We also saw the Sicilian version of a Glockenspiel tower in Messina that I most assuredly would have missed, since I didn’t know it existed (and would have missed it even if I’d walked right past it). You could also throw in the wonderful butcher shop/steak joint in Villa San Giovanni and the picturesque marina in Scilla. Most importantly we would have missed the little tidbit of information that the ferries along the Amalfi Coast were running again on March 25th, the very day we arrived there, after our B&B host had assured us they wouldn’t start up until April.

This enrichment of the travel experience was coming at great cost to my heretofore twin pillars of travel, namely idleness and dissipation. Now, instead of my normal blank stare when asked what I’d seen over my, say, solo six weeks in Europe, I’m now compelled to name names and identify actual places located on tour maps.

Of course, all this culminated in the ultimate capitulation to sightseeing – the red, double decker Hop On/Hop Off bus, complete with earphone narration and knots of American tourists who couldn’t figure out what channel the English translation was on, and kept fiddling with the channel button as the Roman colosseum slipped past unnoticed. (By the way, anybody thinking that was me, should understand I didn’t even have my earphones plugged in. Hah!)

But it does explain why Carol wound up with some 2000 pictures of interesting sights and scenery, instead of the handful of out-of-focus photos of pizzas, blind alleys and train locomotives I’d been coming home with.