Most vacations just become memories, both through photos and in our mind's eye. We remember them fondly, recalling snippets of the good stuff... many become part of who we are, becoming anecdotes to ramble on about for years to come or being absorbed into our accumulative life matrix. But for some reason this time I'm experiencing something different--the dreaded regrets. Things we planned wrong or didn't make time for or simply forgot about.
For example, during the rushed haze of packing I forgot a very important element for visiting Molfetta and paying homage to my Dad. I have some of his hair in a locket that I cut on the day he passed. I always said to Dad that someday I'd take him back to Molfetta with me. My simple, sentimental plan was to take some of his hair and drop them into the sea in Molfetta harbor, perhaps with some flowers--bringing Saverio back home again. I realized I had forgotten the locket when I was flying over the Atlantic. This is why the plan changed for Lucas and I to bless ourselves in Molfetta sea water in his honor.
Another romantic idea was quashed when I forgot to print out a copy of our marriage vows to take with us. I thought it would be nice to renew our vows in Italy--we had just passed our 15th anniversary. I even researched how much it would cost to have a little ceremony... little church, a priest, some flowers... apparently a big--and expensive--business in Italy. Instead, I thought of reading our vows while up in our hot air balloon. But I forgot to bring them along. I had all sorts of other scanned documents on our devices (Lucas birth certificate, handicapped card, passports, credit card copies, etc.) but the vows? Nope. Babbo forgot. So while up in the balloon all I could squeak out was asking Lisa if she would marry me all over again--along with an apology about forgetting the vows. She did say, "Yes"... again.
The rest are more practical regrets. We should have gone to the Roman Forum instead of the Palatine Hill. It's more... er... monumental there. More research here would have helped... and a really good tourist map of the area. If we had just walked right instead of left the day we got trapped above the forum looking down on it all.
We should have shortened our Rome visit down to 2 days and added them to our Molfetta stay. This would have given us time to go to the town hall and research family history and to find the Finzi ancestors in the town cemetery. This would have given us more time to explore Puglia... we fell in love with the place. Caves, dinosaurs, Trulli, the rocky sea coast... the bread, pizza and the people.
I suppose we should have gone into Florence. The combination of heat, amazing crowds, conniving scammers and gypsies, the fear of ZTL tickets and our overworked legs got the best of us.
We also regret not visiting a single market in all of Italy. The market days move from town to town each day and we just kept missing them. In hindsight, we should have made visiting one of them THE thing to do rather than hitting another tourist site.
I know it was a matter of timing, but I really wanted to rent a boat in Amalfi and captain ourselves around that rocky, mountainous, grotto filled coastline. A similar rental would have been great along the coast near Molfetta, too. There are grottoes there aplenty and the clearest, cleanest water in all of Italy.
I could have asked Vito if I could have made my own pizza in his Forno Antica (which means Antique Oven). That would have rounded out my pizza expertise.
Both Lisa and I agree that we might have not done the Vatican Tour. Sure, in the end we got great photos of the art and magnificence from both the Museum and the Basilica, but we had more memorable times doing the simple things... like our picnic on the Isola in the river or walking through our Trastevere neighborhood. We are not well suited to waiting on long lines or doing the most popular things that tourists do. But even we fell a bit into the trap of that Must-Do Checklist that drives most tourists.
I would have rather have taken a taxi down to the Appian Way to take a stroll and have another picnic along those 2000 year old cobbles and tombs. Besides, it's still free to walk there (tickets are needed for the catacombs, however). I am pretty certain that in their wisdom, Rome will fence this off too and start charging just to take a walk, as they did on Palatine and the Forum.
In the end, Rome was not our most favorite place. It was far to dirty and graffiti-ed and crowded. The fear of being robbed was always in the back of our minds, whereas it never entered our minds while traveling the countryside or in Puglia.
And perhaps we should have stopped by a vineyard or two, although the fake, tourist wine experience of Mormoraia turned us off. It seems that most of these places cater only the tourist trade and are not really in the business of producing the great wines. There are cookie cutter agriturismo vineyards like this all over, but especially in Tuscany. That book (and film) Under the Tuscan Sun created a real tourist boon mostly filling buses with divorced aging hopeful romantics and pseudo wine connoisseurs who giddily pay ten times what that tourist swill is worth. For us, paying under five Euros a bottle at local alimentari for excellent wine was a more authentic experience.
The last thought is the timing of check-ins and check-outs. When check-in is at 3pm it really limits how you plan you days--especially when you have luggage in the trunk of the car to worry about. We had difficulty in finding locker storage in Italy. It might have been better for us to plan longer stays in less places so we could explore more. It's rough having to pack and unpack each time you move. And packing for a train travel day is even tougher... you don't have the car to just toss stuff into as you're leaving. And earlier morning checking out would have served us better, but try that when there are three to get fed and showered and out the door.
Either our Trullo or the Molfetta apartment would have made great travel hubs for exploring all of Puglia. And one central Tuscany location might have been more time saving than having to move from Cosona to Mormoraia after only two days (although we loved the southern Tuscany area).
I suppose many after returning from truly Grand Voyages think, "Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda" (in Italian, potrebbe avere, dovrebbe avere, avrebbe). Niente is perfect, but in the end our memories are perfetto.
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