We were supposed to go in 2020, didn’t even consider it in 2021, and finally just made it happen in 2022. Rome, Florence and Tellaro, Italy for two weeks in the high summer heat and high tourist season. Such is the way when your partner is on a school teacher schedule. A small price to pay for such an adventure. I was nervous about spiking Covid cases and jumping from almost no big social activity for over two years to crowded city life and walking on a not-yet healed foot with plantar fasciitis. But we made it through unscathed by the virus and uninterested in the crowds. And if my foot made me hobble a bit, I felt right at home with the nonnas wobbling along the cobblestones.
We started our trip in Rome and, yes, we went to the colosseum and forum, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navonna and the now-painfully popular Trastevere neighborhood. They were all overcrowded and mostly unpleasant, especially when experienced in 90+ degree heat. But so much more of our trip was spent in the quiet early hours and in slightly less-traveled spaces and this was delightful. I really appreciated the layered history of the city and how the layers were often visible, butting up against each other and still talking to each other.
Our next stop was Florence where we were greeted by a very enthusiastic host to her spacious 2nd floor flat in a quiet, local neighborhood. As in Rome, the heat was intense as were the crowded tourist hot spots. We did our early morning thing and veered off onto less crowded routes as often as possible. Touring the Uffizi, making a b-line to the Botticelli’s before anyone else got there (a true victory!) kind of wiped me out on Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. Still, we enjoyed the ruins and tiny museum in Fiesole, a random surprise hike up a steep street to Fort Belvedere’s sweeping city views and just wandering around the Oltrarno, eating all the best nut-based gelato.
We were really ready to escape the treeless city life by the time we reached Tellaro, a small village south of the insanely overcrowded Cinque Terre. Tellaro sits on the Bay of Poets in the Ligurian Sea. It’s the water where Shelley drowned in a storm 200 years ago. It’s also the water we swam in many times a day off the rocks less than 30 seconds from the front door of where we stayed. Our home in Tellaro was that of a traditional fisherman’s from around the 1200s, or so the host said, a skinny home with one room on each floor. The top bedroom was warm and buggy at night but we barely cared because of the views and the charm. The whole town was perfect and we barely left, except to go on a crazy steep hike one morning. The town was busy over the weekend then got quiet, but almost all the tourists were Italians, mostly families and almost entirely mellow. We saw two cruise ships out near the Cinque Terre towns and agreed we had our own charming town right where we were. Sean fell in love with Marco’s bodega just up the narrow street from our house and we ate well from his supplies: fresh pasta, pesto, spinach pie, salami, cheese, and fig pastry. Our last day in Italy was spent in the hassle upon hassle of getting to Pisa for a one-night stay before our flight out, but I’m going to pretend it ended in Tellaro, bobbing all by ourselves first thing in the morning in the warm turquoise water.