Italy can be a wondrous place, but it is like any other destination in one respect: you have to slow down to enjoy it.
In addition to sounds, scale, and people, pace is an important factor in traveling to refresh your self and reset your purpose. At home, in your life, you may have many responsibilities and commitments that constantly tug at your mind, but when you travel, you can hit the pause button on these in order to consider bigger questions, if you know how to alter your pace.
If you read the post on my journey from Sorrento to Sicily, you know that it was difficult for me to let go of knowing ahead of time my path and deal with things as I was allowed to by the Italian system (especially trains, ferries, and buses!). But this was actually one of the goals of my trip- to learn to go with the flow of things popping up as they liked. So, as you can see, Italy was the only place to practice this. On this trip, I experienced a truck strike that prevented me from visiting Positano, and a train accident that left me stranded for 4 hours in Sicily the day before I was to fly out of Naples. Nothing if not exciting, right?
But back to pace. I had a week, and I needed some travel days, so that meant 3 days in the Neapolitan area and 3 days in Sicily. So what did I do to slow down the pace? I stayed in one town my whole time in Sicily. Some may think this a waste, but what I lost in different views I gained in depth of perspective.
I did not climb Mt. Etna, the live volcano that framed many of my shots. I did not go to Palermo, which is rumored to have the best arancine. I flung myself into Taormina, and wherever I wandered I did it on foot (a key part of altering one’s pace).
This meant that I had time to visit places twice. To note a restaurant and come back later. To peek into a medieval church and later see it in modern use. To bathe in the light of a secret city garden plot, under stairs that split the sky.
To sample- OH, TO SAMPLE!- the delicacies on offer, including the origin of one of my favorite treats: orangettes (the behind-right concoction)!
To listen to a neighbor restaurant’s hired crooner hold onto that ‘Vo’ note in Volare, just for me. To face a fear of heights and take the gondola down to the ‘spiaggia’ (beach).
…which led me to a grand view of the national sport in action, with a bonus view of the Deep Blue Sea! Who says personal victories aren’t rewarded?
…which led to the highlight of the Taormina sojourn. Taormina, as you can see, sits on cliffs high above the sea, but they do have a few beaches down below to choose from. I joined a gaggle of university girls on a break from studies in Rome (ah, to be at that stage again!) to explore L’Isola Bella, a tiny island that is usually accessible by a sandy (actually very pebbly) spit.
There is a small museum, which I didn’t go in. After some sunning, I instead went for a swim to one side of the spit, where I observed a French family with their kids. There was a father, a mother, a little girl, an aunt and some cousins. Now when I say ‘a swim,’ it wasn’t very far, but it was still April, and the water was none too warm, so it still took some courage to dunk oneself in. Apparently the French adults thought so too, for they were staying in the shallow parts and sitting on the large rocks.
As a cousin beckoned further out, but the mother and father declined, the young girl, who was maybe 8 years old, got ready to jump in and join the cousin, turning to say to her parents: “Suivez la jeune fille forte!” and flexing her biceps.
“Follow the strong little girl!” Hearing her say that, I just felt my heart swell. We all start off as strong little ones, confident that we can swim out to meet the cold. So maybe if we slow down and listen, we can hear that voice, and feel that confidence, again.
Staying in a resort town like Taormina helped me to set a different pace for a while, and listen to that strong little girl. Barring a resort town near you, how can you rescue yourself from both the hustle and bustle of outside life, and the nagging demands of your own to-do list?
Don’t put it off. It’s important.