I am in beautiful Verona, Italy and am so happy I decided to spend some extra time here. I love it.
It’s hard to believe I have only one week left in Italia; it’s going so fast. I’ve been in the country for about four weeks now, and each city I’ve visited has been so different and unique. Since I last wrote, I’ve travelled to Lucca, Florence, Venice, Bologna, and now, Verona. Tomorrow, I head to Naples for the night, and finish the Italian segment of my trip on the Amalfi Coast (Sorrento and Positano). Then to Switzerland for a week, and four days in London – then home!
I could describe each city I’ve seen, explaining its cultural and historic significance, showing photos of the art and architecture, describing the churches and museums…but that’s not really my style. It’s more about the insights I’ve received and the interactions I’ve had. And there have been many. And it’s been challenging, and blissful, and awkward, and sweet, and funny, and…it’s been a lot.
I’ll probably write about a place or situation as something comes to me, as a memory is triggered. And what I’ve been thinking about a lot is JH, who I met at the Lucca train station on my way to Florence.
I thought I would love Florence, but after a calm and wonderful couple days in Lucca, the crowds were a little, um…intense for me. (I know, I know…what did I expect? It’s Florence!)
It was pretty cool to visit the Uffizi, and to see so many of the paintings from my Art History university days. And to walk across the Ponte Vecchio bridge, knowing that two of my dear friends (family, really) became engaged there. And to eat the most amazing pear ravioli at a restaurant recommended by two sisters in said family. But overall, I felt a little lonely and frustrated in such a huge, always moving (though at a snail’s pace) crowd.
And it made me wonder how JH was doing. JH is an older British gentleman, someone who (from what I sensed) has been quite successful in life, financially and career-wise. In the train station, JH asked me where the platform to Florence was located. I told him I would be back to show him in a few minutes, but he was gone when I returned. We re-connected on the platform, and he sat near me on the train.
JH told me he was going blind due to macular degeneration. I have always had a high sensitivity to anything surrounding blindness. I feel it in my gut. As if I’ve known it. Experienced it myself. I felt empathy for this man who, day by day, week by week, is progressively experiencing the loss of his vision.
When we disembarked, I helped him find the taxi platform. The queue was huge so, his hotel being quite close to the station, I walked him there. My heart was a bit heavy when we parted. I felt compassion and helplessness.
As I explored Florence over the next couple of days, I felt such a mix of emotions. It was challenging to be solo amongst so many people. Ask anyone who knows me; I don’t do so well in crowds. (And I am definitely not a market shopper – I need a girlfriend to guide me!) Try as I might, I go into major sensory overload in a mass of people. But every time I felt overwhelmed in Florence, I thought…how is JH handling all this? Can JH even see the Uffizi? How could he possibly navigate this place alone?
I’m not sure where I’m going with this post. Only that a few other things came to the surface for me in Florence, in such an intense way, and now…I feel a little raw, and humbled. Something powerful happened there; I know and don’t know what. My ego cracked. I vowed and prayed to never forget how good I have it and how much love I am capable of giving and receiving. And it’s up to me to live this way.
I hope this feeling of humility survives any attempt of egoic damage control. As a human being, it happens all too easily.
And so, to be sitting here in a cafe on a warm, sunny day in beautiful Verona, at the harvest moon, having this morning rubbed the statue of Juliet’s left breast for good luck (something even the most jaded of tourists must do), knowing that people back home are going through the roughest and most tragic of times…I feel the utmost gratitude. Not because this experience will last and that I’m ‘lucky’ and ‘happy’. But because right now is precious and fleeting and beautiful, and I’m feeling my joy and their pain, and allowing all of it, because it’s all part of me.
I’m blessed to be where I am. And I can’t wait to see my loved ones.
The waiter must have sensed something was happening at this little table, as he just brought me a little glass of limoncello, on the house.
It tastes extra good.