My first visit to Italy was in 1982 when I travelled through Europe with a backpack, a good friend, 2-1/2 months to kill and an ever decreasing budget. The lowest point of that trip was the day I that I learned about young Yugoslavian Gypsies and how they could surround you, confuse you and pick your pockets clean. At that point, I never wanted to see Italy again.
When Moe and I were planning our 2001 trip to Europe, I was eager to revisit some of the places that I had enjoyed to share them with her, and I wanted to shake the distain that I held for Italy. We passed through Italy twice on that trip, once in Venice on our way south to Greece and again on our way back through Rome (a much better experience that time) and the Italian Riviera
One of the highlights of our trip was near the end, when we spent several days in Vernazza in the Cinque Terre region. After the hustle, bustle and stress of Rome, it was just the kind of holiday that we needed in our vacation.
The Cinque Terre is a string of five small towns that are connected by a walking trail, a smelly train and the sea. We spent our days walking between the towns with a stop for lunch and a half litre of the local white wine and our nights eating in our little apartment, or at the seaside restaurant where the menu would change daily.
Once a week, the travelling market would roll into town and take up the whole main street that ran from the sea up to the train tracks at the top of town.
When we visited Italy again in 2006 with our daughters, my brother and my parents, the highlight once again was a small town with personality. This time it was Orvieto in the Umbria region. My brother has always been a foodie, and he was blown away by the fresh taste of the everything that we ate. It was a wonderful opportunity to share some remarkable moments with my family.
Your story about the Gypsies brought back memories – Katherine and I had a similar experience in Italy, when we were in Milan (I think). We were fortunate in having been prepared for the swarming by reading the Lonely Planet guidebooks and didn’t lose anything (passports and money were well secreted) but the camera bag I had slung around my neck definitely got tugged on. I yelled “basta!” (“enough!” in Italian – one of words in my limited vocabulary) at the top of my lungs and swung my arms around, at which point they dispersed and went looking for an easier target.
It was still quite a shock to experience, even knowing in advance it could happen, but fortunately it turned out OK and the rest of our time in Milan was good.
Love reading about your travels, Mr. Mark – keep them coming 🙂
That day in Rome was the second time that I heard about a rip-off the day after the rip-off. I filled out all the paperwork at the police station…I knew that nothing would come of it, but it made me feel a little better. Several month later, I received the wallet in the mail from the Rome Police. Now, whenever I travel, that is the wallet that I use for my daily “I could lose this” cash. I figure that there is no way that the same wallet will be stolen twice.
A Romanian woman that I work with was a victim as well. She had a baby in one arm and her groceries in the other. There was nothing that she could do but curse them.