Globehopping – Italy: A Trip to Cherish

story and photos by Claudette Sells – 

I floated along winding canals in a gondola, seeing bridges and a floating city with beautiful architecture. As I listened to a man serenading us, a wonderful serene and peaceful feeling came over me. I was in Venice and my dream had come true.

My husband Brian and I had dreamed of travelling once we retired together, but sadly I became a widow before we were able to make it a reality. Brian had told me that if he passed away before me, to mourn him for a year and then move on. So, a year after his passing, I went to Italy with Insight Vacations in his honour and to start a new chapter in my life.

I remember arriving in Rome and feeling so excited and yet unsure of what my experience would be like. The view of Vatican City and all the fountains around Rome were eye catching. I stayed at the Romantica Hotel in the centre of Rome. The first night we had a welcome dinner at a local restaurant; I met my co-travellers, and we enjoyed a variety of delicious pasta dishes. There were 33 people on the tour. Although I was the only solo traveller, it was comforting to be in a group, and I never felt alone.

The next day we explored Rome. One of the most impressive sights was Vatican City. We started in the museum and saw exquisite murals, statues and paintings. Then we went inside St. Peter’s Basilica where we admired many small chapels and then finally we went to the amazing Sistine Chapel.

Later in the day we went to the popular Trevi Fountain, known as the wishing fountain. As I threw my coin in, I thought of my dear husband Brian and how he would have loved being there.

Each day on the coach we rotated our seats. Since I was the only solo traveller, I had a new person sitting with me every day. It did not take long for me to get to know my co-travellers and I was grateful for the conversations and enjoyed the camaraderie.

After Rome, we went to Florence for two days. The city has it all, from Renaissance Art to beautiful architecture and monuments, including the 14th-century Duomo Florence Cathedral, which is a masterpiece of Gothic Art and First Italian Renaissance. The main attraction for me was going to see Michelangelo’s statue of David. I remember being in absolute awe as I stood there admiring the perfect sculpture.

Our second day in Florence we explored Tuscany. We went to the town of San Gimignano, a 14th-century medieval town known as the town of towers. The quaint town has cafés and art shops to browse through, and I bought three beautiful photographic prints of Tuscany. In the afternoon we had free time to go shopping in Florence.

In the evening, our coach took us through the Chianti Hills to the stone house of Villa Machiavelli. I had not planned to go but my new friends encouraged me to join them. We toured the house, the wine cellar and vineyard. We had a delicious dinner featuring beef, vegetables, pasta and wine. There was music, singing and laughter. This lively evening out made me realize that my grief had kept me withdrawn from life for the past year, and I was finally beginning to enjoy my life again.

The next day we went to Venice and the beautiful Burano Island, famous for its colourful houses and lace. We spent the evening having a wonderful seafood dinner. Next was the city of Venice, known for the Grande Canal, Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Basilica. St. Mark’s Square with its restaurants, music and shops is an attraction that one would not want to miss. I spent free time on the tour shopping, having lunch and laughing with my new friends.

After Venice we went to Assisi, Sorrento, Capri, Pompei and then back to Rome.

When we returned to Rome, I realized that the laughter, fun and camaraderie of the trip had helped me to heal and grow. My grief had made me a different person, but the unfamiliar places and new experiences helped me to see the new possibilities of my life going forward. I had left for Italy as Brian’s wife, and while I came back carrying him in a special place in my heart, I came back as Claudette.

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