To say that I'm a reluctant traveler would be to vastly undersell the case. When asked to take a trip out of town my gut reaction is to blurt out WHY?
as if I were being threatened with banishment for committing some wrong. So when my parents asked me and my girlfriend to join them in Florence
for a week and I agreed, everyone was taken aback...myself included.
My girlfriend is a planner. In the weeks leading up to our departure she immersed herself in guidebooks, maps, internet searches, and even Italian language lessons on tape. My seeming lack of curiosity or interest in involving myself in these preparatory studies irked her relentlessly. She wanted to know whether I even wanted to go on the trip at all. I'd tell her I was looking forward to being in Italy with her and to seeing my folks. This was a vague, unsatisfactory answer in her eyes but it's all I could say.
A sudden storm delayed our takeoff from O'Hare some two hours so instead of Chicago-Zurich-Florence it became Chicago-Zurich-Frankfurt
-Florence. Mercifully, walking off the plane to meet my waiting parents took mere minutes.
Florence's airport would fit inside of O'Hare a dozen times over, and soon we were squeezing a rented Audi around cars, scooters, bikes, pedestrians, and other less-classifiable modes of conveyance in the narrow free-for-all of Florence traffic, a steady chorus of vaffanculos
raining down on us from impatient Italian motorists throughout. We were headed into the hills above the city, to Fiesole, where my folks had rented an apartment in a farmhouse set in an olive grove; part of Italy's agriturismo program.
My parents have vacationed here for three of the last four summers, coming back for the vistas of lush hills, interrupted every so often by red-roofed villas; for the relief from summer heat that this altitude afforded; and, probably most of all, for the locally grown and produced food and wine. Waking the next morning and looking out the window, I could see why painters have been painting this landscape for all these many centuries.