Stranded by the volcano, a traveler learns to go with the flow

(Juliette Borda for The Washington Post)
By Jason Wilson
Sunday, April 25, 2010

"You can't drive nature," said the Amarone producer. "Nature drives you."

She was talking about the wine, the way her family is able to release vintages from certain of their northern Italian vineyards only in certain years. "We never know what nature gives us."

I've heard, of course, some version of that idea every time I've ever visited a winery, no matter where it is. But on that day, the notion that nature drives the world took on special meaning.

That's because, at that point, I'd been stranded in Italy for three days. As you might have heard, a volcano in Iceland with the unwieldy name of Eyjafjallajokull has been spewing a little ash, causing havoc with air travel. My trip was supposed to be a brief four-day jaunt to visit wineries in the Veneto region. The plan: Jet in; hit a dozen wineries in four days; jet out; return home; write article. Like millions of others, I hadn't factored a volcano into my plans. Then the airline canceled my flight from Venice last Sunday morning, with the earliest possibility of return on Thursday.


That's your comment on my plight, right? Stuck for five extra days in Italy!

As you can imagine, very little sympathy was forthcoming from my family, friends and co-workers when I texted them the news. "Awwww," my wife texted back. "It must be SUCH a struggle to be stranded in that boutique hotel featured in Architectural Digest!"

"You can always get a boat home," texted my friend Pete, an Italian American pastamaker. "That's how my family got over to the States."

Another friend simply texted, "You suck."

Indeed, folks, life can be full of struggles. But perhaps this was not one of them. On the first day of my exile, I accompanied a young winemaker to lunch at the restaurant his family had just opened on an island off Venice. It was a warm, sunny day. There were delicious soft-shell crabs you can eat only in Venice. And lots of prosecco.

"Everything ok?" texted my mother.

"Yes," I wrote, "all is fine. I'm just boarding the vaporetto back from lunch, and Matteo is going to give me a tour of Venice's wine bars."

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