Here’s a great way to gauge how good a trip really was: when you finally get home and realize that you have to work the next day, you want nothing more than to run a hot bath, to lie back in it, to breathe in deeply and smile as you take stock of the amazing time you’ve just had. And then slit your wrists as the deep depression of a holiday hangover grips you. You know the feeling: “It’s over. I wish I was back there. I wish I didn’t have to go back to work tomorrow. I feel so utterly, desperately depressed.” A holiday is like a big night on the turps: the better it is, the worse the hangover is.
Our holiday was – as the ‘cool’ kids say these days *cough* – totes amazeballs.
Italy is a brilliant, amazing, beautiful, multiple-positive-adjective-deserving country.
My girlfriend lived in London for two years and has traveled extensively throughout Europe. I, on the other hand, had never been to Europe. The most European thing I’d ever done prior to this trip was drink an espresso while wearing loafers. But this wasn’t just a getaway for us. It was a chance to meet some of my family for the first time. Having few relatives in Australia (fifteen individuals including second cousins once removed) made that an experience that I was really looking forward to.
I met with my grandad’s sister’s kids, which is to say my first cousins once removed, and I met their kids who are my second cousins. I even met one of my second cousin’s daughters who is my second cousin once removed. I had to check Wikipedia to make sure what to call them. I once had a first cousin who was twice removed from our local pub for being too rowdy but he didn’t make it into Wikipedia. Unless someone decides to write an article for Wikipedia entitled ‘Unpleasant events in pubs in Fairfield, NSW in 2002’. Keep an eye out for that one…
My cousins live in Follonica, a sleepy seaside town in the Tuscany region. It gets busy with regional tourists in the summer but is quiet the rest of the year. It was the tail end of spring so the weather was nice and it wasn’t crowded.
My cousins offered us a beach house to stay in. One step out the front door and we had sand between our toes. Two steps and we would’ve been sitting out the back waiting for a set to roll through. That last part was an exaggeration that would only make sense to surfers. The first part was true, though. Well, it was actually two steps. But this last part clarifying the first part is truly true.
After arriving at the beach house, we dropped our bags and tucked into the feast they had prepared for us. Pasta, salads, anchovies with garlic and parsley (don’t knock ’em till a no-foolin’ Italian has prepared them for you because they are delicious), prosciutto and salamis, cheeses and espressos with tasty pastries for dessert. We covered the table with food and bottles of homemade wine. I don’t normally drink wine but the red, white and sparkling white wine they served us flowed freely all night, mostly into my cup. They threw a party for us the next day, too. Nearly twenty of us ate, drank and rocked out on my uncle Enzo’s home-made karaoke system. He even hooked up his Fender Strat and shredded it up.
I learned a little Italian that day. Turns out that the word ‘hospitality’ in Italian translates roughly into ‘feed ’em till they need a new wardrobe’. Forget splitting a meal into courses. This delicious meal was easier to split into hours. We laughed, we joked and we got to know each other. I speak fluent Spanish – albeit with a funny Aussie twang, so my dad used to tell me – so it took only a little effort to speak some Italian with them. When in Rome (or Follonica)…
Later in the afternoon my lovely cousin Thaila and her boyfriend Yuri took us on a tour of the local area. We checked out Scarlino, a nearly two thousand year old town boasting a one thousand year old castle perched nearly two hundred and fifty metres up the side of a mountain (those crazy Italians will build anywhere and do it well). A apt description of the views from Scarlino is beyond my writing skills, suffice it to say that the town and the Tuscan countryside are magnificent.
We had a fantastic time with my new-found family. My father passed away eight years ago and I miss him terribly so I was quietly hoping to find something of him in his cousins. Perhaps it was a lofty dream but while it didn’t quite eventuate, I did find family there. I feel immeasurably richer for it.
After two unforgettable days, it was time to move onto Positano, our next destination. A teary farewell at the train station and we were off.
My newly acquired family are deserving of their own post so I will write about the rest of the trip separately.
To my family in Italy: Grazie per averci fatto sentire i benvenuti e per aver accettato la mia ragazza e io come la tua famiglia. Avete reso il nostro viaggio indimenticabile. Mi sento come se la mia famiglia è ora più grande, come se avessi le persone che posso chiamare mio proprio dall’altra parte del pianeta. Vi amo tutti.
Voi ragazzi siete amazeballs!