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Walking Vacations

Italy, Her Old Lover Now

Felicity Fanjoy lives and works in a Cree community in Canada's far north where she is presently on sabbatical from her job as a teacher and school counsellor.

I fell in love with Italy the moment our train passed out of the tunnel through the Alps: out of the picturesque, tidy, regimented, clock-work Switzerland into the unkempt, sun-filled, joyous landscape of Italy.

Suddenly the postcard panoramas were gone and people were everywhere-young boys throwing kisses toward our train; old ladies in black giggling like girls as a man on a bicycle, a plank laden with bread balanced on his head, rode singing past and winked at them; couples strolling arm-in-arm about the dilapidated villages we rumbled through.

Italy was sensual...

Italy was sensual. Even the colour of the sunlight radiated a golden warmth I had never seen before in my travels under pale, transparent northern skies. I was entranced.

Soon my empty compartment filled up: an elderly couple, two nuns, a young soldier, a mother nursing a baby, and a man with one leg and crutches -strangers to one another, it seemed, yet they all began chatting immediately. Even before the train lurched to a start, baskets of food came out. Fruit, cheese and hunks of salami were passed around.

Nursing mom tried guessing...

I was the object of much good-natured curiosity-a young woman travelling alone, speaking no Italian. The nursing mother began guessing where I was from: "Germania? Australia?" I shook my head. The nuns tried, "Sei Americana? Inglese? Svedese?" It became a game. More wrong nationalities were called out. Then the soldier spoke. "Canada", he said with conviction. "Sei Canadese!" I nodded and the whole group was greatly pleased, congratulating him and pressing more food upon me.

The soldier, having divined my origin, claimed triumphant ownership of me, gesturing to the old woman beside me who promptly changed seats with him. First, to everyone's great amusement, he decided to teach me Italian, pointing at various objects and making me repeat their names. Who knows what he really made me say, but I still have, in the back of an old address book, the drawings he did with arrows leading to labels I can now read.

The soldier flirted...

He also flirted with me outrageously, eyes gleaming with mischief. I couldn't understand his words, but his intent was perfectly clear. He was not in the slightest intimidated by the holy sisters sitting knee-to-knee with us who, in fact, seemed to find our charade rather jolly, and laughed heartily when I slapped his teasing hands down.

When the train arrived at his station, he stood up and made an eloquent speech to me, of which I understood nothing, but our audience applauded and he blew kisses to us all from the platform as we pulled away.

Other came and left the compartment as the train moved south. Some spoke a little English or French. Everyone brought food and drink. The entire trip was a rolling picnic - a moveable feast - among friends.

Italy like an old lover now...

I was just passing through Italy on my way to catch a boat to Greece, but I knew I would be back. The humour, warmth and generosity of the people, the crumbling beauty of the small ancient towns we passed, and the glorious light left an indelible impression on me.

It took ten years for me to return, but once I did, I could not stay away and I was never disappointed. Italy is like an old lover now. I know its wrinkles and bad habits, but oh, the happy memories we share. The joyful expectation of seeing it again never diminishes.

She loves Italy...

I love every part of Italy, unlike Italians, who like their part and hate all the rest.
They say things like, "You're going to....Rome?"
(Fran Lebowitz,Travel & Leisure, 1994)

Nobody with a dream should come to Italy.
No matter how dead and buried the dream is thought to be,
in Italy it will rise and walk again.
(Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza, 1960)

She loves travel...

A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.
(Isabelle Eberhardt, The Passionate Nomad, 1988)

To me travel is a triple delight: anticipation, performance, and recollection.
(Ilka Chase, The Carthaginian Rose, 1961)

She loves love...

Love is a fruit in season at all times.
(Mother Theresa, A Gift for God, 1975)

In real love you want the other person's good.
In romantic love you want the other person.
(Margaret Anderson, The Fiery Fountains, 1953)

Source: The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women, Rosalie Maggio





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