My first trip to Italy was an amazing 14 day adventure in 1995. It was such a gift for so many reasons. The most important reason was that it was my mom’s last trip to Italy.
We arrived in Venice in the afternoon. We were hot and a little tired and Mom wanted to take a shower. Our hotel had an ancient elevator that could not handle more than three or four passengers at a time. It took a long time for our tour group to get settled in their rooms and an even longer time for our luggage to get delivered. So we waited and waited for our luggage and I remember being so angry that mom had taken a shower without being sure that our luggage would arrive in time for her to dress so we could all go out and explore Saint Mark’s Square as soon as possible. I tried not to be angry but, really, I was. Our luggage arrived, Mom dressed and we headed right into dinner. By the time we ventured into the famous piazza, night had fallen.
In retrospect, my first real taste of Piazza San Marco was magical. It is the custom for the restaurants in the piazza to have a bandstand with a small orchestra in the piazza. That night as we entered Saint Mark’s one orchestra was playing the Carmen Suite by Bizet, musical selections from the opera. That moment brought memories of my grandparents, particularly my grandmother, who loved opera and would listen to the Texaco Opera on Saturday afternoons on the radio. My grandmother used to tell us stories of how she would sneak out of the factory where she sewed and run downtown to see an opera. Nanny loved La Boheme and La Traviata and Carmen so I was no stranger to these melodies.
The lights, the music, the presence of my parents and youngest brother – all contributed to the magic. I was moved to tears and wept openly for the memories of another time and place but also for the memories that were being made in that moment.
I have been to Italy and Venice twice since that first visit. Twice more, I have been deeply moved when I enter Piazza San Marco. I hope to return again some day. I know it will be a long time away. I can wait.