Il Turista Italiano: Reflections on a Dream Vacation (Part 1)

In the summer of 2018, my wife and traveled to Italy for eight days. It was her fourth trek to the famous Mediterranean country. For me, it was something potentially transformative…

I can’t help but act this way in the Vatican.

What Italy has always meant to me

I’ve long had this dream of retiring in Italy in some villa by the coastline, walking around barefoot while wearing loose fitting pants and a white button-down with a plunging neckline.

Like Fabio. Yes, I wanted to live like Fabio.

Yes, I have a long ways to go before Fabio.

I’m not sure why precisely. I’ve been exposed to many other cultures through the media as a child, mostly from developed nations such as the UK, France, or Japan. If I had to choose one country to live (and die) in — it’s Italy.

I can’t help but think of this episode:

Maybe it’s the melodic language, the delicious food, the hunger for romance and love, or the way that everyone looks adorable in a vespa. Or maybe it was Cinema Paradiso, Il Postino, or La Vita E Bella.

Monkfish y polenta en Venetzia!

My Italian imagination has been dominated by the cinema, and now I am realizing it. It’s quite an anxious scenario…

How has the journey been so far…

There isn’t a lot to note beyond the expected. Italy has lived up to its reputation so far, and I’m having an incredible time.

The sign on the right: “Rock Music. Gluten Free.”

If there’s one quirk I’ve picked up on while traveling:

My wife and I have switched our social roles at home.

Me striking a pose while she’s locked onto a new “friend.”

I never quite noticed this in previous times I’ve traveled with her, but there’s a dramatic shift in how my wife and I engage with people while we travel.

At home, I am the extrovert, proactively seeking company in my personal and professional life. Sharon is the introvert, preferring solitude to give herself time to write, reflect and enjoy her daily hot chocolate.

International airplane film screenings = precious.

When we travel, I’m much quieter, soaking in the scenery and making mental connections with my a priori knowledge.. I’m quite anxious around others while I travel, clutching my valuables as they’re buried in my pockets.

My mother-in-law and my wife, seeing each other in person for the first time in years.

My wife, however, is practicing the few phrases she knows in the local language. I’ll often turn around, and she’ll introduce me to a new German or Italian friend she’s just made.

Moreover, there are many Filipino workers in various capacities throughout Italy, so Sharon can easily communicate and make everyone feel right at home with her.

I don’t know what to make of all of this.

Could Italy be Sharon’s true calling…?

What’s the goal of this trip?

Initially, I wrote down, “I want to fall in love all over again.”

Halfway through the trip, I don’t think that’s a possibility. When you love someone as deeply and as long as I have with my wife, I can’t just re-create that magic in a week with a little bit of olive oil, red wine, and an accordion.

Ah, Venice.

There have been similar highs and lows like any other, and I think that’s what this journey has become: a reflection of who we are and what we still have.

I didn’t come to Italy to realize my fantasy. I’ve been through enough to know that such expectations will only lead to disappointment. In fact, I could have done this trip at any previous point in my life. Why now?

Seriously, Venice. You’re amazing.

I guess the real goal is to see if we can do this together. We each wrote down a list of goals for our trip for ourselves, knowing we have different needs and wants from this trip.

Will we achieve them?

I’ll write again on this topic next month.

— Lee