Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.
Who: Susan Miele Pleskow (the author), daughter Anna and Anna’s friend Arwa Ahmed.
Where, when, why: Anna and Arwa decided to celebrate completing their first year of college by going on a month-long trip to Europe. Knowing they were on a very tight (nonexistent) budget for the last week, they “invited” me to join them in Italy.
Having dreamed of going to Italy for years, I had saved The Washington Post’s Aug. 4, 2013, Travel section and used it as a guide for my first trip there. Together we enjoyed five glorious nights in Florence and Cinque Terre, and I savored one magical solo day and night in Rome. We traveled in June.
Highlights and high points: Margo Hammond’s article “Circling Dante” led us to Florence’s Piazza di San Giovanni, where we walked the 450 or so steps to the top of the Duomo to see the frescoes just overhead.
We also went to Cinque Terre, a coastal area on the Italian Riviera. Having seen several of Matt McClain’s beautiful photos of Cinque Terre in the issue, I knew that my daughter (a photography major at VCUarts in Richmond and an avid hiker) would think she had died and gone to heaven. If there is a more gorgeous natural place on Earth than Cinque Terre, that’s where I am going next. Arwa, Anna and I wanted to stay forever.
Reading Kelly DiNardo’s article “Roam in today’s chariot” led me to Annie Ojile Nerone and her Vespa tour company Scooteroma and, more specifically, to her husband, Giovanni Nerone, who was my driver and tour guide on a private, four-hour, magnificent scooter-powered tour of Rome. I was amazed at myself for not having even 10 seconds of hesitation or fear. Giovanni had a sweet command of the situation and made me feel perfectly at ease. I loved every minute. It was one of the best days of my life.
Cultural connection or disconnect: In less than 24 hours after leaving Dulles Airport, I found myself in Florence with Anna and Arwa, sitting in Giglio Bianco B&B’s tiny kitchen for an Italian cooking lesson. Was this really happening or was I dreaming? Actually, that’s how I felt the entire trip. Surreal, but at the same time I felt very much at home in Italy, especially in Rome.
Biggest laugh or cry: While hiking in Cinque Terre from Monterosa to Vernazza, we came upon a resting spot to look out over the glorious view of sea waves crashing on the rocks to the right and vineyard-covered hills to the left. In the distance, a small fire spewed billowing smoke. Another hiker complained that the smoke was going to ruin his picture. Anna and I instantly looked at each other and smiled and laughed, knowing that it was just the thing needed to give Anna one of the best shots of her trip. Watching Arwa try to get up on a paddle board in the Ligurian Sea was another belly laugh. But she did it!
How unexpected: At the end of my Vespa tour in Rome, Giovanni dropped me off at the Vatican. We made a plan that he would help me hop off the Vespa and then I would head over to join others in the line waiting to enter the Vatican Museum. All went well until I tried to cross the four lanes of crazy traffic to get to the museum. Seeing that I was struggling, Giovanni quickly got off his Vespa and stopped all four lanes of traffic so that I could cross safely. He proceeded to watch me until he saw that I was in line and waved ciao. Giovanni was kind and caring from the moment I met him until we parted, Italian-style.
Fondest memento or memory: Spending this glorious time with Anna and Arwa, with their can-do attitude and fresh perspective, is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life. Yes, it’s been said many times before, but Italy is even more beautiful and the Italian people warmer and kinder than in my wildest dreams. My grandmother Assunta was born in Castelpetroso, and my grandfather Vito in Naples. My maiden name, Miele, means “honey” in Italian. I hope this first visit was just one of many sweet ones to come.
To tell us about your own trip, go to washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.