Grace on Pace

Long Weekend in Northern Italy

Long Weekend in Northern Italy

Because my temporary duty assignment spanned the Thanksgiving Holiday, we were afforded the rare opportunity of a long weekend in Europe.  The possibilities seemed endless as we lay awake at night searching for deals and studying guidebooks.  In reality though, notwithstanding the $39 round trip fare from Berlin, we were going to rationalize a long weekend in northern Italy.  The trip began years before we tied the knot, when Jennilou and I shared our stories about a perfect marriage. Hers could be paraphrased like this:

“____ and I are moving to Europe to work for an NGO helping to eliminate poverty in developing countries.  We will live in a cozy home filled with children and laughter. One of our favorite things to do in the summer will be to drive our convertible to the end of Italy, eating pizza and pasta, while washing it down with fantastic wine.  There, we will have a picnic at sunset, fall asleep under the stars and wake up in the morning and go home.”

Years later, now that my name fortunately filled the ____, we were finally around to planning her dream.  We would fly to Venice, rent a car, and drive to Tuscany for Thanksgiving.

We arrived mid-afternoon to Florence and immediately felt blown away as we looked down onto the cityscape from the hotel deck.  That evening, we strolled to the nearby Piazzale Michelangelo and then down the hill to see Ponte VecchioPiazza della Signoria, and Piazza del Duomo, before finding a small pizzeria for some chow.  The next morning, we headed up the hill to take in the magnificent views at the Basilica San Miniato al Monte, before returning to the city center to scale the Cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiore and visit the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries.

The next day, we decided to head for the coast and make a few stops on our way back to Venice.  We arrived in Pisa mid morning and spent a couple hours grabbing a bite, strolling, and watching tourists prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Our next stop was the picturesque Portofino along the Italian riviera.  We decided to hike up to Castello Brown to watch the sun set, before having to reluctantly pull ourselves away.  One day we will be back!

After ditching our rental car that evening at the airport, we hopped aboard a ferry and set sail for the Hotel Metropole. In Venice, everything looks and feels so romantic, foreign, peculiar, I don’t know…fill in the ____.  For example, Venetian buildings are built like boats: three layers of wood and a lacquer finish. Apparently, once a month, during the full moon, the ocean fills the restaurants with three feet of salt water. The staff puts chairs and rugs on the tables the night before and comes to work early to mop up the place before opening for business.

We had a blast taking everything in as we wandered amongst the canals to check out the Grand Canal, Saint Mark’s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco), Doges’ Palace, St. Mark’s SquareSt. Mary of the Friars, and Santa Maria della Salute.

All in all, although we have probably come late to Italy, it was lovelier now, perhaps, than in our younger days that seemed to never be fulfilled.  Even now though, content with leisure toward the shifted axis of our new baby girl, we appear to never be where we are, but somewhere else, even in Italy.

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Jeff Grace

I’d like to hope that when I leave this earth, my family and friends believe something about me giving as fully as I could. To the people I love and to the areas of culture that excited me to build things. Then a lot of dancing, loud music and talking about what an idiot I made of myself during that process.

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