“Three generations of women unleashed in Italy.” That’s what I titled my album of photos on Facebook of my recent trip to Rome, Venice and Florence with my mom and my daughter. “Ah, the adventures we’d have in the land of amore,” I thought as I eagerly planned this mother-daughter-mother jaunt last December. Adventure is an understatement!
But first, let me take you back 15 years. That’s when I first traveled to Italy with my mom. We visited Venice, just the two of us. It was our first time in Europe and my 50th birthday gift to her. Our trip included several days in Paris, Venice and Amsterdam, making mother-daughter memories among monuments in marvelously historic locales. I’ve had the opportunity to return to Europe a couple of times since that initial trip. As my daughter grew, it was she who became my traveling partner. We’ve bonded in places like Argentina, Spain and Paris. But Italy was the elusive buck-list destination. Her high school graduation seemed like the perfect time to finally gift her and me with that Italian journey and as I busied myself planning it, I remembered this summer would also usher in another milestone birthday for my mom. What better way to celebrate her 65 years on earth than to take her with us, I thought. Oh the fun I imagined we’d have – Mom and her first born. Me and my first born. Three generations of Trojan women – trapesing through Italy with mom and I sipping wine, Briana and I shopping ‘til we drop and each of us indulging in gnocchi and gelato until we could no longer breathe. I was dizzy with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell my mom, “I’m taking you to Italy!”
What I didn’t expect, was that the surgery on her shattered foot this past February from a car accident the year before wouldn’t turn out as beautifully as we imagined. Multiple infections left her in a boot and walking with a cane. Neither was any match though for her determination to go on this trip. Nothing was going to get in between her and that plane, except … wait for it… a selfie stick! Yup, up until a few days before we left, my mom couldn’t find her passport! She turned her home upside down searching for it for days and kept coming up short. She finally found it in the bag with her selfie stick, because of course, as she explained, she put it there because “I knew I wasn’t going to leave without my selfie stick!” Yes, the selfie stick became a fourth traveling companion and a running joke when we found in Italy, everywhere we turned it seemed, someone was trying to peddle us a selfie stick!
First stop, Rome! Words can’t even begin to describe the majesty of the Sistine Chapel, the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and the history of the Roman Colosseum. I ran the Spanish Steps, sipped house wine while my daughter enjoyed some of the best pizza she’s ever had. The three of us laughed in the one room we shared until all hours of the night, not because of the tight quarters but because of the endless story-telling and deep conversations.
Next stop, a train to Venice. We arrived to perfect weather albeit a Grand Canal bustling with tourists. We walked a lot and got lost a lot. Mom and I had been there before, so we expected as much among the maze of alley-ways but it’s a whole different game when you’re lost and confused with a bad foot! I give her credit though, she was a real trooper and didn’t complain! She was too busy keeping her selfie stick busy. My daughter appreciated the charmingly handsome hotel staff and I became an even bigger fan of the Italian house wine.
Final destination: Florence. Getting there though, not so easy. The motion of the train lulled us to sleep, deeply enough that we missed our Florence exit and ended up back in Rome! We tried to laugh it off, took a selfie, purchased another round of train tickets back the other direction and stayed awake long enough to finally arrive in fabulous Florence! This was by far our favorite place! It could’ve been the awesomeness of seeing Michelangelo’s “David” up close, the breathtaking view of the Duomo from the inside and out or the impeccable views of the Ponte Vecchio and Arno River from our hotel room. Perhaps it was the mouth-watering meal we had at the Piazza Santo Spirito or the creamiest and by far most delicious gelato at Gelateria La Carraia. Or maybe it was the panic of “losing” my daughter during one of our tours and then finding her with a huge smile on her face because it was a group with a USC alumni (and, coincidentally from Phoenix) who spotted her USC t-shirt, got the low down on how we lost her and offered her the use of their phone. Ha! Oh how I love how those USC connections are already working for her. A subsequent day trip to the Tuscan town of Chianti turned out to be a trip favorite. We had lunch and a wine-tasting at a family-owned vineyard. The wine maker wondered why my daughter was finishing her tastings faster than mom and me, not realizing that beyond an initial sip, it was I who was doing the drinking for her. We then ventured to the lovely city of Siena with its sweeping views and medieval history and then onto the walled town of San Gimignano where I shopped small stores for things like truffle pesto and Pecorino cheese.
It was an amazing experience and one we three are still savoring in our minds. From the uncontrollable laughter, to some deep talks that led to some tears and even a few childhood revelations, we had an opportunity to spend 10 days with each other, without the distraction of day to day life. I’ll admit, there were times of frustration born from exhaustion and mom’s constant selfie stick moments. I was sure my daughter had thoughts of tossing it into a canal or river! I always said I wanted to make enough money to one day buy my mom a house. Unless I win the lottery, that’s clearly not going to happen. But what I have been able to give her instead, are experiences that we’ve been able to enjoy together. These are the gifts I’m convinced we all will remember when the time comes to remember what mattered most in life. I still have my mom – and my daughter still has hers. That is the real blessing. We will always have Italy. But more importantly, right now we have each other.